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

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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Maybe you heard it. 

We heard this weekend a resounding sigh of relief from around the world. The election has ended. 

For all of us, this passage invites fresh optimism, a fresh resilience, and a fresh commitment to the important things in life.

As retailers, one of those important things is your operation. 

The situation suggests that now is the perfect time to reexamine your competitive edge.

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Since we first established The Retail OWNERS Institute®, we have asserted that the greatest growth opportunity in retailing is between the ears of the owners. And nothing since then – not even (or maybe especially!) –  a once-in-a-century pandemic has diminished our belief. 

Independent retailers and restauranteurs have been among the first business owners to pivot to a survival mode. Why? Because they have had plenty of practice! 

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As we introduced last week, the New Normal for retailers is already here. It is a new "retail clock." 

  • "As the global efforts to "flatten the curve" of the coronavirus pandemic continue, there is another curve that is being flattened. That would be the seasonality of retail sales. 

    "And this may prove to be what really defines the New Normal for retailers. 

    "The customary peaks of retail spending have been flattened."

Of course, it is not just retailers who have been affected; the shoppers also have been adapting. But whereas retailers think in terms of seasons (weeks and months), the shoppers are adjusting their patterns at the daily and weekly level.