Build a healthier business in 2017.

The new year is a new slate. 

It can actually be invigorating. It’s a time to look back and ascertain what went well, and quite frankly, not so well.

Personally, I’m not about New Year’s resolutions. Mainly because I have never kept one. Mainly because they are all about losing weight. And that can’t happen when you mainly love food. 

So, far be it for me to ask you to keep one. But alas, I am. 

Perhaps it’s not as much about making a resolution as much as the need to be resolute. Because this year is going to be the year you seriously weigh in on your business. You might shed some fat. You might add some muscle. Let’s just say it’s time to get a little healthier. 

And it’s easy to do.

As everyone knows, there are three key areas in the retail business: inventory, marketing and staffing. In order to stay healthy and prosperous, you need to do them all well. One cannot survive without the others.

Case in point: You can have the perfect inventory mix, but if you don’t tell anyone about it, it will fast become aging inventory.

You can have the perfect inventory and the perfect marketing campaign, but if you have underperforming staff members, people will come in and potentially walk.

Conversely, you can have a great staff, but even the best staff can’t sell product that doesn’t match your customer base.

You get the picture. So, what are you going to do about it?

Let’s start with inventory. This is where most of the fat is hanging around. You need to curb your appetite.

First and foremost, your inventory has to be in line with what your customer wants. Not what you want or what your spouse wants. Or what your daughter or son wants. It has to be right for your current customer and right for your prospective customer. 

How can you ensure you are buying the right product? Well, the obvious way is by looking at fast sellers. Then looking to find products that are similar to some degree, but different enough to pique their interest.

Here’s a novel idea: Ask your customers. Invite them to your store after hours and use them as advisers. Show them items and brands you are considering. Get their honest opinion. 

It’s literally a focus group on steroids. Give them a clipboard, show them actual new product or photos and literally have them provide feedback. This can be in the form of a discussion or, if you feel some people will sway the group, consider having them write their feedback on paper. 

How about asking them through Facebook? Give these fans something to do! Make it "What Do You Think? Wednesdays." 

There’s always some input you can use. Take a critical look at your current POS software. The best ones provide you the necessary information you need to make smart inventory decisions.

Then there’s marketing. And the place you need to build some muscle. But you need to be smart and cautious. No longer can you run some radio ads and expect to drive new customers to your door. It is far more complex!

I find it hard to believe as a jeweler or owner of a business that you have the know-how, or the time it takes, to do all of the marketing elements needed today to effectively communicate and persuade someone to walk in your door.

Gone are the days a media rep can give you a quick kibitz, hand you an airtime schedule and slap a :60 commercial together and be done!

And really ... is this the best way to spend your time? 2017 should be the year for seeking professional support. It should be the year you stop being pennywise and pound foolish. It is so complex I can assure you that without the assistance of someone professional, you are most likely spending money ineffectively.

More importantly, it should be a year to actually have a plan.

How do you do this? Seek recommendations. Contact successful retailers who are similar in sales volume and ask them for names. Talk to some of your best vendors.

Talk to some of your local reps. Talk to ancillary vendors like the people who handle your software or industry consultants.

In any case, look for a company who understands luxury retail. Not just retail in general. There might be a great local company who has been working with your local Mercedes dealer or a high-fashion clothier. You have a targeted audience. They need to understand it. Make sure they have digital experience and are savvy in it. Don’t just look at the creative work, look at their results.

"Here’s a novel idea: Ask your customers. Invite them to your store after hours and use them as advisers. Show them items and brands you are considering. Get their honest opinion. "

Staffing is not easy. It is never easy to find great people. That’s true for any business. It’s taken you time to put on the pounds, so it’s going to take time to take them off. 2017 should be the year you don’t settle for mediocrity.

Not everyone is born to be a salesperson. There are, however, many people who have it in them and simply need more direction and mentoring. If you don’t have the time to do this, then take the time to hire some amazing sales trainers in the business.

But you have to see the results come to fruition. It’s like taking a million golf lessons to become a great golfer and never playing. Contact successful retailers in the business (even if you don’t know them) and ask them what they do and who they use. Ask them for their guidance. They are successful for a reason.

Institute a convenient time every week where there is some level of training ­– be it on sales or product. Every week. 

Sometimes it’s just about fundamentals. We forget about those. Where do you find great people? It can be the awesome server in an upscale restaurant. It can be everyday people you interact with who have a great personality and second to none customer service. 

Contact any colleges around you. Many have online job boards you can post on for free, and many have job fairs. These are the young people who will relate to your bridal customer.

Troll LinkedIn. You can get an idea of where someone works or, in many cases, if they are currently searching for new opportunities. Then take the steps to make contact.

Sometimes it’s just talking to your best salespeople and asking them if they know anyone like themselves! Circling back to POS systems, a great system will be able to track staff performance!

The idea is to take a hard look in all of these areas. Stop feeding on anything and everything that won’t take your business to the next level.
It’s 2017 and it’s a clean slate. You can do it. 


Ellen Fruchtman is founder and president of Fruchtman Marketing. Contact her at (800) 481-3520, or sign up for a free weekly newsletter at fruchtman.com.

This article is an online extra for INSTORE.

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