I visited with a retailer one day and asked him how things were going. He began venting to me about all of his to-do lists and all of the projects that he had been working on. He was working on a number of changes including some new fixtures, a new wall colour and some new product lines. He told me he also needed to hire and train a couple of new people. I expected to hear him tell me also that business was really down and he was desperately trying to turn things around. But I was wrong!
So wrong…in fact he’s coming off close to a record year. That really impressed me. He is talking about all of the improvements he needs to make and it’s not because he’s hurting or desperate. He wants to keep his retail outlet new, exciting and interesting. More importantly, he wants to keep his outlet and inventory relevant to his target customers.
Great retailers are driven or compelled to keep improving and upgrading their showrooms, their atmosphere and their product lines regardless of their sales. In fact, this attitude is what sets them apart to begin with. Complacency even while successful can be your worst enemy!
Year after year, even a successful company may keep doing what’s always worked for them, but over time they fail to realize that they’re slowly slipping and often becoming less relevant, and more and more ho-hum… boring! Following are some things to consider along those lines:
1. Are you still hanging on to an old product line or product assortment that just isn’t performing like it used to do? Old loyalties die hard, but maybe it’s time to get more production out of the square footage your tying up with merchandise that just doesn’t cut ice any longer. Are your old product lines still relevant and important to your target customer? Do you know who exactly your target customer is and are they still excited about your store.
2. When’s the last time you took a field trip to a few competitors you admire? Don’t go by yourself. Take a couple of your employees with you and split up. Each of you should at whatever you choose. Then get back together and exchange views and notes. You might even want to revisit the store after talking.
3. Do you invest in new and interesting ways to display your products? Yes, it costs more money, but it really is an important part of staying fresh and exciting to your customers, especially when your key bread and butter lines are concerned. If you’ve got product lines that are critical to your success then you must invest in them. You can’t afford to let its importance become lost in old, worn and outdated fixtures. New fixtures mean putting things in a new light and bringing attention to products in a different way.
4. Take an honest look at your business through the eye of the phone camera. Take a couple of dozen photos of your in 5-10′ sections. After you’ve taken them, either print them out or look at them closely in full screen size on your computer monitor. What do you see? Does each photo you have reflect the image you want of your retail outlet? Take some notes about every photo. Make notes of the good things too.
5. Are you bringing in new categories and lines to test and excite your target customer? The longer your business has been around, the more dangerous and easier it is for it to become pass or boring. Too often some retailers will bring in the old tried and true products year after year with just slight changes in presentation, signage or anything else, and they wonder why sales are lethargic and daily traffic is dropping off. (Yes, it must be the discount store down the street or it’s the economy.) You should constantly be thinking about what else you could do to excite and sell to your current customer base. There are always more possibilities and opportunities around than any of us are aware of, including me!
What if a new direct competitor opened up across the street from you? What would you do? Remember one of the things about new stores. They’re fresh and they offer a few surprises. They’re clean, bright and all new and shiny. Customers are always ready to check something out like that. What would you do? Then my next question is, why should you wait only until that happens. You’ve got to keep your store fresh and interesting all the time.
6. Have you graded your housekeeping and general appearance? Are you waiting until the one hole in the carpet to enlarge? Are you still looking at the stains on the ceiling tile and blaming the landlord for that old leak? Don’t worry about who’s responsibility it is, worry instead about the image you convey! If you’ve been thinking for a while now that you need to update, repaint, or replace some things in your store, the odds are that you’re probably way overdue.
7. Have a long overdue conversation with your staff about what they believe and what they do to make customer service great for your customers. Have this conversation with everyone present so each employee can hear and challenge the answers. Is everyone on the same page about what good or great customer service is? What is your viewpoint vs. your staff’s view of great customer service? Complacency with regard to customer service is a business killer and indifferent or poor customer service is still the leading reason by far, for customers who leave and never return.
Having a retail space in Noida or anywhere in the world can be compared to being an artist. When you work in the same space and environment on a daily basis, you begin to look at it through tainted eyes and not really as customers see it. It really is a matter of perspective. In a challenging retail business climate, you can certainly make the case for reducing expenses, but scaling back improvement can come at a painful price. If you are oblivious or unwilling to adapt to a changing customer or a more challenging competitive environment, you may pay a heavy price!