From The Co-Founders


Tips, Tactics & Strategic Insights and Commentary
from The ROI Co-Founders, Pat Johnson and Dick Outcalt
Outcalt & Johnson: Retail Strategists LLC; Retail Turnaround Experts

Ahh, springtime! A time for new beginnings, fresh starts.

Spring also is a time for "Spring Cleaning" – that time of year to spruce up, clean up, fix up. Sigh! Another chore.

This year, here's how to break out of that another-to-do-task rut.

It starts by seeing your stores the way your shoppers see them. Then, with that awareness, the spruce up, clean up, fix up tasks can actually focus on attracting and appealing to your very best customers. 

And we have the (free!) tool to make all this happen.

We've been wondering...

What's the #1 thing that the retail industry needs now more than anything else?

More towns. 

That's right, more towns and villages. Look, towns tend to be more residential, even slower and more relaxed. 

Even the word conjures up warmth. 

And towns, and the people who love towns, are a mecca for the vibrancy of retailing. Think about it: the retail industry needs more towns!

And it's already trending in that direction. Macys, Whole Foods, Nordstrom Rack, and Walmart have announced rolling out small formats, seeking locations closer to residential areas. They recognize that's where their customers are and will prefer to be. 

Conversely, there are way too many cities. 

The Most Dynamic Management Tool for Retailers

What is the "return on investment" of a retailer's largest investment? The GMROI calculation is the tool for the job!

GMROI – Gross Margin Return on Inventory Investment – indicates how much Gross Margin you get back for each dollar “invested” in inventory over a year. 

No other formula, no other calculation, simultaneously impacts both Gross Margin and Cash Flow. No wonder we consider GMROI as the #1 measure of inventory productivity.

And since inventory represents between 65%-80% of a retailer's total assets, it deserves a lot of management attention.

Let's start with a little "window shopping." Check below for the GMROI Benchmarks for just a few retail segments. 

  • Yes, there's a lot of variation. In 2023, for instance, results for just these 6 segments range from $1.90 to $7.50. You'll likely see similar variations between departments in your stores, which is one of the advantages of GMROI. Which ones are most productive?
  • Now look at each of these sets of Benchmarks charts individually, and their GMROI over the last 5 years. A few ups and downs, eh? Just not the same ups and downs for everybody. Note: GMROI's that are going up are sure preferable!

Is This Why Many Retailers Fail?

Maybe you've also noticed it. The recent articles about how retailers now have their inventories "more in line" after the glut of excess inventory caused by "supply chain disruption."

Okay. That's good news.

But, what jumps out at us is the frequent reference to "just-in-time" inventory management.

  • Really? Tell us, What is the formula for calculating "just-in-time"? 
  • What time is "just-in-time"? Is it 2 turns on the inventory? Four turns? Six turns? Twelve turns? Or what?!?

Look, if you can't measure it, you can't manage it. And, if you can't manage something, by definition (and experience!) it is out of control.

Well, we haven’t. 

Think about it. Every retailer wants badly to beat LY. Daily, weekly, monthly and, certainly yearly. “Gotta beat LY!!!”
  • It’s in their blood. It’s what makes them and their stores successful. That drive. That perseverance. That goal-driven focus. 
And, similarly, have you ever heard of a retailer who didn’t want to beat their competition and do better than anyone else??!!

Nope, neither have we. 
So, here’s some fuel for your competitive fire. The ROI's Retail Benchmarks for 45 retail and restaurant segments have just been updated with the latest data! 

Undoubtedly you'll agree with this. We read and hear a lot in the business press, but we treat 100% of it rather skeptically. 

And so it is with articles and commentary about this coming Holiday Season, specifically about retailers' inventory and margins.

Nevertheless, there is considerable good news being trumpeted. Most recently, this feature article in the Wall Street Journal: "Retailers Hone  Inventory for Holidays" *

"In-Person Shopping Keeps Getting Worse"

That was the headline in a recent business page editorial*. And the writer was able to cite chapter and verse of all-too-prevalent lousy shopping experiences for customers. 

  • "More American stores are doing with fewer employees and many have locked items up to keep them from being pilfered."
  • "The retail industry slashed head count in 2020 and has never returned to pre-pandemic staffing levels."
  • Meanwhile, "store employees are spending more time fulfilling online orders, leaving them less time for helping [in-store] customers."
  • Then this warning: "Head-count reductions will become even more tempting in the quarters ahead, as the economy dampens consumers' appetite for shopping."

As noted by a Wharton School professor, "retailers frequently reduce headcount because 'you immediately see the savings in payroll but you don't necessarily know what damage that does to the top line.'" Of course, the retailers that professor is referencing are the Big Guys who have to satisfy their investors every quarter.

As independent retailers, you have advantages that are unavailable to the Big Guys.

Guess what. Your shoppers would love to know you better!

We hear it over and over. "Good business citizenship" matters to shoppers. Especially for retailers, who are quasi-public figures in their communities. (AND in a goldfish bowl.)

Customers vote with their feet, their wallets, and their hearts, and increasingly choose those retailers who "do the right thing", whether it's how they source product, hire and pay employees, reduce environmental impacts, etc.

There are things that independent retailers do day in and day out, without perhaps even realizing how special they are! 

Most retailers we know are "aw shucks" type people. It's charming, but, especially in today's world, your leadership can be a competitive edge! So, why keep it a secret? 

Many of you are using social media to promote sales events, new product arrivals, etc. Why stop there?

Social media – and your website – is the perfect place to share examples of the values that drive your business. And face it; those values may be too scarce today. They need to be featured!