I've found the latest resource for your marketing education - it's a show called "Peter Perfect", on the Style network. It's a one-hour reality makeover series with a twist - British hairstylist Peter Ishkhans visits troubled small businesses and helps the owners recreate their business image, addressing issues of appearance, style and marketing.
The first episode I saw was the makeover of struggling surf shop. Ishkhans came in and gave the store-owners an eye-opening look at a typical first impression of their shop, and it wasn't pretty. Ishkhans is pretty loud and flamboyant - the store owners had no question about what he really thought. That's part of the entertainment value of the show. But Ishkhans made strong suggestions on key marketing concepts the store owners were missing.
Watching this episode I saw the situation many small business owners find themselves in, whether retail store or service provider, or whatever. Many small business owners are so busy working on daily tasks, they don't see the bigger picture. They don't see that their storefront isn't particularly inviting, they don't see how tired they look, they don't see that the merchandising doesn't encourage purchases. I particularly noticed how worn-down the surf shop owners looked, pre-makeover. They looked like so many scrapbooking store owners I've seen - exhausted, burned-out, and a bit desperate. That does nothing to encourage business.
You can see short clips of "Peter Perfect" on veoh and hulu to get a taste of Ishkahns' advice, but I encourage you to set your Tivo or DVR for the full episodes, and see what you might be missing about your own business.
You could also call on Kizer & Bender for more personal attention to your own situation - I hear they work *wonders* with retail store makeovers!