From The Co-Founders


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


It's a new year. And now, another new month. How about a new sense of beginning, a fresh start?

Alas, the coronavirus pandemic continues to prove Dr. Anthony Fauci right:"The virus is in charge."

As you have noticed, all around us there's delay. From Major League Baseball contemplating a month delay, schools and universities very slowly resuming in-person classes, or a decidedly different lineup and focus of Super Bowl advertisers, we have no choice but to continue to be patient. Isn't that the pits?

As Daphne Howard reported*, "Footfall patterns show that getting back to normal requires more than flipping the "open" sign.



There's something in the air. And no, it is not smoke! 

We believe there is a profound feeling of "springtime."

We know; spring officially is still two months away. But that springtime state of mind IS here. And we all should embrace the opportunities it may bring us.

What's the source of this attitude change?

grfx-Crisis Response/AtNordstrom.jpeg

"Keep your head up. 2021 is going to be great!"

That message is emblazoned – in sunshine colors - in the windows of Nordstrom's flagship store in downtown Seattle. And yes, on a drizzly January day in Seattle, it was a welcome sight this morning. A nice pep talk for us all.

And a fitting message to follow our reflections on the year we just experienced. 

Since March 2 of 2020, our From The Co-Founders commentary has been focused on the pandemics. Revisiting those was quite the "year in review" experience.*

  • From March 2: "This is no time to overreact, nor to be dismissive. Look for the facts!"
  • And, "Our focus is on those impacts that demand the most judgment from owners."


As we reflect on this year and the multiple and still-ongoing effects of the pandemic, we are inspired once again by the resilience and perseverance of independent retailers. 

Then we saw a comment about dealing with adversity that seems particularly relevant to retailers. 

Remember Cher, the entertainer? (And conservationist and philanthropist.) She was asked by Christine Amanpour about how she dealt with adversity and setbacks (like bankruptcy) throughout her career.


This Holiday season is bringing three big waves for retailers, in rapid succession. And each one requires a strikingly different management response. 

Wave #1 - the High Margin Wave - has begun in earnest, and will continue through Christmas Eve.

Faced with the shipping delays (and surcharges), customers have turned to brick-and-mortar stores. The savvy retailers are ready for them.

Back-of-the-envelope cash flow

Here we are, in the first week of December, in this tumultuous pandemic year of 2020.

Maybe more than ever, you need to have a grip on your cash flow! What will you cash flow look like during December, January and February?

Since you must be able to make informed decisions about your business, every day, an up-to-date cash flow calculation is essential. Remember, profits are interesting, but it's cash flow that's significant!

Cash flow doesn't have to be fancy. In fact, what most owners need is just to have the basics on the back of an envelope. The savvy ones always have that with them.

Usually at this time of year, we would be encouraging you to remember that "the lull" is about to arrive. 

That is, that time span from Black Friday/Cyber Monday through early December is typically much slower for retailers. 

And then, come December 10th or so, the Christmas sprint begins! 

Ahh yes. That was then. And this is, well, 2020. 


Amidst the fog of uncertainty of 2020, retailers have experienced a breath-taking acceleration of time, as an array of new-to-retailers technologies have now become almost commonplace. 

2020 has put an end to the days of retailers being technology laggards. We applaud the resilience and adaptability of retailers who did embrace change and especially technology during 2020. Retailers definitely rose to the occasion!

And yet, again, the virus is surging. Even as promising announcements are made about vaccines, the threat that COVID-19 continues to pose to the survival of local businesses is ominous, and substantial.

We agree! This is so not fair!

But, who is up to that challenge? Independent retailers who are merchants supreme.