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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The playing field has shifted dramatically under the feet of retailers. 

Merchandise orders placed months ago are now proving to be "too much stuff that consumers no longer want so much of,"  as was reported rather colloquially just 3 days ago.  All this was summed up this way: "Retailers with slower inventory turns might find current conditions especially difficult to navigate." *

Now, look at the chart at the top of the page. Without being dramatic, it may be a lifesaver for your business this year. 

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photo: Greg Gilbert/Seattle Times

Recently we read of a "bookshop on wheels" launched by a college English instructor. While certainly not the first retail variation on a food truck, this one has gained praise for its authenticity. 

"What’s most surprising when you walk into Blue Kettle Books for the first time is how cozy and, well, bookstore-ish the tiny space feels."*

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Just this morning we saw yet another article speculating about the staying power of online shopping, in this instance, grocery shopping. 

  • "Right now, the direction is … unclear," admitted the reporter.* "I have been scouring data on online grocery shopping in the U.S., and I will be humble and say that I don’t have a clear picture."
  • "My wishy-washy analysis is that Americans haven’t fallen head over heels for buying bananas over the internet, but we aren’t rejecting it, either."

Of course, it's not just media pundits who are looking for answers to this question about online versus in-store shopping. Retailers are living with this issue, and they have to make decisions. 

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Ready to add a bit more fun to your store, AND generate incremental sales? Consider this friendly Tortoise, a "tap to pay mobile smart store."

Here's how it works. You choose items to sell that can be boxed, and held at room temperature. Maybe it's a dozen cookies. Or a book. Coffee mugs? Mobile phone rechargers. Whatever makes sense for your store. (And apparently, higher priced goods do especially well.)

Place the boxes into a Tortoise container that has colorful graphics of what's inside and the price per box, and send the Tortoise on its way.

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Spring is in the air.  More places are lifting Covid restrictions. Daylight savings time starts this coming Sunday, extending the evening hours. 

And, for the first time in years, we can expect to celebrate Easter, Mother's Day, Father's Day, graduations, weddings with few restrictions. All promise a renewed air of celebration! 

There is widespread anticipation that consumer spending will be very strong. But...spending on what? Before you place all those merchandise orders, consider this.

  • We expect that the second quarter burst of consumer spending will be weighted towards services more than consumer goods. A big surprise for many.
     

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"Never miss the opportunities of a crisis."

Without a doubt, these continue to be unprecedented times for managing a retail business. The Disruption with a capital D continues, from the pandemic to supply chain challenges, employee issues, worldwide inflation, interest rate increases, etc. And now, the global economy is in more turmoil due to the Ukraine invasion and the resulting sanctions against Russia. 

Lots of challenges for business owners as they wrestle with rising costs, aren't there? 

But for independent retailers, there exists one glorious opportunity: price elasticity. Yes, raising prices. A whole new ball game for many independent retailers. 

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Have you noticed? That persisting Plague of Uncertainty that keeps hanging around?

  • The troubling issues in Ukraine and the potential repercussions.
  • Inflation now includes an even greater hike in oil and gasoline prices because of the Ukraine situation.
  • Unresolved supply chain issues, particularly impacting smaller businesses with less clout.
  • Employee unrest, union organizing, the "Great Resignation." 
  • Stock market declines, which seem to foster even more talk of unrest and uncertainty.
  • Not to mention the extended Farewell Tour of Covid and The Variants. 

And amidst all this relentless uncertainty, you still have a business to run, employees to motivate, customers to satisfy, vendors to deal with, creditors to pay, etc, etc.  

Here are some ideas on how to approach that.

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Heads up. You can take a grim situation and turn it into an advantage. 

Universally, there is a shortage of "good employees." While many will use that as an excuse, it can be a great opportunity for those who seize it.

That's why we paid particular attention to this commentary by Ty West in The Playbook*.

  • "Businesses across a range of industries are struggling with both recruitment and retention, yet surveys and experts continue to show many are unwilling to change their strategies to improve their ability to compete."

And therein lies the opportunity.