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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"And the award goes to..."

No, Not About People This Time 
While we typically think of people as recipients of recognition – and we trust you already are doing that, right? –  this is a different challenge.

Ready? Here we go! Of your merchandise, which products are Award Winners?! 

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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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The #1 responsibility of every retailer is to manage and control the inventory. By doing that, you are managing margin, profit, cash flow...also known as success!

Managing inventory demands a merger of art – the selection of merchandise – and science – the quantity of merchandise at any given time. 

And here is a formula that makes the science part accessible for every retailer. All you need is a pencil to do this (remember those?) And it can and should be embraced by every retailer!

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Thanksgiving time in the U.S. is not a good time to be a turkey. 

And, the week after Thanksgiving is obviously not a good time to try to be selling turkeys, or turkey dinners. Especially at full price.

The same thing applies to your inventory! Especially with all the challenges and distractions surrounding supply chain issues, there could be lots of "turkeys" languishing in the inventory in your stores. You know; non-selling, distressed, old, unappealing leftovers among your merchandise.

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What a scenario. Shoppers buying vigorously, retailers joyously raising sales expectations, and many more anxious lenders offering "cash in 24 hours!" to business owners.

Wow! Are these the good times, or what?

Forgive us, but today we're focusing on the "or what?" aspect.

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We often caution that many vendors are so much better trained at selling than retailers are trained at buying. In their eagerness to grow sales, and the associated promise of thereby growing profits, it is all too easy for retailers to become overbought. Instead of higher profits, they can find themselves in a cash flow crunch.

And that was in Before Times, before the pandemics. Throughout 2020 and continuing now, vendors and retailers alike have increased their online capabilities. Ordering online brought new challenges to buyers and sales reps, but also saved time and improved access. 

We have applauded these advances in technology, but...

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Here's a post-pandemic strategy that should not be missed: higher margins! 

Not the entire store, of course; you must be a merchant here. 

But think about it: many shoppers have increased savings, reduced debt, or gotten their job back. Maybe all three.

And after months of being at home, and spending on home improvement and groceries, many shoppers have pent-up demand to spend on items they have had to postpone, like for themselves. Whether that would be in a restaurant or in a specialty store, shoppers are more willing and able to spend. (And some even feel entitled to spend.)