Business 101

How to Generate Buzz for Your Business With Press Releases

When a tight marketing budget has you racking your brain for cheap (or, better yet, free!) ways to bring new customers into your store, consider this: Good publicity is an amazing way to create interest and excitement around your store. And it requires little or no money if you drum up the attention yourself—but it isn’t free. It will cost you time, effort, and a little know-how. However, the payoff will be a stronger presence in the community and more customers through your door. Try some of the following tips to make publicity a part of your marketing plan.

Stocking for Success

Inventory management may seem like a dry subject, but for retailers, it can have a dramatic effect on profitability. A system that ensures you are carrying the right merchandise in the right quantity is an essential ingredient in a healthy bottom line. Too much inventory will tie up badly needed money while taking up valuable space on your shelves; too little inventory will eat away at your cash flow and disappoint customers you can’t afford to lose.

Bright Ideas

Providing customers with a highly attractive shopping environment is one of the key factors in supporting retail sales. And, at the most basic level, a store cannot begin to optimize profits without a proper lighting system. Not only will lighting enhance the presentation of your merchandise, it also affects the mood of shoppers in your store.

Good Business

Marketing campaigns and the budgets that, theoretically, go with them can cause serious angst. Small business owners are notorious for laughing maniacally when asked about their advertising budget. Whether because they’re operating on tattered shoestrings and fervent prayers and have no budget, or do have a budget but are terrified to spend it only to see no returns, proprietors of all kinds avoid making any decisions about marketing at all (which is still a decision made).

Survivor's Guide to the Economy

Survivor's Guide to the Economy

What changes have you made in your store to keep your business healthy in the slow economy? This is the question I asked recently as I spoke with New Age retailers around the country. Many told me they had developed important and effective strategies for store survival, including both fundamental changes in the way they do business and smaller adjustments in procedures or focus. The best part? You can benefit from their success by applying these ideas to your business, helping you not only survive during the slow times, but thrive as the economy once again picks up steam.

How to Sell Jewelry Your Customers Can Afford

The cost of silver is increasing dramatically, and it’s causing some real problems for retail stores and their customers. Two years ago the price of raw silver was $12 an ounce. Six months ago it was $24, and in early June, the price was over $36—with no end in sight. Some experts predict it will continue to climb to record levels through the end of the year. Your customers want jewelry, and now is the time to find alternative ways to provide them with products they can afford.

The Connection Workshop

Baby, it’s crunch time. Holiday 2011 is here, and word on the street is, you’re going to be considerably busier than last year.

Now’s the time to approach the fourth quarter as a fresh start, a clean slate—with a whole new focus on building and retaining customer loyalty.

It may be too late to make hefty changes in your approach: Your merchandise is stocked, events scheduled. But you still have time to shift the one thing that will bring you maximum results this season. That singular thing? Authentic connection.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: Sales are not rebounding as quickly as I had hoped (are we sure this recession is over?) and I have to do something to survive. Where should I start? Do you have any suggestions?

Good Business

A good benefits package is like a tightrope act. On one side, you want to offer a program that keeps your best employees from jumping ship. On the other, you want to trim an expense category that can account for a third of payroll costs as reckoned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Smaller retailers have a particularly hard time balancing benefits with costs. What’s the stolution? Take a new look at the array of low-cost or no-cost benefits that can keep your workers happy without busting your budget.

Full-Spectrum Sales

Did you know that consumers make subconscious judgments about products within 90 seconds of first seeing them? As a retailer, this means you have a very small window to attract attention to your products. And 85% of consumers use color as a primary reason for making purchases, which makes color one of the best tools you can use to increase your sales.

5 Rules for Doing Customer Service Right

In every industry, but especially retail, quality customer service is a primary source of competitive advantage. Yet, mediocre customer service is rampant. Nevertheless, it’s up to the employer to set and effectively communicate the ground rules for how employees should interact with consumers. If you want to boost sales and drive repeat business, retail expert and author Nancy Friedman (www.telephonedoctor.com) can help you raise the bar with these Five Cardinal Rules of Retail Customer Service.

Big Sales in Small Spaces

Big Sales in Small Spaces

Retailers with small stores know how difficult it can be to assign space to best-selling merchandise and new products that come to market each year. It’s a delicate balance, the art of showcasing a small shop as both a reliable resource for favorite items and an exciting destination filled with creative new products. Making the task even more complex is the need to have a clear view of your space so as not to create blind spots that serve as havens for shoplifters.

Everlasting Renaissance

Everlasting Renaissance

rofile:
Store name: New Renaissance Bookshop
Location: 1338 NW 23rd Ave., Portland, OR 97210; 503/224-4929
Owners: Jamey and Darlene Potter
Date opened: 1987
Website: www.newrenbooks.com
Hours: Monday through Thursday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Number of employees: 13 full time, 6 part time
Square footage: 4,400 sq. ft. with 1,400 sq. ft. of office space
Annual gross: $1.8 million

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: A customer tripped in our store and banged her knee. We helped her and put ice on it right away. There did not appear to be any merchandise in the way or a rug or anything, so no one is sure why she tripped. Now she is talking about suing us for the cost of her doctor visit, X-ray, and so on. I don’t think we did anything wrong. Should I have somehow seen this coming?

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: I’m hoping to open a new store this summer and have been looking at available real estate. I have found spaces for lease in locations I like that are 1,200 to 2,400 square feet. Can you tell me how much floor (sales) space and how much back-room space I should plan for?

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: In a recent Shop Talk, you answered a question about a requirement in the new health care law that gave store owners the obligation of creating 1099s for vendors and reporting this information to the IRS at year end. I have read that the bill was overturned, so now I’m a bit confused. Do we have to do this or not?

What's Your Story?

What's Your Story?

“Who are you?” said the Caterpillar. This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, “I—I hardly know, sir, just at present—at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.” —Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: I have a small shop and a limited but meaningful selection of new books. I’ve been contemplating selling used books as well, keeping with the same spiritual and metaphysical themes we have now. Are there any guidelines for buying and selling used books? My thought was to buy used books for $1 or $2, sell them for $4 or $5, and donate $1 per book to local environmental efforts.

Build a Business Support System

You can increase your business in new and surprising ways by reaching outside your store and into the community that lives, works, and shops around you. Following are five ways to get involved and make connections in your local community.

Trade Show Tax Tips

Trade shows are great for finding new products and making profitable contacts. But you know the downside: With the rising cost of travel, going to a show can get mighty expensive. Plane fares, car rentals, hotel bills, and meals—they add up to big money.

What to do? You can reduce a trade show’s impact on your bottom line by deducting all appropriate travel costs as business expenses on your income taxes.

Face(book) Time

MySpace is passé; Twitter is limited and quickly becoming dominated by self-promoting celebrities. So, the verdict is in: Facebook, the greatest phenomenon of 21st century social networking, is the place to be.

Good as New

If you sell books in your store, you already know how significantly the market has shifted in the last 10 years. Customers who might have once sought out your store for the latest Hay House or Tarcher/Penguin release can now, with a few clicks, buy it online and have it shipped to their home (or downloaded to their e-reader), often for less than the cover price. This change in consumer behavior, as well as the price competition among major retailers, has even impacted large chains—Borders entered bankruptcy earlier this year.

No Limits

You are riding a wave of genuinely positive feelings, and then out of the blue, it hits you: The other shoe is about to drop. It takes root as a nagging worry, and then, sure enough, you accidentally lock yourself in the storeroom, your mysterious allergy flares up, or you pick a fight with your significant other, dog, neighbor, or fill-in-the-blank. When things are a little too good, trouble is … wait for it … not far behind. Or so it seems. What exactly is going on here?

Revenue Rescue

Profit leaks lurk deep inside almost every retail business, silently weighing down your prosperity. Nowhere is this more true than in specialty retail operations. Some are harder to detect than others; some far more damaging than others. Together, they can form a major obstacle on the road to optimum profits.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: I’m getting ready to open my store in September with two employees and myself working it. In a small store, is it necessary to have policies about handling cash? Am I being paranoid to think I might get ripped off?

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: How long should we hold on to merchandise that isn’t selling before we mark it down? My husband never wants to mark anything down, but I’m concerned about inventory that just sits. What do you suggest?

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: I am opening a metaphysical store in Florida next week. Could you help me with a list of product wholesalers, and could you tell me how I can obtain a list of people interested in metaphysics? This venture happened all of a sudden, so any information will be appreciated.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: Do you offer services such as massage and reiki in your store, and do you require those practitioners to have liability insurance?

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: I read your answer in a recent issue about setting a minimum purchase for customers who use credit cards. I checked with my merchant services vendor and found out the following: You can set a limit on credit cards but not on debit cards. Visa may indeed allow setting a limit, but what’s more important is whether or not your merchant bank agrees to the policy.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: I attended your seminar at INATS on cutting costs a few years ago. You talked about implementing an across-the-board pay cut (owners and management included) for all employees in your store. Have you reversed that cut now, and how did you do it?

Location, Location, Location

As we come out of this economic downturn, you may be contemplating a move or a second location for your business. Location is all-important, especially when it comes to retail, so choose carefully and start with these five key criteria to increase your chances of success:

8 Paths to Selling Success

8 Paths to Selling Success

Adding hot new products to your inventory is always exciting, but when you’re an independent retailer with a tight budget and tight quarters, how do you merchandise, introduce, and promote these unknown brands effectively? To help you debut what’s new in your store, industry insiders—from manufacturers and merchants to a feng shui expert and a marketing whiz—share ideas and recommendations for getting your creative merchandising juices flowing.

Good Business

Good Business

Bad news. Managers hate delivering it—and no wonder. It makes people feel terrible. And it’s too easy to make a mistake in tone that can infect the entire workplace with low morale.

Leaders face a special challenge when times are tough. How do you announce budget cuts, reduction in work hours, layoffs, pay decreases, or benefit reductions and still keep your employees motivated?

The answer is to deliver bad news in smarter ways. Here are some tips for doing just that.

Greenovation

Greenovation

If you’re like most people, the urge to clean out, refresh, and renew your surroundings strikes predictably in the spring. Call it spring-cleaning fever or just time to make some changes, but remodeling your shop can greatly benefit both your business and the earth when you choose to do it in a green way. Whether it’s major reconstruction, a display face-lift, or just a fresh coat of paint, it’s not as difficult (or expensive) as you may think to make much-needed renovations while also creating a shiny new eco-footprint for your store.

Sacred Serendipity

Sacred Serendipity

Profile:

Store name: The Sacred Well
Location: 536 Grand Avenue, Oakland, CA 94610; 510/444-9355
Owners: Rabbit Matthews and Barry Perlman
Date opened: October 19, 2007
Website: www.sacredwell.com
Hours: Tuesday–Friday, 12 p.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday, 12 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Number of employees: 6 (3 full time, 3 part time)
Square footage: 1,000 sq. ft. including back office and reading room (600 sq. ft. of retail space)

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: How do you handle employee discounts? I only have two part-time employees, but one thinks she should be able to order anything at cost. Is this the norm for retail stores?

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: I have been asked to be a vendor at an offsite event. There will not be a phone line available to plug in a credit card machine. Is there an easy way for me to accept credit cards and print customer receipts?

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: We recently received many applications for a sales position at our store. I chose the three best-looking applicants (on paper) and invited them in for an interview. The first applicant was one I was really excited about meeting and hoped she would be a great asset. But when she arrived, I was put off by her appearance.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: What is your experience
with vendors offering “deals”? Are they really giving you a bargain, or are they just trying to unload old merchandise?

Achieving Authenticity

Achieving Authenticity

Something new is going on in our world—something big, says Gary Zukav, author of several bestsellers, including the New Age classics, The Seat of the Soul and The Dancing Wu Li Masters. Zukav believes our consciousness is evolving and a new world is being born; we are now in a time when reliance on Spirit is increasing. Whether attached to the prophecies of 2012 or not, the change is as undeniable as it is unavoidable, he says.

Get in the Flow

Get in the Flow

Your business is energy, and it’s meant to flow. Just like a person—or anything else in the universe—a business is an energetic entity. If, as a person, you stub your toe on a pointy rock, you’ll probably feel some pain. The same goes for your business: If even one aspect is out of balance, the whole organization will feel it.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: As a bookstore in business for 23 years, I am concerned about the huge impact e-books are having on my already stressed brick-and-mortar retail store. Any suggestions about how to either work with e-books or compete with them? We have expanded the gift, card, aroma, and other lines, but I really want to try to keep a little ahead of the game.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: Yesterday, we had a customer come in and pay for a package of incense with a charge card. The sale was $3.12! It probably cost me more to process the sale than it was worth. Can I refuse a sale on a credit card if it is not at least $10?

5 Ways to Stop Theft Before It Happens

Have you ever looked at your store through the eyes of a thief? To the shoplifter, your beautiful displays and ample products are like a delicious bunch of grapes, ripe and ready for snatching. During hours, after hours, when you’re looking, and when you aren’t—all are opportunities for loss.

Grass Roots

When I decided to open my shop in 1994, I had three clear visions for it. First, my inventory and displays had to be earth friendly. Second, everything had to be artsy and beautiful (my educational background was in fine art). Third, everything needed to exude a profound spiritual message of some kind.

Grass Roots

When I decided to open my shop in 1994, I had three clear visions for it. First, my inventory and displays had to be earth friendly. Second, everything had to be artsy and beautiful (my educational background was in fine art). Third, everything needed to exude a profound spiritual message of some kind.

Grass Roots

In Southern California, where I live, we’re on a strict water-saving regimen due to a drought. We’re allowed to water lawns and gardens only every other day and can actually be issued a ticket (along with glaring looks from our neighbors) if caught hosing down a driveway. These regulations are not easily enforceable (the showering-too-long police never show up), and, other than feeling guilty, most residents aren’t paying much attention to this water diet. It’s just the latest SoCal quandary to file next to our earthquakes, yearly fires, and unemployment. Yawn.

Grass Roots

Recently we had to put our terrier poodle, Sadie, to sleep (who came up with that bizarre euphemism?). She was a rescue dog, so we never knew exactly how old she was, but she let us share our home and bed with her for nine and a half years. She became our “shop dog” with people often coming in just to visit her. Once she was gone, customers who saw her as a permanent fixture in our store asked about her and wanted details.

Fair Game

Fair Game

Shamsa Dawani opens her hand, revealing brilliant red garnets. They aren’t just pretty—they represent a new future for all who love jewelry.

The garnets I have back at my store, from India, are strictly a commodity, bought and sold at the lowest price. But Dawani’s garnets, mined by women in Tanzania and cut in Dar al Salaam, alleviate economic hardships and disease and support the sheer entrepreneurial drive of the businesswomen in her association of women miners.

Pages

Subscribe to Business 101