When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going

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When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going

By John Stanley It was 1985 when Billy Ocean made the above a classic “pop” song. Okay, it may show my age, but this quote is relevant to retailing in 2008. Over the last few years retailers have experienced economies around the world where consumers continued to have more money in their pockets, it was an expanding market. But, global economies are changing and business growth is now coming from taking business from other retailers who do what you do; a sign of slowing economies. Today’s dollar/pound is “green” and “shrinking” which means that it is the retailer who is sharper than their competitors who will succeed. You now have to “poach” customers from the competition. What will happen in the short term is that proactive retailers will put strategies into place to enable them to grow and expand. They may not see this growth immediately, but when the consumer opens their purse or wallet more freely; these will be the businesses to benefit. Other retailers will be reactive and will put down the hatches to try and weather the storm without putting any strategies in place, hoping they can do the same thing in the same way once the storm passes. What will the Tough do? Consumers will carry on spending, but will be more selective on where and when they will spend. They will be less tolerant of mediocre retailers, which is where the opportunities exist. In the UK the major food retailers are taking the approach of providing really cheap loss leaders. One supermarket introduced the £1.99 chicken while another slashed the price of beer. These techniques of buying customers may work for global retailers, but is not an avenue the independent retailer can take. If one looks back to previous downturns in economies the history books show us what the winners do and what the losers do. These lessons need to be relooked at as we enter a new period of trading. Winners Train Retailing is about people, people who can relate as professional salespeople with their customers can grow the business. Once of the best investments in your business is training your team. It should be an integral part of your marketing strategy. When times get tough, the easiest investment in your business is providing awesome customer service. But, I’ll guarantee the training budget will be reduced in many businesses in harder times. As a result the internal customers (your team) will be less motivated and skilled and the average sale will suffer. It is not uncommon for winning businesses to grow the average sale per customer in more difficult trading climates, their customer count may go down, but their average sale does the reverse. Winners are Topical I was in the UK during the Valentine’s Day retailing period. As soon as Valentine’s Day had finished, the winners, had changed their shop windows and removed the Valentine’s merchandise from the shop. A week after Valentine’s I was still seeing retailers promoting the event, whilst the winners were already promoting events such as Mother’s Day and the upcoming half term for school children. A successful retailer plans displays well ahead and is ready to change displays overnight if necessary. Winners Empower Winners realise that they need to empower their team to make a difference. They have set empowerment guidelines when it comes to policies such as guarantees, replacement and rewarding consumer loyalty. The secret of success is to ensure the sales person has the authority and confidence to make positive decisions face to face with the consumer. Winners are Always Learning I recently met a small store retailer who told me that nobody could teach him anything as he knew it all. When I asked what his plan was for the future, his response was he would carry on doing what he was doing as there was nothing else to learn. This approach to business can work to some point in the life of the business, but sooner or later it is a recipe for failure. Winning business owners are on a constant learning path. The world is full of new ideas and innovations, these guys are like a sponge, they absorb them and then consider how they can adapt them to their business. Innovators start developing their ideas when the going gets tough. Over the next twelve months the innovators will be having fun.