The Valas Viewpoint: Back to the Future
I’ve recently started cleaning out my file cabinets. I have everything I’ve accumulated since the fire that burned my store to the ground in 1992.
Most of what I’ve found is business resources; copies of presentations I’ve given, columns I’ve written, articles I’ve clipped from Business Week, Harvard Business Review and host of industry and retail trade magazines. Most—like NARDA News,
MART, TVRO and Merchandising—aren’t even published today.
Now I do most of my research for articles and presentations online, and I’ve found I almost never go to my once-sacred files.
Going through them has been a cathartic exercise. I know a lot has changed in the past 22 years—the rise of e-commerce and the Internet being the most obvious. What surprises me most is how much hasn’t. It appears the old adage rings true—the more things change, the more they stay the same.
My files were categorized in much the same way I would address the main areas of retail today: Advertising and Promotion, Compensation and Commission, Credit
and Collections, Customer Service, Extended Warranty Sales, Family Business, Financial Management, Marketing, Merchandising, Sales Training, Store
Layout and Design, Store Management
and Succession Planning.
I have copies of programs I’ve presented like “Customers for Life,” “Sales Training for Results that Last,” “Financial Management for Profitability,” “People: Your Biggest Asset,” “Independent Giants against the Big Box Store” and more.
I’ve learned a lot going through—and mostly tossing—all this paper.
If I was going to coach someone starting a new business today or do consulting for a company in the industry, I’d tell them to concentrate on six basic retail pillars: The Customer Experience, Driving Traffic to Your Store, Store Design, Merchandising, Financial Management and Your Team. Pretty much the same things that have been key since the first caveman sold a rock wheel to his cave neighbor.
The only real change since I began consulting in 1992 is the growth of the Internet as a new and powerful tool for information and commerce.
So let’s go back to the basics. Here’s a checklist to help you reinvent your business. Tweaking even a couple of these strategies could take your company to the next level.
1. Customer Experience
a. Easy to access location with adequate, well-lit parking
b. Convenient shopping hours
c. Well-trained, knowledgeable associates who ask questions and care about their customers
d. Courteous, professional, well-equipped and timely delivery and installation teams
e. Spotless, updated, stocked restrooms
2. Driving Traffic to Your Store
a. Annual advertising, promotion and event budget including key city funds, co-op and 3–5 percent of dealer funding
b. Media mix including print, direct mail, digital and electronic advertising
c. Mobile optimized website—with product catalogue and some pricing
d. Social marketing presence
e. Several recurring, well-planned annual events—private sales, anniversary sales
3. Store Design
a. Merchandise layout that makes it
easy for customers to find what they
are looking for
b. Contemporary color palette
c. Well maintained paint, carpet, fixtures and signage
d. Well-lit showroom
e. Computer generated price tags
a. Good/Better/Best selection in all
b. Product selection that mirrors target customers
c. Product placement in showroom that helps customers see product benefits
d. Clearly defined and communicated plan to sell
e. Market based pricing strategy
5. Financial Management
a. Annual sales, expense and profit budget
b. Timely accurate monthly
c. Monthly review with key team members of financial results
d. Deep understanding of key ratios like gross margin, GMROI
a. Clearly defined mission, goals and strategies
b. Organization chart
c. Job descriptions
d. Semi-annual review schedule
e. Compensation plan that rewards
f. Continual learning programs for all team members
g. Conflict resolution mechanism
h. Opportunities for advancement
i. Collegial, fun, caring culture
j. Succession plan
This is far from a complete business plan, but it is a good framework for a company makeover. Business success is an exercise in continual improvement.
Great retail is like great art. The work is never done. There is always something to change, update or do better. For me, there are still more files to clean. •