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

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As the second quarter of the year begins, many of us are experiencing what that fellow in the cartoon is feeling. We are not where we expected to be (and maybe not even where we thought we were!) 

Ahh yes, yet another flexibility test. The first quarter of 2022 was full of some major events, nationally and internationally, that disrupted many plans.

As you contemplate where you are now, compared to where you thought you were, and especially, 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."

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ICYMI. You know, that's the shorthand for In Case You Missed It. And in fact, we had missed this.

"Consumer confidence rises for first time this year." 

As reported by Chain Store Age*, "The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index rose slightly to 107.2 in March, up from 105.7 in February. It was the first time the metric has increased in three months."

Wow! Is that ever a stray ray of sunshine! We always look to Consumer Confidence levels as a leading indicator for retailers.

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The season of ghosts and goblins and things that go bump in the night is upon us. While Halloween comes and goes, there may be another very unhappy monster haunting retailers this Holiday season. And it is spooky!

What is this monster? It is an unintended consequence of the good faith efforts of many retailers to provide "excellent customer service." Customer expectations have been raised to heights that may not be fulfilled this year. A grim reality is setting in. 

For retailers, the Fog of Uncertainty that began in April 2020 around the pandemics keeps coming back. Just when it appeared that we were ready to "get back to life" if not "back to normal," the Delta variant has surged. 

This has created more uncertainty. How willing are your customers to actually go out and shop? Even more important (to you): how willing are YOUR customers to shop with YOU?

So, here's an idea: Why not ask them? Really. Send them a short questionnaire.*

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  • "Consumer confidence rose sharply for a second straight month, hitting the highest level since the pandemic began," according to the Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index. 
     
  • "Economists believe that the rising consumer confidence will bolster overall economic growth as consumers, who account for 70% of economic activity, step up their spending as lockdown restrictions are eased." *

This is welcome news for many retailers, as consumer confidence has been a key leading indicator of retail sales.

However, a note of caution: retail sales are not the sole component of consumer spending.

  • "As more businesses and cities reopen, consumers will have even more places to spend the savings they've accumulated during the pandemic." **

There's a lot of optimism in the air these days. 

Covid-19 lockdown restrictions are being eased. More people are becoming vaccinated. Upbeat economic news is reported. Unemployment figures are improving. Restaurants are preparing for diners to return. And of course, given that we are now starting to compare sales results to the meltdowns of 2020, dramatic percentage growth is being reported and forecast for the balance of the year.

These positive and optimistic news reports all are very welcome. Retailers are eager to see customers return. 

But what should retailers expect? To brace yourself for the  myriad changes. 

As we know all too well, 2020 was chock full of "disruptions." Every week brought a new flexibility test. And those of course did not go away when the calendar turned. 

For instance, here we are on President's Day Weekend and Valentine's Day Weekend. Raise your hand if you were able to plan and carry out your "traditional" promotional events, let alone do something for your Valentine.

That's what we thought. The usual patterns just don't apply anymore.

 

Boy, are we ever impressed.

We've known for years that those who are following and/or involved with The Retail Owners Institute® are resolute, hungry, and determined. But wow! The challenges of the last year have brought out the very best in many of you.

We've heard back some of the most resourceful survival stores that we've ever heard. Here are just a few examples: