There are the 7 timeless principles of retail. True for e-commerce sites and brick and mortar. True for the company trying to align 18,000 workers in the stores or the manager trying to get Sally to show up for her shift on time…It doesn’t matter if you put the key in the lock and turn on the OPEN sign in the morning or if you work in a sea of cubicles from 9-5 in a corporate headquarters… People who run retail stores stay focused on these 7 things to succeed.
First, retailers must have a STRATEGY that they can deliver against. They have to stay unswervingly focused on that strategy to be meaningful in the market. They have to be able to defend their strategy. So whether it is Walmart’s strategy of Always the Low Price or Edina Liquor Pouring its Profits Back into the Community, that strategy has to be the core of every touchpoint with shoppers. Everything emanates from the strategy.
Every retailer has to begin with CUSTOMER SERVICE. Ecommerce or brick and mortar stores must make their customers feel acknowledged, appreciated and the center of their operation. Retailers who sell suck. Retailers who solve problems and do it better than anyone else build a dynasty. And for retailers who struggle, customer service is almost always below par.
MERCHANDISING is my passion. Selecting products, showing them off in the most attractive fashion and helping customers make decisions about which product will most serve their needs is a consuming drive for the best retailers. But for any retailer, the job of going into the marketplace and selecting a curated assortment that is going to inspire purchases has to be flawless to keep a store vibrant and alive.
PRICING is super geeky for most people. There are so many PhD’s out there who will create algorithms to create the “right price.” It is probably the one fundamental that is most likely to be resolved with data and AI. But most retailers are far from that in creating their everyday and promotional pricing. I am always surprised by the practice of habitual pricing. “$19.99 was what the sale price was last Christmas, so let’s find a product that we can sell at $19.99 this Christmas.” If retailers get better at pricing, they can find several crucial points of margin to keep them alive during tough times.
Here are the most basic roles of retail marketing: Inviting people to shop and then welcoming them back when they return. At the end of the day, isn’t that what retail marketing is meant to do? Sure some folks like Love Your Melon have higher philanthropic goals. But selling the stuff – which is what retail is – is about making sure you are being ruthlessly efficient in spending your money to invite people to come to your site or store and make purchases or else inviting them back and making them feel good about that decision to return.
In retail, MANAGING is about building a prosperous team that you literally trust with “keeping the store” while you are gone. For most of us, a job in retail was our first foray into the working world of adults. This is where we learned about the highs and lows of being on the schedule. It is where we learn our first feelings of competency and start to understand the reality of grinding it out. But if we have a great manager it is also where we start to learn that winning as a team doesn’t just happen in sports and that keeping score feels mighty good when you are winning.
Finally, OPERATIONS is where so many introverted retailers focus. I think of operations as running the store to be as efficient and as profitable as possible. It is the routine of receiving products, pushing them out onto the floor, churning through inventory, reviewing reports so that there are as few “surprises” as possible. People who love operations LOVE it. And people who don’t have a tough time staying in business for long.
It seems so easy and yet, somehow when you start digging into HOW to do all these things, a 290 page book emerges. If you want to learn more about these principles and the actual things to do on your next shift to improve your strengths in one or more of the areas, check out the book Retail The Second-Oldest Profession. Available on Amazon or any e-book platform worldwide.