Independent Retailers will be able to automate more of their process, but hustle will separate the winners from losers.
Retail looks different than it ever has. Like all other industries, time creates more change than we realize and it takes a lot of work to stay on top of that change. Some change can work against brick and mortar retailers, like consumers’ shift to online retail and Amazon, while others can work in their favor, like technology that automates inventory control.
Tools that once were only made possible by a huge staff of buyers, analysts and database managers are now made available to independent retailers through Lightspeed, Shopify, Stitch Labs, Management One, and many other tools. Curious what types of products have the best turn-over? Use an integrated reporting tool and that number is at your disposal in a few clicks. Want to publish a product online? Great, add it to your in-store inventory and click a button to “publish online”. In many ways, retail has gotten easier. And thank God.
You’d think this would enable you to not have to work as hard, right? We both know that’s not the case. Imagine if there was a (legal) pill you could take to get in Tour de France shape. All you have to do is take a pill every morning and your weight would reduce and your muscles would become stronger and stronger; prepared to take on the French Alps. Do you think cyclists would quit training and merely take a pill every day? Not a chance. Your competition is not taking the automation provided to them to work less, they are taking automation as a way to focus on more important pieces of their businesses.
Retail isn’t the land of “work smarter, not harder”. Maybe it once was, but today the mantra is “Work smarter and harder” (for more on that, we recommend Gary Vaynerchuk’s content). Successful independent retailers in 2018 will take time recovered by process automation and apply that to the more important work of inventory forecasting, staff development, and perfecting the experience a customer has when engaging their business. Owners who use the automation to not go into the store as much or remove themselves from the business prematurely will likely fail to keep up with the market today. This doesn’t mean that the owner is taking care of all customer-related details in the day-to-day, but they certainly must be engaged with their customer, their staff, and their business.
Let 2018 be the year that you finally implement tools to stay on top of inventory and gain a deeper understanding of your business. Whether it’s better inventory tools or switching POS solutions (or finally using the one you have!), this should be the year you start. Once you gain this deeper understanding of your business, apply that knowledge to your buying, your online and in-store experience, and your marketing efforts.
Steps to take in 2018:
– Use inventory tools to run better reports. How can you use this data in your buying? Two simple ones to start with are an inventory sell-through report and sales by category report. The goal is to see what types of items sit on your shelf the least amount of time and what types of products generate the bulk of your revenue. Ultimately, use data to inform your gut.
– Use some of the time given to you to enhance your in-store customer experience. Start by evaluating the data in your reports and create a store layout that presents your most profitable categories most favorably. Evaluate how foot traffic moves through your space and make sure customers can easily shop the entire store rather than only the first 100 sq ft.
– Identify your top competitive advantage and spend time each week doing something to make sure it stays an advantage. Have the best-curated style in town? Spend intentional time scoping out competition and other inspiration to make sure that stays the case. Offer the best prices? Visit some other places carrying similar products and make sure your pricing is actually competitive. Whatever that strength is, ensure it stays a strength.