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Five tips for covering retail and lifestyle

June 23, 2015

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Retail stories are important because they offer a valuable look into consumerism and the state of the economy. When covering this beat, it’s important not to get stuck doing just trends pieces; branch out and find unique angles that appeal to all types of readers. Here are our top five tips for reporting on retail and lifestyle:

1. Get ahead of the holidays.

Christmas isn’t the only time retailers go crazy; literally every holiday means a boost in product and sales for companies. Your challenge will be to find new angles for the different holiday seasons, or put a twist on the traditional ones.

2. Do the math.

Part of retail reporting means crunching some numbers from time to time. Become familiar with monthly sales sheets and seasonally adjusted sales results. Knowing how to work with raw data will also be helpful, as well as following the economic news around the world.

3. It’s okay to follow the trends sometimes.

When it comes to reporting on retail and lifestyle, it’s best to follow the trends instead of setting them. Trend reporting is one of the largest factors in this beat and should be approached with steadfast dedication to the consumers and to the numbers. The two work together to create a colorful story that will offer readers insight into the retail world.

4. Go shopping.

To get a feel of how a store is doing, simply visit it. Walk around and look at the shelves, are they full or empty? What about the parking lot? Things like this will tells you how business is running. Looking at which products are set up at eye level or which are advertised the most will show you what’s becoming popular, or what’s new.

5. Learn corporate rules.

Different stores have different rules when it comes to reporters. If it’s private property, for example, managers may ask you to leave. If you’re looking for shopper quotes it’s best to get in, find what you need and get out. If you want to film, get permission ahead of time. When in doubt, talk to a manager ahead of time — managers are generally more open to the media than corporate officers — and never sign a contract right away.

Want more? Download our “Guide to Business Beat Basics” for tips on covering money in retail, lifestyle and other beats.


  • Rian Bosse

    Rian Bosse is a PhD student at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. He earned his undergraduate degree in English from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 2012 and worked for a small daily newspaper, the Daily Journal, in his hometown o...

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