Your sales are down, your competition is closing in and you are worried about the long-term prognosis for your store. Welcome to the world of retailing where uncertainty is the name of the game.
Uncertainty, however, is no excuse for throwing in the towel. You have the ability to help your business shine in a tough market and that begins with attracting new customers to your store. Here’s how you can bring them in, keep them and increase store profitability along the way.
How does your store look to your customers? If it is tucked away in the corner of a strip mall, then its location may be harming your business. You may need to relocate to a more visible part of the mall or take your business out of there, finding a more suitable location.
Your location should be visible from the street and accessible on foot. Clear lines to its frontage, sufficient parking, even access to public transportation can help. if you are located in an area saturated with like businesses, you must find ways to stand out in a crowd.
Your employees perform at different levels. Some people shine in their positions while others need to be brought up to speed. In the latter group there are individuals who can be coaxed along and there may be some who simply are not a good fit. The poor fits should be let go.
Hire only the best people for each position. Cross train your team members and promote those who demonstrate leadership. If you are the owner/ manager, strong supporting managers are essential. Groom your team to take on additional responsibilities. Reward your best employees with new titles and pay raises.
Promote Your Business
Your store should be in a constant self promotional mode. When customers walk in, they should be greeted. When they order, they should be gently guided. For instance, if you run a toy store, your staff might ask customers if they would be interested in buying a greeting card to go along with the birthday gift. A bonus to you if you offer gift wrap.
Provide a sign-in list at the counter where your customers can share their names and email addresses. Make it clear to them that this information will not be resold and hold true to your word. By adding their details to the list, you will send promotional information before anyone else sees it. A weekly email that offers tips, a brief story and special discounts can be invaluable. Take care of your customers and they will take care of you.
You can and should use traditional marketing and advertising methods to reach your customers. Even so, to get a competitive edge, social media may provide greater reach for your business.
Set up a Facebook page, open a Twitter account and make use of other social media options including Pinterest, Google+ and LinkedIn as appropriate. Engage with your customers, pouring your resources into the media options that works best for you. Run online specials on Facebook, answer your customers questions on Twitter and provide invaluable tips everywhere.
Win This Battle
Your retail shop should constantly look for ways to improve itself. Take slow moving items and out-of-season inventory and place them in a bin near the front of the store. Mark it “clearance” and observe how your customers interact.
Customers love a good deal and “sale” should be a regular part of your retail lexicon. Take it from the big retailers that run “one-day” sales with a preview day. Use loss leaders carefully, choosing only those items that can contribute further sales. For example, print t-shirts might be sold below cost with full cost blue jeans and matching accessories on display nearby.