Resources

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).

Lessons Learned

It has often been said “experience is the best teacher,” but when it comes to running a business, that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from the experiences of others. In this industry, people are very willing to extend a helping hand to others, so recently I asked a number of store owners to share some of the biggest lessons they had learned that could help other retailers. The response was strong, and many said it had been a helpful exercise for them to review the things—both good and bad—that made their businesses stronger.

Good Business

Good Business

Imagine if every month dozens, or perhaps even hundreds, more people found out about your store and products. What would that mean for your sales? Increasing the amount of people who know about you can happen without you ever leaving your computer. It’s all due to the prevalence of social media, a communication phenomenon that is here to stay and growing by leaps and bounds.

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).

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.

How May I Help You?

How May I Help You?

This simple, courteous phrase opens the door to long-term customer relationships and sales when offered with true sincerity. Shoppers welcome assistance, especially during the harried days of holiday preparation when inspiration may wane in the wake of overwhelming choices. The personal interactions in your shop can help ease this holiday stress and ensure positive shopping experiences, while contributing to community and global harmony.

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’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.

How May I Help You?

How May I Help You?

This simple, courteous phrase opens the door to long-term customer relationships and sales when offered with true sincerity. Shoppers welcome assistance, especially during the harried days of holiday preparation when inspiration may wane in the wake of overwhelming choices. The personal interactions in your shop can help ease this holiday stress and ensure positive shopping experiences, while contributing to community and global harmony.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions.

Question: I’ve read about the benefits of having an “open door” management style, and I really want to do that. But, if I leave my door open for anyone to walk in whenever they want, won’t I spend my day talking rather than doing my job?

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.

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.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions.

Question: My wife had what we both thought was a great idea—purchasing T-shirts for our employees to wear like a uniform. That way they save on clothing expense, and it makes them easily identifiable as sales staff. So, we bought the shirts (which were not cheap!) and now our employees (two full-time and three part-timers) do not want to wear them. Can I make a rule that they have to?

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).

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?

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.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions.

Question: It’s time we begin a customer loyalty program. Can you offer details, such as how to make or punch the card and what has worked for other stores to reward customers?

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.

How May I Help You?

How May I Help You?

This simple, courteous phrase opens the door to long-term customer relationships and sales when offered with true sincerity. Shoppers welcome assistance, especially during the harried days of holiday preparation when inspiration may wane in the wake of overwhelming choices. The personal interactions in your shop can help ease this holiday stress and ensure positive shopping experiences, while contributing to community and global harmony.

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).

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions.

Question: I have run a successful retail store for more than 10 years. I used to love helping customers, listening to their stories and assisting them in finding just the right gift. Over the past few months, I’ve found myself getting impatient and often bored when on the sales floor. People seem needy and, after a few minutes, I just want to retreat. Have you ever felt this way?

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions.

Question: I have run a successful retail store for more than 10 years. I used to love helping customers, listening to their stories and assisting them in finding just the right gift. Over the past few months, I’ve found myself getting impatient and often bored when on the sales floor. People seem needy and, after a few minutes, I just want to retreat. Have you ever felt this way?

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.

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.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions.

Question: I’m writing a business plan to request financing from my bank. Do I need to create a cover letter for my banker?

ShopTalk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: I’m looking into starting a New Age store in the mid-south. Due to lack of funding, I am considering starting out with an online store to generate some money to begin the store front. Can you give me any advice on how to begin an online store, or how to generate some capital to start my own brick-and-mortar store?

Good Business

Good Business

Imagine if every month dozens, or perhaps even hundreds, more people found out about your store and products. What would that mean for your sales? Increasing the amount of people who know about you can happen without you ever leaving your computer. It’s all due to the prevalence of social media, a communication phenomenon that is here to stay and growing by leaps and bounds.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions.

Question: Often people come into our store, look at things we carry, and start writing down information about the company or the artist so they can order it online, obviously hoping to get it cheaper. I’ve tried taking off as much information as possible from the item so they can’t accomplish this discreetly, but some of them actually ask for the information!

Display on a Dime

Display on a Dime

Get out your toolbox—it’s time to create some new displays! This is a different kind of toolbox, one filled with thumbtacks, fabric, boxes for stacking, and ceiling clips, as well as odds and ends you can repurpose into some of the best displays in town. This toolbox may even be the larger, more coveted display closet where you keep such goodies as the four-foot glowing pumpkin or the wicker sleigh. Diligently, you’ve scoured the craft store clearance sections, yard sales, flea markets, store closing sales, and even may have trash-picked a piece or two.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: We have had good luck over many years with customers paying for their layaway items in full, but right now we have several items on layaway on which no payment has been made for months. Customers are supposed to make a payment every 30 days. If we’ve left messages and heard nothing in return, what do we do with the merchandise and with their deposit and payment money?

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: We’ve been offering plastic gift cards for three years (so much easier than paper gift certificates!) and love the response from our customers, but we are unhappy with our gift card company. They charge us a lot per card compared to quotes from other companies, and they often get our colors wrong when they print the cards, causing delays or times when we are totally out.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: We have had good luck over many years with customers paying for their layaway items in full, but right now we have several items on layaway on which no payment has been made for months. Customers are supposed to make a payment every 30 days. If we’ve left messages and heard nothing in return, what do we do with the merchandise and with their deposit and payment money?

10 Ways to Save

10 Ways to Save

Being an innovative small business today means sharpening your creative cost-cutting skills and finding a well of resourcefulness you never knew you had. The computer and internet are particularly useful for this, offering tools to streamline your operations, find new sources for common business needs, and expanding your options to improve and increase the scope of your business. If you want to start saving money right now, try the following 10 tips. Remember, each small savings adds up to larger savings, and that can mean the difference between business failure and success.

Happier Holidays in Store

Happier Holidays in Store

In the classic holiday movie, Miracle on 34th Street, Kris Kringle, acting as the Macy’s Santa Claus, promises a child a particular toy fire engine. The child’s mother admonishes Santa by telling him Macy’s is out of stock on that toy. In his affable way, Santa tells the mother she can find the fire engine at Schoenfeld’s, one of Macy’s many retail competitors. What sounds like a crazy idea eventually becomes a marketing gold mine. It shows that Macy’s puts the customer first, above profits, which makes for a great holiday in-store shopping experience.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: Last holiday season was our first, and we had no idea what to expect. We were fine up until the last week, and then it was absolutely nuts! In truth, I’m dreading doing this again and would like to look forward to Christmastime and great sales.

Trending Now

Trending Now

With all the buzz about social marketing, many retailers are so busy tweeting and asking for Facebook “likes,” they’ve forgotten the true jewel in the lotus: their customer email list.

It’s true; the younger generation considers email to be hopelessly slow—about as modern as a telegraph. But if your customers are ages 30 and older, email remains a fantastic way to reach them.

That means creating a powerful e-newsletter campaign that establishes you as the brand leader—and allows you to build stronger, deeper relationships with your customers.

Fired Up

Fired Up

It's a dreadful responsibility but almost every retailer will eventually come face-to-face with the disagreeable task of terminating one or more employees.

“Firing people is one of the toughest, most unpleasant things you do as an employer,” says James Walsh in his book, Rightful Termination (Merritt Publishing, 1994). “Your stomach tightens and your throat gets dry as you prepare to call someone in for the meeting that begins, ‘There’s no easy way for me to do this …’”

Something to Talk About

Something to Talk About

People are talking about your business. Do you know what they're saying?

The answer can spell the difference between success and failure. Positive reviews on internet message boards help boost revenues and fatten your bottom line. Negative reviews can spike your best business plans.

“People are increasingly putting reviews online as the internet becomes more social,” says Daniel Burrus, a business consultant based in Hartland, Wis. (www.burrus.com). “All of the reviews are in the cloud and available for anyone to read.”

Employee Theft: It's Real, It Happens, and You CAN Prevent It!

Nobody wants to think about the possibility that employees might steal money or merchandise. Most small retail store employees are like family. Despite statistics that say employee theft exists in nearly every retail store, when I think of my own employees, there’s simply no way I can imagine one of them stealing. Yet, according to a 2011 study called the Global Retail Theft Barometer, employee theft accounted for more than 44 percent of total shrink (losses from shoplifting, administrative errors, and other causes) in North America—surpassing even shoplifting.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions.

Question: Often people come into our store, look at things we carry, and start writing down information about the company or the artist so they can order it online, obviously hoping to get it cheaper. I’ve tried taking off as much information as possible from the item so they can’t accomplish this discreetly, but some of them actually ask for the information!

Spread the Good Word

Spread the Good Word

Let’s face it: Marketing is usually all about you. Well, at least about your business and enticing more customers to shop with you. But, marketing doesn’t have to be just about that; you can do good for your community while also spreading the good word about your business. How? It’s called cause marketing: the combined efforts of a for-profit business and a charitable cause—a nonprofit organization—for their mutual benefit. It can also be called social responsibility marketing.

Something to Talk About

Something to Talk About

People are talking about your business. Do you know what they're saying?

The answer can spell the difference between success and failure. Positive reviews on internet message boards help boost revenues and fatten your bottom line. Negative reviews can spike your best business plans.

“People are increasingly putting reviews online as the internet becomes more social,” says Daniel Burrus, a business consultant based in Hartland, Wis. (www.burrus.com). “All of the reviews are in the cloud and available for anyone to read.”

Develop Your Road Map to Business Success in 5 Easy Steps

Creating a business plan doesn’t have to be hard or overwhelming. And it can be a fabulous tool to guide you through the ups and downs of store ownership, especially in the early years. It does take some time and thought, but in the end, going through this process will strengthen your business and help ensure success.

Below are the five main business plan components and a brief overview of each. Once you understand the key elements, you can create a plan that will serve you well, both in business guidance and obtaining financing, for years to come.

Brand You

“Products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind.” —Walter Landor (1913-1995)

Think of one of your favorite name brands. Whether it’s a professional product for use in your store or a favorite product for your personal use, chances are you chose it because you’re comfortable with it; you have a mental image of that product and the company behind it. That’s what brand identity is all about.

Develop Your Road Map to Business Success in 5 Easy Steps

Creating a business plan doesn’t have to be hard or overwhelming. And it can be a fabulous tool to guide you through the ups and downs of store ownership, especially in the early years. It does take some time and thought, but in the end, going through this process will strengthen your business and help ensure success.

Below are the five main business plan components and a brief overview of each. Once you understand the key elements, you can create a plan that will serve you well, both in business guidance and obtaining financing, for years to come.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: We are in the retail clothing business and receive garments packed in plastic, often sticky sealed bags. I have discussed this with almost all my vendors, and at least they have stopped mailing me plastic hangers, yet the bags keep coming.

Trending Now

Yes, your customers still want you to have inspiring products, great value, and extraordinary customer service. But they also want something that might make you feel squeamish. They want you to be human. They want you to be real. And if you mess up, they want you to acknowledge it—just like anyone else.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: A new space in our plaza opened up, and the landlord has offered it to us. It is much smaller—we are now in 2,500 sq. ft. and the new space is 1,250 sq. ft. We currently pay $5,000 a month in rent, which became difficult during the recession, and have fallen behind, so a smaller space will be a win-win.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: We have an employee who has been with us about six months. She is reliable and a good salesperson. However, it has come to our attention she is scheduling private appointments with clients (she is knowledgeable in essential oils and homeopathic remedies and is also a massage therapist) while she is at work. I’m uncomfortable with this, but not sure how to proceed.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: Although sales are inching upward (hooray!), we still have a lot of debt, and I don’t know how to climb out from under the mountain. We are still open, our customers are returning, and our average sale is rebounding. If we didn’t owe so much on credit cards, we would be profitable or at least break even every month. As it is, we are struggling and juggling. Any suggestions?

Pages

Subscribe to Resources