Weathering the Storm – Increasing Sales in Tough Times

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Weathering the Storm – Increasing Sales in Tough Times

October 2008 will be remembered as the month the world was forced to create a new order when it comes to the financing of business. The ups and downs of the global stock-market (alas, mostly down) means that every business around the world will see change take place. Retailing may take a little longer to see the affects of October. Finance will inevitably get tighter and the consumer will start to “cocoon”, the result is they will not only have less money in their purse or wallet, but they will hold on to what they have. In 1991 Faith Popcorn wrote “The Popcorn Report” (IBN 98 1827361 Random Books). This book looked at the path of the future consumer. Most of her advice as a futurologist came to fruition in the last century. She also advocated that we would travel less and spend more time at home, we would cocoon. Many readers may have felt she had got that wrong as we have seen the opposite effect since she wrote that book, but we are definitely now cocooning. What Should Retailers be Doing in the Storm? There is a tradition in farming, when there is a potato glut, the proactive farmer plants potatoes. When retailing gets tough, the proactive retailer starts becoming more proactive and I don’t mean have a sale. The proactive retailer starts developing strategies to grow their business in tough times. I am not suggesting these strategies will bring quick results, but as the consumer regains confidence they will lean towards these proactive retailers. What will retailers have to do to weather the storm? Well firstly, remember the storm will end, nobody is sure when, but calm waters always return. Five key strategies I would introduce 1.  Build Neighbour to Neighbour Marketing Campaigns. In my own town of Kalamunda, the retailers have got together under the Chamber of Commerce banner and created a Local Shop Scheme for consumers. Consumers click on the Local Shop Webpage and download voucher promotions to use in local stores. This is a low cost venture for the retailers and a high reward for the consumer. I see similar schemes being developed by other communities. 2.  Work your database It is easier to get an existing customer back to your store, rather than find new customers. The database is a key to your future. Communicate with your database on a regular basis and encourage them to come into your store. 3.  Find a cause and work on building it into your marketing strategy. Generation Y in particular tend to be loyal to businesses who have a cause they also believe in. Government money that is available for good causes will dry up and the community will have to provide more of the support. Find a cause your team and your customers believe in and promote that cause within your business philosophy. Have special events when you gather money for that cause. Be seen as proactive in helping that cause. For example, our local “Day Care Centre” has a Down syndrome child at the centre. They recently supported an organised walk to help Down syndrome children in the community. The result was twenty day care parents support the walk and collected $400 for the cause. Any retailer could select their own cause and support the community. 4.  Use the computer more effectively as a marketing tool. Create a “My Space” for your business where your customers can talk to you and to each other. You need to keep customers talking about what they do that involves what you sell. You have to keep your business front of their mind. 5.  One of the first things that gets out in the budget is staff training when times get tough. But when you consider that a recent report from the U.S.A. revealed that 80% of business owners believed that they provided superior customer service, but only 8% of their customers agreed with them, you can see the opportunity. A proactive team who can provide superior customer service will grow your business. Training is critical to the Success of your business. Cutting the training budget should be one of the last things you do. People buy from people and become loyal to businesses where the people car. John Stanley is an internationally recognised conference speaker and retail consultant. He has authored several successful marketing and retail books including the best seller Just About Everything a Retail Manager Needs to Know. John’s retail experience covers hands-on retailing in supermarkets, hardware stores, garden centres, farmers markets and drug stores. For more information on John Stanley and how he can help your business prosper and grow, visit his website www.johnstanley.cc