PERSPECTIVES

From The Co-Founders

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Tips, Tactics & Strategic Insights and Commentary
from The ROI Co-Founders, Pat Johnson and Dick Outcalt
Outcalt & Johnson: Retail Strategists LLC; Retail Turnaround Experts


ROI Co-Founders
ROI Co-Founders's Article

It's a given that your sales volume is a very big deal. Granted, you are analyzing it every day. But here's a slightly different approach which you may find very revealing.

Let's start with a couple truisms. The definition of retailing is “selling to the ultimate consumer.” 

Retailing also is having "the right product at the right price at the right place at the right time for the right customer."

But, as retailers ponder how best to manage sales in the current consumer environment, does it really matter whether their "right customers" buy from them in-store or online? 

Actually, it might! And here’s a simple, free "pilot project" to find out a little more.

Customer Analysis Tally Sheet

Ahh yes, yet another flexibility test. The first quarter of 2023 was full of some major events, nationally and internationally, that disrupted many business plans.

As you contemplate where you are now with your retail operation, compared to where you intended to be, don't despair! Even more important, just like you do with the GPS system in your car, disregard "returning to the prescribed route."

This is retail, after all. Change is the name of the game!

Successfully "doing retail" has always been a challenging and fascinating and evolving exercise. As the old Chinese proverb states, “It’s easy to open a store. However, it’s tough to keep it open.”

And today, seemingly more than ever, third party organizations, more than individual entrepreneurs, seem to be drawn to retailing. Consider:

  • Vendors and manufacturers who decided that they would rather open their own stores than continuing to deal with “failing” retailers. It would be so much easier.
     
  • Online-only operators choosing to offer customers a hands-on experience with their product. (And then, those pesky customers were in their stores, but "Just looking, thank you." Who knew?)

These and others fit into our category of “retail-as-added-use.” "It looks easy. Why don't we open stores?"

But, retailing is not their core competency; they are manufacturers or direct marketers, or wholesalers, or importers, or whatever.

Are we alone, or have you also noticed it?

Everything seems to be kind of stalled right now. Maybe that's for good reason. Or maybe this period of malaise is a great opportunity for the bold. Whatever, it seems weird.

Look at these examples: 

  • Sure, now the Silicon Valley Bank has been sold. Finally. But the fragileness of the entire banking system hasn't been corrected. So, if a retailer needs something from a lender, expect to hear "Let's just wait to see how this shakes out."
     
  • On the world stage, all sorts of powerful players are jostling for attention and position. It can be unsettling. Whether it's Russia, China, North Korea, Brazil, Israel or whomever, it's happening daily. And it seems to have many observers saying, "Let's just wait to see how this plays out."

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How's Everybody Doing?


The Retail Owners Institute® makes it easy for you to get a quick financial health assessment of your own stores, as well as the retail industry, and every vertical within it. 

From farm stores to apparel stores, wine stores to tire dealers, gift shops to convenience stores; all 45 verticals.

Here's how to get started.

  • Go to the Retail Benchmarks page of The ROI site.

  • Scroll down the page to see the links to all 45 retail verticals.

  • Choose the vertical that includes your stores; immediately go to that vertical's Benchmarks page. 

  • See the results for each of 6 key ratios for the past five years. To get a better look, just click each image to make it larger. 

Quite a picture, isn't it? Which ratios are trending up? Down? Any suggest some shaky times ahead? Any surprises? But most importantly, how will yours compare?

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According to the calendar, as of March 21, it officially is springtime. No matter what the weather is doing.

Well, it's time to bring the calendar to real life! Spring is really a state of mind! The dark winter has passed. Even the rain is warmer in the spring. And new growth is beginning to sprout; leaves are coming out. It's a wonderful, fresh outlook.

And that of course means it is a wonderful opportunity for retailers to refresh and reenergize their stores. 

No matter what merchandise you sell - whether it's tires, apparel, books, housewares, office supplies, whatever - every retailer is in the fashion business.

And that means that your customers are wanting what is new and fresh.You know; "in fashion."

Maybe you noticed this (see "Retailers Lay Out a Downbeat Outlook"*) but the big national retail chains, despite better-than-expected quarterly earnings this week, still are looking at a year of low to no growth, citing reduced spending by lower income groups, the loss of covid relief money, the effects of inflation, etcetera.

  • "This week, retail executives presented investors and analysts with downbeat outlooks for the first quarter and the year ahead, forecasting that sales growth, if any, will be much smaller than in years past."*
     
  • "Ross Stores expects sales to be flat for its fiscal year; Kohl's expect its net sales to decline 2 to 4 percent; Macy's said its comparable sales would be down 2 to 4 percent; Best Buy expects same-store sales to fall 3 to 6 percent."

But, here is the key observation, and an important reminder:

  • "To be sure, while there are worries about the outlook, the data so far don’t necessarily suggest that the economy is in or hurtling toward a downturn."  

How to reconcile this doom-and-gloom from the big national retailers with our still-strong economy, which is 70% driven by consumer spending? 
 

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It's that time of year. As you review your Profit & Loss statement for 2022, your thoughts most likely are turning to "How do we make 2023 a better year than that?" 

As we look around, we see a popular cost-saving and productivity-boosting tactic being instituted by many national retailers, shopping malls, and restaurants. They are open fewer hours. 

This offers an opportunity for you to revisit your store hours and employee scheduling practices.  Maybe it's time to consider some changes, if you haven't already.

Start with the mass of data resting comfortably in your POS system. Look for all the reports by the day of the week. (Be prepared; this may require you to gather information from several reports.)

What you are looking for is data such as this by the day of the week:

  • Total sales by day of week 
  • Total # of transactions (e.g., customers) by day of week
  • Total gross margin dollars by day of week
  • Hours per day of week the store was open
  • Total employee hours and payroll per day of week