"There still is so much uncertainty" is the lament, often accompanied by a sigh of weariness. Or resignation. Trying to plan for the Holiday season, or looking ahead to 2022, can seem especially daunting right now.
Occasionally, all of our businesses need to hit "pause." This is one of those times.
Recognize that thanks to the pandemics, most everything about running your business has changed. Your merchandise mix; your customers; your staff; your competitors; your suppliers; your landlord; your technology; etcetera. Everything!
- With all those changes, how could going forward have much resemblance to however you used to do business?
- And as is always true in retail, the name of the game is adjusting!
So how to begin? By summarizing "Where are we now?" Make a list of all the areas that have changed in the past 18 months. That becomes your checklist, your springboard, to help jumpstart your way out of the uncertainty.
Your list will of course be customized to your situation, but here are some places to look:
Your POS system will have a lot of data about sales. Mine that data!
- Look at sales volume by month, of course.
- But also number of transactions per month
- Average transaction value
- Full price vs off price
- Items per transaction
- In-store vs online; etc
- Sourcing your inventory in a timely and cost-effective manner has never been more difficult.
- Nevertheless, remember to control the amount by having no more than "one turn's worth" (e.g., if 3 turns is your goal, on hand inventory @retail should not exceed the next 4 months of planned sales.)
- Minimizing markdowns may be possible this year.
What about your Customers?
- Examine their buying habits by groups: for example which ones bought online? Used telephone ordering? Used delivery? Used curbside pickup?
- How do "new" customers compare to your established customers?
- What's happened to your competitors in the last 18 months? Are they still in the market?
- What do you know about the new ones? (You DO know who your new competitors are, right?)
- Fully aware of your online competition? (Be sure your staff keeps you informed of what they hear from customers.)
- Have more people moved into your community? Or moved out?
- What life stages are they in? (Has everything to do with their buying habits.)
- How has your market changed or expanded because of online sales?
Then there's your Staff.
- You may still have folks from the Before Times, who might have an important customer following.
- You also may have some emerging talent, with more operational attention to detail, or analytical savvy.
Unprecedented uncertainty may make for good headlines. But for retailers, change and adjustments to those changes has always been the name of the game.
As an Owner, your checklist of where you are right now is vitally important. Nothing to cringe about here. Relish all the new opportunities!