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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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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👀 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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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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"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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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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You've gotten through the Holiday season, likely enjoyed some vacation time, and perhaps even have your own financial statements in hand. 

For many retailers, 2021 proved to be a very profitable year. Congratulations!

In fact, go here to check out the pre-tax profit trends for the past two years for the median performers in 50+ retail segments. To borrow a phrase,  everybody (almost) is above average!

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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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The definition of a good coach is “That person who makes you do the things you don’t want to do, to become the person you want to be.”

Given that, we would suggest that the pandemic proved to be a great coach for many retailers. So much so, "Coach P" really deserves being recognized as the Coach of the Year!

Think about it. The pandemic forced retailers to do things they had long evaded or delayed (remember “technology laggards?”)