It’s easy to get blindsided by challenges in your business, especially those that you never thought you would have to handle. When cash flow isn’t flowing, sales go into hibernation, ads stop working, and customers are bored, what’s a retailer to do? These 10 strategies will help you stay focused and positive when you are so busy it feels like you are treading water.
1. Set standards
Successful retailers are big planners who set written standards of operation for every area of their stores. These standards help everyone do their jobs better, and they help you easily measure store performance on every level.
You need written standards for customer service, training, associate appearance, use of personal social medias, and customer policies, plus any additional standards that make sense for your store. Each should be specific, attainable, and measurable – keep this in mind: what gets measured is what gets done.
2. Step out of your comfort zone
Comfort zones are lethal to every business. The moment you hear your associates start to say, “But we’ve always done it thisway…” you’re in trouble. With all the changes in retail swirling around you these days, you can’t afford to sit still.
Even successful retailers tend to repeat the actions that made them that way year after year, but this only works for so long. Challenge yourself every day! You hate social media? Bookkeeping isn’t your thing? That’s okay, hire people who can do these tasks for you, then take on what you do like with greater gusto.
Stretch your limits. Attend a trade show that sounds interesting, but you’ve hesitated to visit alone. Join a Facebook group to swap stories with other retailers like you. Hire a consultant to make those changes you have talked about forever but never seem to get done. Your business should give you butterflies in your stomach from time to time, even when you are wildly successful.
3. Keep a to-do list
When your to-do list is as tall as you are it’s easy to knock off the smaller tasks first. Thinking, “This won’t take a minute” is usually followed by “Wait. What time is it?!”
It’s easy to spend precious time on easy, but not so important things, so plan your day and then work your plan. Choose where your list will live – online, on an app on your phone, your computer or on a notebook, and get to work. Keep it simple; if you have 20 things on your list, and you know there’s no way they will happen today, cut it in half. Print and post your list in a place where you must look at it all day.
4. Take some time for yourself
“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” In reality, all work and no play makes Jack a raving lunatic. You simply can’t work 24/7 and remain sane, you need to take time for yourself. That’s a hard one for indie retailers to swallow, but you are just as important – more important – than your inventory and everything else it takes to run a store. Even an hour can make a difference when you are feeling overwhelmed, so don’t feel guilty when you need to take a break. Or a vacation. We’re continually amazed at the number of retailers we meet each year who have no one else who can run the store when they are not there. Don’t let that be you.
It’s okay to create boundaries, it’s okay to take time off, and it’s okay to say no. You can’t lead or make good decisions when your tank is empty.
5. Let it go
Do you proudly tell people that you are a perfectionist? Do you constantly compare yourself to others – or your store to the competition? Do you focus on your flaws instead of your strengths? Do you think that there is a way for everyone who works for you to do it better? Do you answer email or post on social medias when you are supposed to be watching your kid hit a home run? Stop it.
We know you’re willing to do whatever it takes for your store to succeed, but sometimes you need to give yourself a break. You run a retail store – that’s hard. Plenty of people open stores every year and fail; you’re still here. There is no right way to do anything; if how you do it gets you to the finish line, you’re good.
6. Do something new every day
96 percent of people surveyed in a study commissioned by Marks & Spencer said they are surviving on autopilot, living lives of sub-conscious decision making. You probably do, too. No? Well, have you ever driven to work and not remembered how you got there? Or maybe you have walked into a room but can’t remember why? We all have, that’s autopilot. Those ruts and routines can squash your creativity, and that’s not good. To combat this in our lives we decided to take the 30-Day “Do Something New Each Day” challenge. You should, too.
Simple things can make a big difference: If you listen to rock on your way to work, change the station to country; learn a language; try a new recipe; bake a cake; ride your bike around town on your break; get a different haircut; write someone a handwritten note each day; wear a new color. What you do doesn’t have to be rocket science; it just needs to take you out of your routine. Keep a notebook so you can reflect on all the cool new things you tried. Our 30-day challenge has reaped big benefits for us both personally and business-wise. And it’s fun.
7. 10 penny motivation
An easy way to stay on top of the positive things your associates do every day is to keep 10 pennies in your right pocket. Each time you see an associate doing something well you transfer a penny from your right pocket to your left pocket. The deal is you can’t leave for the day until every one of those pennies is in your left pocket. Sounds easy, right? It’s not. When you first start out, you’ll find yourself saying things like, “Mary, you closed that door really well”, but pretty soon you will have trained yourself to unconsciously look for the good things your people do.
8. Kick it up a notch
Retailers these days are big on launching in-store pop-ups and store within a store concepts that changes product, events and even fixturing every few months. The goal is to give shoppers a completely new experience with each change of theme. And sometimes that theme includes unexpected but complimentary product to what the store sells.
Here’s the thing: Your store has a personality and an ambiance that customers can feel the second they walk onto your sales floor. If it’s always similar product displayed on the same fixtures week after week, what’s there for shoppers to get excited about? Take a hard, objective look at what it’s like to shop in your store and kick it up a notch. Or five.
9. Make a difference
Retailers used to only have to compete for the customers’ wallet; today you compete for their hearts as well. There are lots of reasons why people choose to shop at one place over another, but a big one these days is the store’s charitable impact. In 2022 and beyond, supporting a cause will be mandatory.
Sometimes you choose a cause and sometimes the cause chooses you. You may already be working with a charity, or perhaps you’re open to new causes. If you’re not sure where to start, give your Chamber of Commerce a call and ask which charities are important to your community. You might ask your customers that same question. Start by running one cause marketing event each quarter – think pet adoptions in the summer and an Angel Tree during the holidays. Your good deeds are not just good for the community; they are good for your business.
10. Start now
We wrote these words a long time ago; they hang on a sign on our office wall to remind of what’s important: “Don’t wait too long. Your kids will only be little once; your spouse deserves your attention, and your dog needs to be walked. Business is important, but it’s not everything. No one on his deathbed ever said, ‘I wish I had spent more time at work.’”
Don’t wait for the right time to make changes because something will always get in your way. Do one at a time if you have to but start now.
COPYRIGHT KIZER & BENDER | ALL RIGHTS RESERVED