The time has come, once again, for me to make a store visit outside of my area. While I am based out of Las Vegas, sometimes I am fortunate enough to travel to other locations and offer assistance. To some, this may seem like more of a burden than a gift, but I never see it that way. So much can be learned from traveling outside of your own four walls. Although these visits are typically scheduled in order to increase sales in a particular location, there are always things we find to be successful that we can implement in our own location back home. It is always important to highlight these areas and acknowledge what is done well rather than harp on the failures. We do not come in looking for problems; we come in looking for solutions.
Sometimes the difference between an increase and decline is as simple as showing a sales team that there is someone in their corner rooting for them! Unfortunately, it becomes easy to be complacent when you feel like you don't matter as much as other businesses in your chain. Even the most self-motivated person likes to hear, from time to time, that what they are doing matters. With that being said, a team-building experience in a physical remodel is a good step in a larger project; shifting the team’s mentality of how business is done.
Half of the battle is getting the team on board and the rest is sure to fall into place.
I have to admit, sometimes the leadership in place is not good for the company, but I usually find the problem stems from a lack of proper guidance. For most businesses it is not always convenient or fiscally possible to have a consultant come in and work with each team. Many times, managerial positions in retail are brought about from sink or swim situations; when someone is given a role due to dire personnel straits, the outcome can be one that costs much more than money.
In situations where the decrease of business can be linked to the actual people running the stores, it is time to cut the dead weight and bring someone to the table that generally cares about your team and the overall success of the business. While that may not be ideal, it is sometimes the only thing that can be done. Sadly, it’s harder to fix a bad attitude than we would like it to be.
There is much planning that goes into these trips. Time is limited for us so we have to cover as much as we can in four days or less, typically. Most of what goes into preparing for these projects is handled from home and this lesson was definitely one that I learned the hard way.
My first store visit was to Boutique Erotica in Washington Park, Ill. When we arrived, it was immediately apparent there was a need for new fixtures and fresh product. Unfortunately, we did not have the time that would be necessary to get new product ordered and properly merchandised. However, we were fortunate enough to be just a few miles from Store Supply Warehouse. You definitely don't realize what you need until you don't have it. Even things as simple as hooks or hangers make a huge difference when merchandising an entire store.
Since our first visit, I have learned to ask the right questions and request the proper data well before I head out with my team. This prevents us from entering a store blind with limited resources in such a limited time frame. Below is a list of things I look for before arriving and why they are important:
I like to receive an overabundance of pictures of the location. I need to see close-ups, wide shots, exterior, interior, cash wraps, offices, break area, back stock rooms and storage. Images of the location are important tools to use. These allow me to see the product and the lay of the land — the most effective way to create a game plan.
Current Discounts, Specials and Promotions
Everyone loves the VIP treatment while shopping and most of our stores are conveniently connected to adult clubs. When the dancewear and shoe sales are not among the highest categories overall, that is a huge red flag that they are lacking in specials or selection. I have never been to any city that did not have adult boutiques that offer entertainers incentive to spend with them. I always suggest to raise your prices higher so you can offer the best deals.
This gives me an idea of what a staff has been programmed to sell. I can always tell which brands have offered the most support from store to store simply by their top sellers list. I know that every vendor cannot be everywhere, but the companies that put focus into the smaller stores are definitely on the right track. It is no secret that we try to train our sales team to sell high-dollar items for obvious reasons. At this point, it is second nature to them because that is what they are trained to do. If you have the mindset that high-end and luxury items won't sell in your location, they won't. If you can change that thinking, they will. When you start your sales pitch at the top sometimes you only have to work backwards a few dollars before making the sale. Sometimes you offer the cream of the crop and the guest surprises you and takes three. You cannot judge a book by its cover and you should never size guests up and decide what they will spend before working with them.
Sales Goals and Recognition
Each team should have goals — small, attainable goals. Morale is of the utmost importance since retail doesn’t typically pay a high salary. These small victories keep the team going and can lead to them reaching larger goals, long-term. Each member should be recognized for hitting these goals. There are so many fun ways this can happen; a small bonus, announcement on a bulletin board, a social media shout out, and many other ways to let someone know we see what you are doing and are proud of those accomplishments.
Are there testers for toys? At the very least, there should be for the luxury items. Are there testers for your lubricants? Some of this would seem to go without saying but it doesn't. I have made trips to multiple stores that do not put testers out for a variety of reasons. “They are messy,” “they get stolen” — you name it, I have heard the excuse. The fact of the matter is, when it can be tried or sampled, it has a much better shot of selling. Remember that if it is even just the sales team touching it, feeling it and tasting it, that gives them the confidence to sell it.
Do you regularly re-order or does your store look like it is going out of business? Plan your budget around bringing back in the product that has sold for you. If something works, let it keep working. Don't allow high-performing items to sell out. Don't let stock get so low that popular items are no longer available and guests have to make purchases from your competition. You will run the risk of losing that guest for life.
I like to see stores actively changing aspects of their stores. Are you meeting with your team regularly and brain-storming new ways to increase business? People often need to be led in the right direction. Ultimately, the change in business should be determined by the team. If you simply open the doors and do the same thing you did yesterday, you cannot expect different results today.
Now that I have gathered all of the data needed, ordered fresh product, assessed the current layout and placed orders for fixtures to properly display product, my team and I are ready to tackle this project. We have created an encouraging game plan to ensure success long after we are gone. Half of the battle is getting the team on board and the rest is sure to fall into place. Ultimately you have to believe in yourself and what you are doing because you are always there to help, not hinder. The people worth keeping will follow suit.