It's still January and I located a few more Retail Tips to add to January Retail Tips.
First, from Annette Callari in the January 2008 issue of National Floor Trends comes Want to be great in 2008? Here are a few things to get you started.
BECOME A CHAMELEON… in other words, do something that your customer base wouldn't expect of you. Something out-of-the ordinary and buzz-worthy.
RESURRECT THE PRIVATE SALE EVENT… with special invitations for a specific and limited time frame. Also, buzz-worthy, but in a different way.
EXPAND YOUR OPERATION… can you quietly acquire a competitor's organization? Even if that competitor operates in a different spectrum from yours?
SHARE YOUR SPACE… can you invite a business that enhances yours, with a complementary service perhaps, to lease space from you? Not only do you lower your overhead, but you also benefit from new traffic and new potential customers.
JOIN WITH LOCAL BUSINESS LEADERS… How involved are you with your local community? Do other business owners know about you?
IN-STORE COLOR AND DESIGN CLASSES… Be known for offering design knowledge to existing and potential customers. Not only are you connecting with people before they've actually entered into the purchase process, but you're also allowing them to get to know you, your salespeople and your store. In other words, you've started to develop a relationship with them.
Then, Sam Allman in the November 2007 issue of the same magazine Habit: Get Noticed mentions Michigan Tile & Carpet Co., a company whose bathrooms I featured during the Bathroom Blogfest. Here's brilliant additional perspective on their operation and how they attract new potential customers while serving their community!
The owners included an unusual structure to their new 10,000 sq. ft. showroom: a studio and conference room to "host events that are likely to attract people looking for the kind of flooring, design, installation, and maintenance services this company so ably provides. The 1300 sq. ft. annex has two parts. In the Studio and Design Gallery, visitors can view the latest flooring materials displayed in a strikingly dramatic setting. The studio offers designers an inspiring background for their consultations with clients. The conference room, with its comfortable seating, audio-visual technology, restrooms and kitchen, can host design seminars and other meetings. The Starks invite area architects, interior designers, building contractors, realtors, and other community organizations to use this space for presentations and meetings (hence the community service aspect). It can be used during regular store hours, as well as evenings and weekends. It has a separate entry and parking area."
Isn't that not only clever, but also extremely strategic? It certainly sends a strong message to the community that this is an organization to take seriously for both products and services.
Having gotten caught up in topics like Create Your Own Red Carpet Experience! over at Carpetology, I appreciated the advice to Give Your Clients Red-Carpet Treatment - particularly from a January perspective....
Some of that advice:
"You’ve got to be willing to go the extra mile and do those things that your competition isn’t willing to do." You might even consider literally owning red carpet and rolling it out for specific occasions such as the ones Annette mentions above.
The article mentions The Celebrity Experience: Insider Secrets to Delivering Red Carpet Customer Service, a book with lots more advice on "how to turn customers into lifelong, adoring clients by delivering consistent red-carpet customer service. "
Maya Avrasin from FCW featured "Healthy business checklist: Are you in control?" on 11/05/2007. In it she referred to a handy booklet from The Retail Owners' Institute, which is full of valuable information. I looked high and wide throughout the site for a link to the booklet -- without success.
I did, though, find a reference to the chart titled "The Three Stages of Retailers in Decline" - representing the 8 vital business signs - in this 12/01/1998 articled from Furniture World Magazine titled Preparing For A Recession.
Maya mentions five focus areas:
1. Pick up the pace: refresh the store more often, move things around, tidy up, look like you are a fun place
2. Brighten and invigorate: make things more upbeat - music, lighting, wall colors, dress code
3. Manage inventory: increase inventory turns [at least 10%]; take markdowns more quickly [i.e., do a sales event as described above], improve and tighten your assortment....
4. Challenge expenses: be smart about where your money is going [why not use this an an excuse to go green? Take the Energy Star Change A Light Pledge!]
5. Accelerate cash flow: pay debts faster, sell useless equipment or fixtures, order small quantities...
All wise advice.
January is almost behind us. I hope these tips help make the most, not only of the month, but also of the year ahead.