Resources

Shop Talk: Practical Answers for tough business questions.

Question: What do you think of lay-away plans? I haven’t offered layaway before, but I’m wondering if it would make it easier for customers to afford higher-end items in this soft economy.

Finding Buddha at Walmart

The media is doing it, famous people are doing it … even business leaders are doing it! Self-discovery is no longer laughed at, magnetic therapy is sold on infomercials, yoga is considered an integral part of fitness, color therapy is used by designers, and aromatherapy can be found in drugstores.

Staying Grounded on the Path to Enlightenment

As a retailer, I am always interested in finding ways to help my store grow. I try to stay abreast of what's happening in our industry—new product ideas, the latest books by recognized and up-and-coming authors, that sort of thing. If I am to stay in business, I know I have to be able to provide what the majority of my customers are looking for and do it as efficiently as possible.

One Stop Shopping in Portlandia

One Stop Shopping in Portlandia

When Presents of Mind in Portland, Ore., first opened its doors in 1989, the landscape of Hawthorne Boulevard was decidedly less trendy than it is today. But with only $10,000 and a desire to bring the best of the city’s gift selections to one location, original owner Cinnamon Chaser invested her dollars and foresight in an affordable storefront. Chaser’s daughter, Seasons Koll, operates the family business now and has watched it grow along with the vibrant neighborhood that surrounds it.

Shop Talk: Practical Answers for tough business questions.

Question: Sometimes i see articles touting the next big trends, and I wonder where they get their information. Is there a way to predict trends in retail and discover the next hot product?

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: My customers are clamoring for new merchandise but my credit cards and accounts payable do not really allow me room to take chances on new lines. Is there an ordering cycle or a way of managing inventory that will give me more cash flow?

More Than Money

Patricia Aburdene is a business journalist and trend forecaster who collaborated with author John Naisbitt on Megatrends 2000, a New York Times bestseller that famously predicted the rise of the “Information Economy” we know today. More recently, Aburdene’s book Megatrends 2010: The Rise of Conscious Capitalism, predicted an economy based on ethics, values, and spiritual awareness.

Clever Combinations

Clever Combinations

You see it all the time at the grocery store: instead of a simple floral display for Valentine’s Day, boxes of chocolate are placed in and around the bouquets, creating a need for both. If the chocolates are shelved only in the candy section, they might be overlooked or forgotten. Or you might see shampoo and conditioner displayed with combs and hairbrushes, or boxes of artisan crackers presented with a variety of imported cheese. The idea is classic cross-merchandising: motivating the customer to “cross over” and purchase related products.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: We launched our online store about five months ago and orders have been coming in. The sales are up and down. It seems like we get a few orders a day for a week or so and then it slows way down. I would appreciate your feedback on how to even out the sales, but my biggest problem is order errors.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: How do i get my employees to retain information about the products in my store? When I am around, they ask me the same simple questions over and over, and sometimes I resent it, particularly when I’m busy. Any suggestions?

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: I am hearing again that a close competitor (five miles away) is telling people we are going out of business, which is untrue. Whether it’s a sales technique on their part or what, I don’t know. How can I combat this? Should I send out an email to my customers in case they have heard these rumors?

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: We launched our online store about five months ago and orders have been coming in. The sales are up and down. It seems like we get a few orders a day for a week or so and then it slows way down. I would appreciate your feedback on how to even out the sales, but my biggest problem is order errors.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: I know you have talked about how to price merchandise in recent columns, but I still have another question, and I am not sure how to word it. I am confused because I hear I should mark up product that I can (items like jewelry that are not pre-priced) at a 2.5 or 3 times rate, but doesn’t that slow down my sales? Wouldn’t it be better to have a lower mark-up and sell more products?

More Than Money

Patricia Aburdene is a business journalist and trend forecaster who collaborated with author John Naisbitt on Megatrends 2000, a New York Times bestseller that famously predicted the rise of the “Information Economy” we know today. More recently, Aburdene’s book Megatrends 2010: The Rise of Conscious Capitalism, predicted an economy based on ethics, values, and spiritual awareness.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: I am creating a budget for 2013 (our first, I am hesitant to admit) and I want ask to about planning for profit on the bottom line. How much do you plan for? I want to be realistic, but in the past we have been so happy just to break even that I have never considered planning for profit.

Eco-Reference

Eco-friendly. Organic. Upcycled. Sustainable. However you describe it, going green has caught on in a big way. Customers are more aware of the benefits of being a conscious consumer—environmental, social, personal—and are putting their money where their values are. Green consumers are willing to pay extra for their environmentally and socially responsible purchases, especially when they can support a local business and get a superior product in the process. Translation: People will pay more … but they also expect more.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: We launched our online store about five months ago and orders have been coming in. The sales are up and down. It seems like we get a few orders a day for a week or so and then it slows way down. I would appreciate your feedback on how to even out the sales, but my biggest problem is order errors.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: My customers are clamoring for new merchandise but my credit cards and accounts payable do not really allow me room to take chances on new lines. Is there an ordering cycle or a way of managing inventory that will give me more cash flow?

Cultivating Retail Success

Cultivating Retail Success

Ask any brick-and-mortar gift store what draws customers in and keeps them coming back and you’ll undoubtedly hear a range of responses: unique products; enticing displays; engaging in-store events; courteous, knowledgeable staff; location, location, location. What sets Twig—an eco-friendly lifestyle shop in Chapel Hill, N.C.—apart from the competition is all of the above!

Retailing Insight contributor Megy Karydes recently sat down with Twig owner Shawn Slome to learn more about how he cultivated and continues to grow his perennially successful store.

Showmanship

Showmanship

January and February are alive with trade and gift shows for every persuasion. This year try something new—pick a show you’ve never been to and find products your customers don’t yet know they will love.

Trade Show Tax Tips

Trade Show Tax Tips

Trade shows are great for finding new products and making profitable contacts, but 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.

Annual Review

Annual Review

Now that the holiday season is coming to a close, it’s time to reflect, refresh, and refocus your efforts. So take a deep breath, grab a cup of tea, and find a comfortable place to relax—a brand new year is about to begin. Here is an annual checklist to get you started.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: Yesterday we were fairly busy at my store, and a customer approached a part-time salesperson and asked where they could find a certain product we had advertised. I heard her say, “It’s right over there” and point. I know she was busy, but I was dismayed, especially after all my talk about good customer service. Big sigh. What am I doing wrong?

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: Do you have a different return policy for holiday returns, such as giving customers a longer time to return items, than you do the rest of the year? We had some issues last year, and I remember at least one disgruntled customer who wanted to return merchandise for a refund in late January that she had purchased in November How do you handle this?

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: Yesterday we were fairly busy at my store, and a customer approached a part-time salesperson and asked where they could find a certain product we had advertised. I heard her say, “It’s right over there” and point. I know she was busy, but I was dismayed, especially after all my talk about good customer service. Big sigh. What am I doing wrong?

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions.

Question: When I bring a new product line into the store, its success seems to depend on whether or not my employees like it. If they do, the sales are brisk; if not, it just sits there. How can I get them to sell all our products, not just the ones they like?

The 10 Sustain-Abilities for Success

The 10 Sustain-Abilities for Success

In today’s changing, competitive, speeding, digital world, it can feel like a challenge to succeed and keep succeeding. To have 21st century success, you need what I call “sustain-abilities.” These personal abilities are universal and inherent within each of us, and they have little to do with experience or IQ.

What Do Employees Really Want? Hint: Money Is the Least of It.

Most of the time, our automatic answer to the question of what will make employees happier is “money!” That’s what all employees want, isn’t it? More money and better benefits?

While money is a necessary and important part of the employee satisfaction equation, study after study of what makes an employee happy often has money far from the top of the list. If you give more money to an unhappy employee, you only have an unhappy employee who is wealthier than before. So, what is most important?

Trending Now

Trending Now

Remember the swirling predictions that 2012 would herald an age of enlightenment, the start of something vast and new on a global scale? The way I see it, that shift happened quite some time ago—2012 simply marked our recognition of the great changes already taking place.

We’re now able to communicate instantaneously with anyone anywhere from the comfort and convenience of our smart phones. Indeed, as we enter 2013, we’ve got both feet planted firmly in the changing world ushered in by the Digital Revolution.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions.

Question: I read your column about the clear bags with sticky strips that scarves are packaged in and want to offer this info: Like you, I receive scarves and other clothing articles in those same bags. Unless you get your clothing from a different source than I do, I suspect these bags are not plastic, but cellophane.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions.

Question: The free local magazine in our area has folded and this was our main source for advertising. I am exploring different options and wonder about TV ads. Has TV advertising really helped you? Would you recommend it to a small store with 900 sq. ft. of sales space?

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: Do you have a different return policy for holiday returns, such as giving customers a longer time to return items, than you do the rest of the year? We had some issues last year, and I remember at least one disgruntled customer who wanted to return merchandise for a refund in late January that she had purchased in November How do you handle this?

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions.

Question: It seems we are always financially behind. Our accountant has suggested our gross profit margin is too low and we need to raise our prices. We have agreed to do this, but it seems a daunting task. Should we start on one side of the store and just re-price everything? Can you suggest an easier way?

Showmanship

Showmanship

January and February are alive with trade and gift shows for every persuasion. This year try something new—pick a show you’ve never been to and find products your customers don’t yet know they will love.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions.

Question: When I bring a new product line into the store, its success seems to depend on whether or not my employees like it. If they do, the sales are brisk; if not, it just sits there. How can I get them to sell all our products, not just the ones they like?

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: I have questions about how to price our merchandise. I am talking about the actual numbers we use rather than the cost analysis behind the pricing. When my husband and I traveled around this summer and took the time to visit and enjoy other retail stores, I was puzzled. Some stores used prices ending in .99 or .98, while others had prices ending in .50 or .00.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: I have questions about how to price our merchandise. I am talking about the actual numbers we use rather than the cost analysis behind the pricing. When my husband and I traveled around this summer and took the time to visit and enjoy other retail stores, I was puzzled. Some stores used prices ending in .99 or .98, while others had prices ending in .50 or .00.

ShopTalk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: We’ve had some inventory items go missing over the past few months. I did some detective work to try to find a plausible explanation and couldn’t come up with one. About two months ago, we got in a few beautiful watches with semi-precious stones from a new vendor. Within a week, one watch was missing from the case.

Moments in the Sun

Moments in the Sun

This year a beautiful store in sunny Sarasota, Fla., called Elysian Fields Books and Gifts for Conscious Living celebrates two milestones: 20 years in business and being selected as the Retailer of the Year by the Coalition of Visionary Resources (COVR). Both achievements are the result of an extraordinary partnership between the two owners, Lea Semple and Kim Perkins (yes, the same Kim Perkins of Shop Talk fame).

Trending Now

Trending Now

What if you had a crystal ball for your business? You’d never have to wonder about your next decision—every time you gazed into it, you’d clearly see the direction that would bring your business prosperity and growth.

The problem is, many retailers do have just such a crystal ball at hand … but are often too busy to use it.

Boost 4th Quarter Sales by Responding to Trends in Your Customers’ Lives

Recent reports by the National Retail Federation suggest sales are finally trending up, and fall/holiday looks promising. That’s great news—but what the data doesn’t show is how much customers have shifted energetically over the last few years. Most have experienced tremendous change and growth; they’re simply not the same folks they were before. Your challenge? Meet them where they are now.

ShopTalk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: We are in need of a new high-speed copier for event flyers and are looking at leasing or purchasing one. Can you tell me which is better?

ShopTalk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: How can I be sure what a prospective employee has to offer? We recently hired a young man who worked at a store similar to ours in another state, and they gave him a good reference. But I think he overstated his knowledge of the books we carry, as I have overheard him making statements to customers that are incorrect and restocking books in the weirdest places on the shelves.

ShopTalk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: A customer called and complained that she had been mistreated by a salesperson. Apparently her credit card had been denied, and she felt the salesperson had a “real attitude” toward her and “demanded” another form of payment. She said she was so embarrassed by the incident in front of other customers that she will never shop at our store again.

Jingle All the Way to the Bank

Jingle All the Way to the Bank

While your customers are soaking up the last rays of summer sun and making sure their kids are ready for back-to-school, you’re already fast-forwarding to visions of snowflakes and festive giftwrap. It’s a retailer’s prerogative—indeed a necessity—to plan ahead for the holiday season. After all, holiday shopping accounts for between 25 and 40 percent of annual sales for most retailers. Just think about those numbers. No wonder store owners are so focused on the fourth quarter.

Comfort in the Unknown

Ann was behind the counter of her book and gift shop. A steady stream of customers had been flowing along nicely all day. Ann loved days like this when she was in a groove. These were the times she felt a joyous sense of purpose in her activities and most present and connected to her customers.

ShopTalk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: Do you have problems with customers shoplifting small items? I just did an inventory of our rings (kept at the counter) and essential oils (a short distance away near bath salts and lotions), and I am really concerned about the number that are missing. Am I supposed to just accept this as a cost of doing business? Do you have any suggestions?

Make the Holidays Merry

Make the Holidays Merry

Angry customers. Long hours. Missed deadlines. Sound familiar? It’s the usual litany of woes that hitch a ride on Santa’s sleigh. Little wonder that for most retailers the year’s busiest sales season is also the most stressful.

Look for more of the same this Christmas. “Uncertainty about the economy is bound to increase stress levels for both managers and employees at retail stores,” says Jon Schallert, president of The Schallert Group, Longmont, Colo. (www.destinationublog.com).

Make the Holidays Merry

Make the Holidays Merry

Angry customers. Long hours. Missed deadlines. Sound familiar? It’s the usual litany of woes that hitch a ride on Santa’s sleigh. Little wonder that for most retailers the year’s busiest sales season is also the most stressful.

Look for more of the same this Christmas. “Uncertainty about the economy is bound to increase stress levels for both managers and employees at retail stores,” says Jon Schallert, president of The Schallert Group, Longmont, Colo. (www.destinationublog.com).

Keeps on Giving

Keeps on Giving

Consider this: More than half of all consumers bought at least one gift card for the holidays last year, according to a report from First Data Corp., an Atlanta-based e-commerce processor (www.firstdata.com).

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