Perspectives

From The Co-Founders

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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
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In most years, this is the week that is typically a bit of a lull. The first wave of shoppers – Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Shop Local Saturday, Cyber Monday – has crested; the final wave doesn't begin in earnest until this coming weekend.

But this year IS different. Shoppers began shopping in earnest much earlier. And they use the internet to do their browsing, and then have an array of choices for receiving their purchases, from delivery to curbside pickup to in-store pickup.

So, what better time than this to revisit your returns policy?!

 

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The #1 responsibility of every retailer is to manage and control the inventory. By doing that, you are managing margin, profit, cash flow...also known as success!

Managing inventory demands a merger of art – the selection of merchandise – and science – the quantity of merchandise at any given time. 

And here is a formula that makes the science part accessible for every retailer. All you need is a pencil to do this (remember those?) And it can and should be embraced by every retailer!

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Thanksgiving time in the U.S. is not a good time to be a turkey. 

And, the week after Thanksgiving is obviously not a good time to try to be selling turkeys, or turkey dinners. Especially at full price.

The same thing applies to your inventory! Especially with all the challenges and distractions surrounding supply chain issues, there could be lots of "turkeys" languishing in the inventory in your stores. You know; non-selling, distressed, old, unappealing leftovers among your merchandise.

We are entering an exceptionally exciting time for retailing. 

Nationwide, the U.S. is experiencing an entrepreneurial surge not seen since the tech boom of the 1990s, said Kenan Fikri, research director for the Economic Innovation Group in Washington, D.C. 

According to an analysis of Census data by EIG, "Through September, Americans have filed a record 1.4 million applications to start new businesses – the most through the third quarter of any year on record."*

Experts suggest it’s being fueled by rising household wealth and shifting life priorities, after millions of Americans were tossed from their jobs during the pandemic. 

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The constant challenge for retailers is to anticipate what their customers really want.  And this year, there seem to be plenty of choices available.

  • A "frictionless" checkout procedure? 
  • One hour delivery? 
  • Buy Now, Pay Later?
  • "This particular item in this particular color and size. Right now!?"
  • Etcetera

It is all part of the on-going challenge of retail; the art and craft of being a merchant. 

Then there are the customers who are reacting to the constant drumbeat of news about supply chain issues, merchandise shortages, and looming price increases by starting their shopping early. Adding to this stampede, some major chains were launching their Black Friday specials before Halloween!

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Maybe you are aware of this. We sure are!

Way too many retailers are just fumbling along, paying everybody else but not themselves.

Worse yet, way too many retailers are failing, going bankrupt, even in these "good" times for the economy. And when a business fails, it affects a host of people and entities. Not only do employees lose their jobs, and landlords lose a tenant, and suppliers lose a customer, and a community loses a retailer...the owner(s) oftentimes lose their house, car, savings, everything. Failure is sickening.

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For retailers there are two very strong trends happening now through the Holiday Season. And they are remarkably divergent. 

  • One that is getting a lot of publicity is how Target, WalMart, etc. are promoting their “Black Friday “ specials four weeks before Thanksgiving. 

    Sounds desperate to us, but it is a sign of the times. 

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What a scenario. Shoppers buying vigorously, retailers joyously raising sales expectations, and many more anxious lenders offering "cash in 24 hours!" to business owners.

Wow! Are these the good times, or what?

Forgive us, but today we're focusing on the "or what?" aspect.