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

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

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People don't go into retailing to be financiers. 

  • They love the merchandise they sell, and/or they love the people who buy the merchandise. (Think book stores, sporting goods stores, gift shops, etc.) 
  • Others love the "theater", the excitement of retailing. 
  • Still others want to be their own boss. 

But few are attracted to the financial part. 

Which is exactly why The Retail Owners Institute website has been built!

Given our years of experience consulting with retailers, especially in turnaround situations, our speaking at conferences and publishing in trade publications, we wanted to "level the playing field" for retailers.

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After months of doom-and-gloom headlines and hand-wringing about a recession in 2023, headlines last week (quietly) said this: "What Recession? Some Economists See Chances of a Growth Rebound." One economist, in fact, seemed a little chagrined to note "So far, the U.S. economy has proved unexpectedly resilient." *

  • While economists, famed for not agreeing, still find other causes of concern and worry, this may mean that topics other than the economy can take over the "bad news makes news" coverage.
  • And that, in turn, could buoy consumer confidence, and retail sales. 

Retailers must be mindful of all this as they make their business and buying decisions throughout the year. But the macro economy is simply interesting, but not significant. Your local economy is, of course, what really matters. 

In that context, every savvy owner uses these three steps.

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Just One Week Until Valentine's Day!

What better time to send a love note to ... your customers?! 

Yes! That's right. A Valentine. Just a Valentine. No strings attached! Show your love!
  • No special discount coupon.
  • No "bounce back" offers ("come back by such-and-such-a-date to save $$$.")
  • No "sign up for our Insider's Club."
  • No "We want to know what you think about your most recent visit."
  • No expectation of them doing anything more for you!
  • No obligation.
Just an out-and-out thank you note. A love note for being your customer!