This series of entries will deal with three overarching themes to ensure you maximize your business when the malls aren’t as busy as they used to be and when the consumer is tightening their spending habits due to economic uncertainty and lack of confidence.
This first theme is entitled “Strategy”. There are three areas of a retailer’s strategy that must be buttoned down in order to try and optimize one’s business in tougher times:
It is imperative that the leaders in the business over-communicate to the point of nausea. There is enough uncertainty out there that your employees don’t want to be left in the dark about anything to do with their company. Ensure that all levels receive weekly (if not daily) messages about company direction, overall company health, new products, marketing campaigns, human resource initiatives etc. Employees will be doubly nervous during this economic upheaval that they may become paranoid and start rumours if they hear very little about the company, its plans, direction and/or its performance from the company itself. An engaged and fully informed staff will be more productive and will be more focused on the task at hand – which is to maximize sales and “Convert Every Customer”.
At this time, it is imperative that any initiative, any forecast, any product launch, any company directive is planned down to the very last detail leaving nothing to chance. Inventory by store by department and classification should be planned down to every fixture by week. Every marketing campaign should be planned down to the penny and examined at every turn in terms of performance. No marketing initiative should be undertaken unless it can be measured very specifically against performance of driving traffic and sales generated in the stores. Global branding marketing (billboards etc.) that cannot be directly correlated to a boost in performance should be shelved.
The stores should have a certain ‘Snap, Crackle and Pop’ to borrow a phrase from Rice Krispies. Every store should focus on making the product and assortments sing. The stores should be vibrant and colourful. They should emanate an energy and vibe that is conducive to shopping and spending time. They should be humming with friendly and efficient staff (not over plentiful) who can multi-task and handle multiple customers at the same time. If your stores (and be objective here) do not hum or the product does not sing, then you should stop everything and make it so. That is the one strategy that should prevail above all other marketing and corporate initiatives.
These are challenging times for everyone. But everyone is in the same boat. There may not be as much money being spent out there this holiday season, but people do have to spend. The question is whether you have the core strategies to maximize what is out there and ensure you get more than your competition.