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

Think about the prominent characteristics of today's shopping experience:

  • More "self-service" for the customers (that is, less staff on the floor.)
  • Self check-out by the customer.
  • Reduced in-store merchandise selection; "Just check our website."
  • Limited in-store signage or knowledgeable staff.
  • Presumptions that customers will search online for product information, reviews, etc.
  • Automated, "menu-driven" phone systems replacing "real people."  

Hmm.  

  • Are these providing more "convenience" for shoppers?
  • Improving their shopping experience?
  • Or – just shifting the work to them?!

Convenience Retailer vs. Destination Retailer: Decision Time

Throughout the pandemic, millions of shoppers – including the older Baby Boomers – discovered the benefits of online shopping. Then, as brick-n-mortar retailers scrambled to survive, the increased availability of delivery, curbside pickup, BOPIS (Buy Online, Pickup In Store) and BORIS (Buy Online, Return In Store) was well received by a broad swath of consumers. 

We see that this has brought heightened awareness of two different retail strategies: Convenience Retailing versus Destination Retailing. 

And here's the deal: retailers now must choose either one or the other of those two strategies. You cannot have one foot on the dock and one foot in the boat. You DO have to decide! 

  • That uncertain/undecided middle ground is not a viable choice. 
  • Those who end up there by default – by choosing to not choose  are on their first step to being former retailers!

We're sure you'll agree. Misinformation can be very harmful. Retailers surely don't need more harmful anythings!

Just last week, we came across the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. It was a post on the Intuit Quickbooks site*, titled "Inventory Turnover Ratio." And the explanatory article was accompanied by an "Inventory Turnover Calculator."

What do we take exception to? The misleading and/or incorrect information it provides. For example, their "Inventory turnover calculator" requires two entries. 

  • First, "enter the total costs involved in selling your products."

We must take exception. "Total costs involved in selling your products" is NOT the same as Cost of Goods Sold. Nor do they specify that it should be for a 12-month period of time. 

  • The second entry they request: "Average inventory cost."

We must take exception. What they surely meant to say is inventory @cost. 

  • Plus, they simply refer to "12 months of ending inventory balances," without specifying that it should be for the same 12 months for the previous entry.
Only the Beginning
Turns out, this is only the beginning of the misleading information.

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?