We are all guilty of making resolutions every new year and then watch as they fade away by the end of the first quarter. It is the measure of a strong, stubborn and a-type personality that actually sees a resolution through to completion and makes it last throughout the entire year (let alone make it life changing).
I would like to think us retailers are resolute enough to see through some sorely needed resolutions in what is promising to be a challenging year for our industry. It does not necessarily have to breed disaster if we all stick together and ensure the following come to life for the full year:
1) No retailer should panic and take excessive markdowns unless your business is truly on the brink. Markdowns are the scourge of all retail (especially independent retail) as full price needs to take on some true meaning once again. I realize this is easier said than done but I doff my cap to Abercrombie and Fitch, who realize that this recession too is short lived and they need to be relevant for decades to come. They have managed their business (read:Inventory) intelligently and are maintaining their pricing structure for better days. If a company has the wherewithal to do this, it will be rewarded in time.
2) Every retailer should invest in their people, especially at the expense of marketing budgets (among other line items). It is hard enough to find great people let alone, great people who actually want to work in retail. Do not let them leave either your company nor the industry. This, again, will pay back in spades when the economy turns around. Invest in training, payroll on the sales floor, product development talent and store experience talent. Do not start massive cuts of labour especially at the store level, which will inevitably create a viscious cycle.
3) Pour money, resources and talent into improving the customer experience. This could be a website or a physical environment but this is where your customer interfacing needs to be pretty special, when dollars are scarcer. Store design, staff/customer interaction, special events, visual merchandising are all examples of elements that will maximize your returns over the long term. If you start treating every sale as a gift (and this year it may turn out that way) and your staff can emulate that attitude, then you will have instilled something unique and special that will be “Built to Last”.
4) Focus your strategic plan on fewer elements in order to nail them. In times such as these, execution is critical. The organization has to be even more aligned than at any other time. Make it easier on everyone to rally behind fewer initiatives. This will actually increase creativity and goal achievement. It will also serve to lower stress levels and improve employee morale overall in a challenging environment.
5) Start to leverage your organization to make a difference in the communities in which you operate and improve your commitment to charitable and socially responsible causes. At a time when funds are drying up for charitable causes and community needs, your retail organization can do so much to alleviate the stress on these institutions by donating more product, more time and more energy and creativity to helping your staff and your company help others who need it most. That could be the most meaningful contribution any organization can make in times such as this.
So let’s get cracking on these 5 simple resolutions. Let’s also make sure they do not peter out at any time over the course of the next 360 days or so. We will be watching 😉