We have all heard it time and time again. We see a professional sports athlete that comes to training camp out of shape and we ask ourselves, How can he do that? That is his career. All he has to do is workout and stay in shape. If I was him I would never allow myself to get out of shape.
Well I am here to tell you that you and I are no different than that professional athlete. Consider the fact that just like he has to keep his body in shape in order to be successful in his line of business, there is something in your line of business that you have to keep in shape in order to succeed. Also consider the fact that you have let is slip and it is out of shape. Sit down and find out what is the “body” in your business. What is the most important thing that you have to have in tip top shape to help you succeed?
It is time to get back in business shape. Find the one thing in your business, that if you did , would have the biggest impact on your revenue and focus the majority of your time and energy on exercising it, building it and getting it in the best shape it has ever been in. Train it like a professional athlete would train his or her own body.
After that, take a look at where all the fat is in your business. Where are you wasting money and resources? Take a look at every expenditure whether it is time or money and put your business on a diet. Cut the fat by either eliminating the expenditure all together or reallocating it to an area that would maximize your ROI. Between the exercising the “body” and going on the “diet” you will see your business transformed into a lean and mean profit machine.
In today’s challenging economy, one of the most valuable asset a small retailer has is its ability to be nimble and change courses quickly. Many small retailers overlook that powerful ability and actually fear the idea of change. Helen Kenney Poore is not one of those retailers. She is the owner of The Scented Garden in St. Michaels, Maryland. She had the ability to see this recession coming and the courage to make changes in her business to position herself to thrive, not just survive. It has paid off and she is seeing record sales. Below is her story in her own words.
How changing my buying has increased sales to 10 year records, even during this difficult economic atmosphere:
More then a year ago I began noticing that my cash sales were less then 2% of my total sales. This concerned me enough to begin watching the nations economy. My conclusion, people were living on credit and this was about to burst. I did not wait for it to happen, I immediately changed course in the store, anticipating a very shaky economy for the following year. I lowered my average price point but bought more. The result, a store that is stocked well, looks expensive, does NOT put items on sale, but does offer customers good products at a good price. I have found that when money is tight, people do not want to buy junk, they become even more picky about where they spend that money. Instead of my $60 candle line, I brought in a $32.00 candle line that I like even more. I replaced my expensive jewelry line, Majorica Pearls, with a fun, funky, much lower price point, but equally as good handmade line from an unknown designer. The custom made $400 handbags where replaced with a line called Big Buddha, priced under $100. The handmade pottery line was replaced with a melamine line that looks just as real, but is great for casual at home living (which I had anticipated people would be doing more of). When my French linens (one of my best sellers)had an increase, I kept them at the same price, but I never put items on sale unless they are not moving within a certain time frame, then I get them out and bring in a new fresh line. Bottom line, don’t be afraid of change and don’t let your store look like it is one day away from going under, even if you are. This economy gives us small stores a chance to shine above the large stores who can not change game plan so late in the game. Take it and run with it!
Check out her blog and read more about her business: http://www.retailparadise.blogspot.com/
Way too many stores are offering way too many markdowns. Getting your customers used to markdowns will have long term consequences to your brand. It will become much more difficult to sell items at full price when conditions improve. On the other hand, I understand that if you do not survive right now, there is no need to worry about the future of the brand, because there will be no brand.
Here is an alternative. Find another retailer that has products that compliment your products. For example, you sell women’s clothing. Go out there and find a women’s shoe store, accessory store or even another women’s clothing store.Ask them to join in with you in a marketing effort. You trade out gift cards with this store, then you turn around and offer your customers a free gift card to the other retailer with purchase from your store. So, instead of marking you products say 50% off, you would offer your customers a $50 gift card to the other shop with a $100 purchase in your store, or something similar to that.
Now you got your customer to pay full price, but they also got a value. So your $100 pair of jeans remains a $100 pair of jeans in that customers mind and not a $50 pair of jeans.
The other retailer would do the same thing. In the short term you generate business, but in the long term, you are not cheapening your products.
In today’s challenging economy, it is more difficult than ever to hold on to customers. Many long-term customers are jumping ship and going to where they perceive to be the best value. So how do you keep your customers in this economy and in the future?
Well, it takes two things, a strong brand and a remarkable customer experience.
First let’s determine what makes a strong brand. Scott Davis of Brand Asset Management says, “A strong brand position means the brand has a unique, credible, sustainable, and valued place in the customer’s mind. It revolves around a benefit that helps your product or service stand apart from the competition.” That’s where it starts. Does your brand fit these criteria? If it does not, then you need to address that first.
Once you have a brand that “has a unique, credible, sustainable, and valued place in the customer’s mind.” Then you have to make sure that you are providing a remarkable customer experience and not just peddling products. What makes a remarkable customer experience? A customer experience is the sum of all experiences that a customer has with your business and stretches across every division, department and employee. Break down every aspect of your business, from marketing, sales, and customer service, all the way to the colors, scents, music and other store atmospherics. Make every single area as customer centric and impressive as possible while maintaining a consistent theme that represents your brand. Sound easy? Not at all, but if you want easy, then you do not belong in today’s business world.
You will not hear me say too often to think inside the box. I will always be the first to tell you to do things different, stand out, or you will be lost in a crowd. But there is one thing that once you figure out, you never should change. That is your core values. It is who you are as a person and a company. These two should be one in the same, timeless and everlasting. Values in my opinion, are the most important things to figure out in order to have a successful and enjoyable business.
You can change your business strategies, your product line, your marketing, advertising, even your brand. These are healthy to change to adapt to market conditions and people’s buying habits. Your values, on the other hand, are what your company stands for and believes in, and should never change regardless of the economy, competition or even the bottom line.
How do you discover what your values are? First thing is you do not invent, create or take someone Else’s. You figure out your values by digging deep inside yourself and getting in touch with what is important to you. What are you passionate about? Whatever it is that you feel is the most important thing(s) to you, those are your values.
So start off by listing everything that is important to you. Like family values, sustainability, empowering women, it could even be money. Once you have this list and it may be as long as you want it to be, narrow it down. First cross off half the values and leave the half that is most important to you. Continue to cross out values that are less important. What you want to do is narrow your list down to between 1-5 values, preferably 2-3. These are going to be things that touch a spot in your heart. How do you know if these are what’s really important to you? Ask yourself, If market conditions changed and our sales went down, or our products changed, or even the company changed, would that change how we feel about our values? If the answer is no, then those are your values. If your answer is yes, then dig deeper for values that are more important to you.
So now that you’ve found your values, create your mission statement based around your values. Set them in stone, then start thinking outside the box for everything else in your business.