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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You may be one of the many retail owners who share our vision of why to own your own business: “Making money. Having fun. Doing good.”  

You see, we believe that Owners do not have to choose just one goal for defining "success" in their business. Goals do not have to be mutually exclusive; they can converge. Just like in a Venn diagram.

Here's a fun exercise. Make your own Venn diagram for your own business. Start now to make that convergence come to life.  

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Every day, there are all too many headlines of things outside our control. 

  • The war in Ukraine. 
  • The global energy crisis.Inflation. 
  • Rising interest rates. 
  • The falling stock market. 
  • Wildfires. 
  • Droughts. 
  • Supply chain disruptions. 
  • Rising costs. 
  • Crime rates. 
  • Social injustices. 
  • The latest coronavirus variant.
  • And...And...And...

The drumbeat of news about these events is relentless. And wearing. 

While retailers are notably resiliant and optimistic, there IS a limit to how much uncertainty one can continue to take.

Then we discovered that there is a name for all this: VUCA.

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👀 New Respect for Brick-n-Mortar Retailers

Retail IS detail. And some of those pesky details are increasingly cropping up to torment online sellers. 

For example, there's the matter of managing returns. As Chris Jarvis wrote in DMM/ShoppingCenters.com*:

  • "We return roughly 30% of all online purchases compared to only 10% from brick-and-mortar."
  • "In 2021 retail returns jumped to an average of 16.6% versus 10.6% a year ago."
  • "Research suggests that a single online return can cost two-thirds the original price to handle when we include labor, transportation, and warehousing costs." 

Meanwhile, the pure-play online retailers are confronting the ever-demanding customer expectations. 

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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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By now, you have your year-end financials for 2021. Remember, it always comes with a Balance Sheet!

Whether sales are up, down, or sideways, the financial strength – and staying power – of every business is shown on its Balance Sheet. And revealed by its Balance Sheet ratios.

 

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You've no doubt seen the headlines. "Retail sales slumped in December." 

Sounds pretty grim, doesn't it? Did all those foreboding warnings of supply chain issues, inventory shortages, etcetera actually come true?

  • Keep in mind that the folks trumpeting those slumping sales results are comparing each month's retail sales to the previous month. Sure enough, on that basis it is true that retail sales in December were almost 2% less than they were in November.
     
  • However, if you examine the same numbers the way that retailers do– that is, comparing to the same month the prior year – we see a very different story.

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Keeping Perspective

Is there a more difficult everyday challenge?

As owners of businesses, we've got all of the issues of the times right on our plates. Think about it:

  • Every family has ups and downs. In fact, every person does.
  • And it seems that all of our constituencies – family, friends, neighbors, customers, employees, landlords, lenders, vendors – look to us for answers, for leadership. "Well, after all, you are the owner!"
  • Meanwhile, the covid turbulence has magnified the fact that there's really no how-to manual for dealing with a wily once-in-a-century pandemic.

Is there a more difficult every day challenge than maintaining perspective? We don't think so.