Thursday, December 9, 2010

Atlanta Market

Ladies (and Gents)
If you are exhausted by Sunday and need to vent, relax, share or listen please join fellow retailers at the Westin on Peachtree

Lobby Bar
Sunday, January 11
6:00 p.m.

We had a great time last year eating, drinking and sharing stories. Friends were made , vendors were shared and this year specifically I'd like to get us all to share tips for getting through 2009.
Hope to see you!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Slow Times

Q: I currently own a retail home furnishings store that I
purchased 2 ½ years ago. I had a very strong start,
but sales have slowed. I can really relate to your
comments that something seems to amiss in the retail
environment. I am considering closing or scaling back
significantly. I can always expand again at a later
time. I could also fight like crazy to hang on, but I
would be over extended to say the least.

It seems a shame, because I have such a great business
and have worked 6 and 7 days a week to make it a
success. We grew sales from $340 per square foot to
$447 per square foot in 2005 and $380 in 2006.

Do you have any suggestions as to how I might go about
turning the momentum around?

A: First off, $340 a square foot is fabulous! You should be happy with those numbers even though it is a drop from 2005. Also note: never compare your current sales to your first year in business as it needs to be thrown out with the bath water. Painful, yes, but your store is not up to speed yet, the newness needs to wear off and you need to settle in. Even if your sales drop to $250 even $175, you should survive on that for awhile. If you cannot, your overhead is too high. Cut back on salaries or someplace that is not a fixed cost. But, I feeeeel your pain as I am there as well. I want to make those first year numbers again so bad- and I will!

Just yesterday I had a long conversation with my mentor and retail guru who spent 30+ years with Hallmark watching all this kind of stuff.

I complained of all of this:
-slow sales.
-inventory seems boring because nothing is moving.
-you can't buy more right now to freshen it up (because nothing is moving).
-regular customers are bored.
-new customers are cautious.
-all customers are spending little.
-no major purchases are being made.
-the owner is causing bad juju all over the store and staff because she's worried about all of this.

My friend explained to me a few things:
-it's not you, it's retail.
-what goes down must go up, always has been, always will be.
-these downward cycles can last 12-18 months. And yes, it is because of gas prices, the war, the economy, the President, the 6:00 news.
-when you see Sears have 50% off lawnmowers during the garden season, you know it's not just you.
-stay the course. Don't do anything drastic.
-rework the store. Move your stuff around, again and again.
-use what you do have. Be creative. Be frugal.
-Promote, promote, promote.

For my store I have done a few things to overcome:
-emptied out every morsel of product from my stockroom, home, garage and put a price tag on it. This is a good feeling as there is always that kind of stuff lying around.
-move furniture around, again and again and make the store look new.
-we are hanging things in groups and finding cheap and creative ways to fill the ceiling (porch screens, paper umbrellas, etc.)
-listed some items on eBay for the first time ever. (so far, so good)
-each month having 2 week sales on something we have a lot of.
-sending emails every week about something. Reminding customers we are here.
-what buying I am doing is weak but substantial- garage sales, thrift stores, etc.
-use your hired help. Right now, time is not money: repaint something, make something, sew something.
-use this time to restructure. Maybe borrow more money, have meetings, discuss what is working, sell what sells, plan a calendar, do community events.

In summary: stay the course. Know who you are and be confident this will pass. Use your email database (or get one)- the cheapest, fastest most effective line of advertising and communication for any of us. Best of Luck.