A view of the industry through the
eyes of independent and chain retailers.
10 Ideas To Jump Start Your
Strategies to make 2012 a success.
by Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender (December 19, 2011)
We wanted to open this article
with a catchy phrase, like "You're gonna be rich!" but we opted to
drop the cutesy and jump feet first into reality. 2012 is going to
be an interesting retail year: You have to be ready, willing, and
able to take on whatever your customers decide to throw at you. Some
will want your undivided attention; others want to be left alone.
Some love a good sale; others could care less as long as you have
what they want in stock. Some want classes, others think they know
it all. This list could go on and on and one and on…
STOP! Let’s focus on 10 things
you can do RIGHT NOW to ensure your store stays ahead of the
1. Look at 2011’s Performance through Objective Eyes
Let's begin with some soul
searching combined with a reality check. Where was your business at
this time last year and where it is now? Have you made commitments
to grow your business in 2012? What worked for you in 2011? What
didn't? Which things will you keep, tweak, or eliminate to make your
business better this year? Make a "Strategic Plan of Action" list of
things to do and refer to it all year long. Update it as necessary.
2. Set Measurable Standards
Standards are your measurement
of operation. Every successful retailer we know has written
standards of operation. Customer service, training, dress code, and
customer policies are just a few of the areas that require written
standards. Yes, it will take time to write them, but you will be
grateful in the long run. Standards add consistency to already
successful businesses, and success to those seeking it.
3. Make Every Customer Feel Welcome
We know it's hard to believe,
but not every customer feels right at home in your store. Some need
to be schmoosed with a little small talk, so break the ice with
greeting that makes them feel important. Forget about "May I help
you?" because that greeting almost always invites a
"No-thanks-I'm-just-looking' response from the customer. (It's okay
to ask that question only when you sense the customer is in a
hurry.) Instead, smile, say hello and talk about anything but the
store -- you can talk about product after you've made the customer
And adopt our "7-Tile Rule":
Whenever anyone in the store -- sales associate, stock person,
cashier, class instructor, or store owner -- comes within seven
floor tiles (that's 7') – of a customer, they must personally
acknowledge that customer. Engage the customer in conversation or
look her in the eye and smile and nod, whatever makes sense at the
time is okay as long as every single customer is acknowledged.
4. Can We Talk? Build an On-Going Customer Dialog
Customers like to be part of
your success, so ask them what they think. Ask our BIG question:
What ONE thing could we do to ___________________? You fill in the
blank with whatever is important to you at that particular time.
Consider, "What ONE thing could we do to improve our customer
service in 2012?" or "What ONE service could we add that would make
it more convenient for you to shop here?" or "What ONE class would
you like us to hold?" Don't be surprised if several customers tell
you a variation on the same theme – that's a good thing! If it's
positive, then you have one more thing to brag about, and if it's
negative, then you know just what to fix.
5. Create a Continuous Training Program
You probably have a training
program for new hires, but do you have one for your seasoned
associates? It's easy to assume that someone who has been with you
forever knows all there is to know about quilting, scrapbooking, or
whatever, but that assumption can only hurt your business.
Regardless of skill level, everyone in your store benefits from
Devote every other store meeting
to associate training. (If you don't currently have store meetings,
now is a good time to start. Hold one at least once a month.) In
between, offer books, DVDs, and CDs available so associates can
study on their own. If store associates accompany you to trade
shows, allow them to take classes as well as walk the show floor.
They can teach what they learn to other associates when they return
to the store.
6. Never Stop Learning!
And while you’re at it, train
yourself! Take a course at your local community college. Go to the
business seminars offered by your Chamber of Commerce or Downtown
Association. Make time to attend the business classes at the trade
shows you attend. (Like ours!) Pick a topic that interests you and
listen to CDs while in your car -- we do. We like to say we hold
doctorate degrees from “Auto University”; you can, too.
7. Keep One Eye on Your Competition
This year, make a commitment to
identify your competition and learning everything about them.
Competition can be found in unexpected places: the furniture store
that suddenly decides to carry fabric or the gift shop that sells
finished crafts. Check them all out by visiting their stores as a
retailer and as a customer. Call them on the telephone and ask the
same questions customers ask you. Dig deeper by becoming a stealth
competitor: Get a free Gmail account, visit their websites, and sign
up for their email blasts and newsletters. Register for Google
Alerts, adding each of your competitors' names (add yours, too);
you’ll be sent a link via e-mail each time they are mentioned
The goal is to find out what it
feels like to be your competitions' customer. How do their
stores/websites/blogs/Facebook pages rate when compared to yours?
Find out what their typical customer experience is in a competitors’
store and then you do it better.
8. Out with the Old, In with the New
How old is the product you have
merchandised on your sales floor? Can you instantly determine the
date each item was received? Can you easily identify slow-sellers or
those items that are dead on the shelves? You need to regularly mark
down prior seasons' merchandise and items that are past their prime.
Add a code to the product labels
and/or bin tickets that tell you the age of each piece of
merchandise. We know, your POS system tells you how old your stock
is; but when was the last time you took one of those computer
reports to the sales floor to find all that old stuff? This year,
make it a priority.
9. Embrace Cross-Merchandising
Why just sell one product when
you can sell two or more? There are opportunities to
cross-merchandise all over your store, plus accessories like clip
strips and J-hooks make it easy to cross-merchandise on any fixture.
Use Merchandise Outposts (displays of product set outside of their
normal display area) to present a mixture of related impulse items
and high-profit product. Use your Speed Bumps (displays set up front
and center) to tell cross-merchandising stories. Think about what
you can cross-merchandise with each new item before you give it a
home on the sales floor.
10. Set Non-Negotiable Budgets for Every Area of the Store
Go through your list of
expenditures and review how much you spent on each category in 2011.
Now, using your good judgment, choose an arbitrary figure to use as
your 2012 budget. Let everyone involved in purchasing know that this
dollar amount is all the money there is to spend. Period. We adopted
this system a few years ago. We always come in at, or under, our
And while you're at it, stop
buying things you don't really need; in fact, look at every dollar
spent as unnecessary. Walk through your store with an accountant's
eye: Do you have piles of unused supplies in your office? Are there
boxes of overstock stacked in your bathroom? Maybe you have an
associate who just isn't working out. When you cut down on all
nonprofit-producing costs, you’ll have more money for the things you
Okay, we lied about the 10
ideas; there are really 11…
11. DO IT NOW!
Procrastination is not your
friend, so don't let it or poor time management hurt your store.
Some things can wait; your path to success, however, cannot. Start
at the top of the list or with the items that will help you the
most. If necessary, you can break them down into smaller, more
manageable steps. And if you feel overwhelmed, remember this African
proverb: "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time."
Kizer & Bender Seminars at the Winter CHA Show
"Generations of Customers – A Guide to the Shopping Behavior of
Generations X, Y, and Z" (Seminar S111, Sun., Jan. 29, 2:00 – 3:00
Welcome to the age of the NEW
consumer! A younger consumer who demands to be taken seriously; a
consumer who knows his/her way around the Internet and social medias
and is not afraid to use them. It's a whole new ball game and it's
all about the ustomer – any business with customers will be forced
to keep up.
"Advanced Social Media Marketing – For Retailers" (Seminar 119,
Mon., Jan. 30, 12 noon – 1:30 pm.)
Social Media Marketing is a
game-changer; it gives you the ability to run circles around your
competition – if you know how to use it. You may be up and running
on Facebok, Twitter, and other social media sites, but are you doing
all you can to get the most out of your social media platform?
"Cause Marketing for Retailers: Promotions That Grow Your Community
and Sales" (Seminar S129, Tues., Jan. 31, 2:00 – 3:00 pm)
As retailers, you used to merely
compete for the customers' wallet; that's why you host one to three
in-store events each month. The goal of each event is to build
traffic and sell more stuff. Today, you not only compete for the
customers' wallet, but for their hearts as well. That's why some of
events on your promotional calendar need to focus on Cause
To register, visit
KIZER & BENDER Speaking!
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103 North 11th Ave., Ste. 206,
St. Charles, Illinois 60174
Phone: 630-513-8020 | 24/7 Mobile: 708-347-2682 Fax: 630-513-8098
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