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Ten Retail Commandments 2016

Furniture World Magazine

Volume 146 NO.1 January/February

Many people start their own business because they want to write their own rule book. It is due to their passion to “do it their way” that entrepreneurs risk it all to find success.

Common rules are needed to create a livable environment. Some rules are carved in stone, and others are created in committees. Here are some of the best ways to build your business, ignite your passion, and reduce your stress level.

1. Thou Shalt Not Create Any Roadblocks. Whether it is your advertising, commission pay plan, or operations system, resist the temptation to create roadblocks for your shoppers and employees. This means reducing the amount of small print containing the terms for any advertised special. If you want to advertise “everything on sale” don’t exclude a third of your displays. When you offer spiffs or extra commission on items for your sales team, reduce the amount of restrictions that prevent them from earning those spiffs. Also, make it easy for your delivery team. Don’t promote expectations that they can’t live up to-like same day delivery or 2 hour time windows.

2. Attract and Be Attractive. Great organizations grow by attracting the best and brightest people to work for them. Good organizations get that way by recruiting every day. Winning companies do both! Become the #1 Best Place to Work in your market by offering above average compensation and work environment; then promote that fact every day. When great people are choosing their next employer, work/life balance is the tie breaker. Retail means weekends and evenings, but when you can design a schedule without EVERY evening and weekend, you will attract and retain great, loyal people.

3. Thou Shalt Walk Around. Make 2016 the year of Management by Walking Around. That means walking your entire physical plant; store, warehouse, or offices every day-with your eyes wide open. Start in the parking lot. Does it look worn with the parking stripes faded, or full of potholes? You now have one strike against you. Check your front door. Recently I shopped a major east coast retailer with decals from 2005 and 2007 on their door. And if you have a “NO” sign on your door, (No cell phones, No beverages, No food) you now have two strikes! Next check for missing hardware, stuck doors, dirty mattresses, missing pillows, and rugs with humps in them. That all adds up to strike three-and your Shopper is out!

4. Thou Shalt Not Be Afraid Of Technology. Face it, the internet is here to stay and digital advertising will be more important than TV, Newspapers, Radio, and Direct Mailers in 2016. You don’t have to be an expert; you can hire one. But you can’t be a dummy either. Start by getting yourself a personal Facebook page, then a Twitter account, and move forward from there. Your store’s website can’t just be a catalog; it has to be open to take orders. If you want to be around in the future, you have to accept it and embrace it.

5. Thou Shalt Paint! If your store has been open for more than 3 years-Congratulations! That means you have been successful! It also means that it is probably time to remodel! Flooring, construction and lighting can get expensive! But painting is one of the least expensive ways to brighten up your store and lift the spirits of your sales team and shoppers! Chances are the exterior of your building is weather worn and interior walls have seen some damage. Do it yourself, or hire a professional. Either way, this will add some color and brighten your world.

6. Thou Shalt Show the BEST. When it comes to selling many RSAs like to take the path of least resistance, showing and selling low price merchandise, aka picking low hanging fruit. INSIST that your sales team shows your best and highest price merchandise to every shopper. If I ever leave our business and end up selling Chevys, I would INSIST that every shopper test-drive a Corvette, even if they are looking for a $3500 used car. Who wouldn’t want to take a spin in a Vette? And after looking at $80,000 of vehicle, maybe $25,000 won’t look so bad! Show the best, you will sell some of them, and your average sale will rise!

7. Thou Shalt Visit Thy Neighbor. Retail is WAR and wars are won with INTELLIGENCE. You may go golfing with the guy who owns the competing store down the street, but during business hours he is working to take your sales and profit away from you. 2016 is the year that you need to install a Competitive Shopping Process. All employees need to be involved, and someone should visit a competitor at least once a week. I promise you will learn some things that they do great; or you may just learn that they are not that scary after all. Don’t forget to include non-traditional competitors like Department Stores, Warehouse Clubs, and Discount Stores. The more you know, the more you’ll sell!

8. Thou Shalt Plan For Succession. If 2016 is your year of retirement. Best Wishes! Or, retirement may be years or decades away. Whatever the case, you need to plan succession now. Who will be the next leader of your company? If you want it to be your family’s next generation, let them know how much you enjoy this business. Chances are that if you spend an hour complaining about your day at the dinner table, your kids won’t want to follow in your footsteps. And if you’re not at the dinner table, they certainly won’t want that lifestyle. You can groom your successor now by giving them meaningful work to do in your store. Give them leeway to make decision and give them the opportunity to fail without criticism. Review mistakes for sure, but let them figure the corrections. If you have family members working for you, pay them a fair wage. Nobody likes to work for free. Should you decide to sell your business, treat it like a house you are looking to sell. That means cleaning, painting, reducing inventory, and eliminating debt.

9. Thou Shalt be a Member of the Community. Your business may be in a small town or large metro area. In either case you depend on people living and working in your geographic area to spend money at your business. Being a member of the community means more than paying your taxes. Get involved. You can sponsor a local team or school, hire interns from the local college, or provide furnishings for the senior center. Your efforts don’t have to be over the top to make a difference. It’s an amazing phenomenon; when you help someone else, you start to feel better.

10. Thou Shalt Keep the Fire Burning. Think back... before the bad sales months, missed or damaged deliveries, or carloads of furniture that just didn’t sell. Think about the time that your PASSION for this business was so hot that it burned. You probably couldn’t wait to get your lease signed and get the front doors opened. Just like a new unwrapped toy, your business was FUN and CHALLENGING. And then one day, it became routine, and then a drag. If you see yourself in that picture then it is time to regain your passion. If you have RETAIL in your blood (I tell people I was BORN on Commission) then start to make it a game again. Look at each incoming shopper as a person looking to you for advice and solutions. Solve their problems and they’ll buy your products. Bumps and bruises will always come. Be creative about how you solve them and let your passion show.

Conclusion
These are the best kind of Commandments! Break ONE or ALL of them, and there is no penalty! Chances are you and your business will still survive. However, chances are you aren’t just interested in survival, you are looking for success. Pick one or pick all, and build your success this year.

Gordon Hecht is Senior Manager-In Store Concepts for Serta Simmons Bedding Company, introducing and expanding bedding business in conventional and non-traditional venues. He started his 30+ years experience in the Home Furnishings industry in Las Vegas, NV as a delivery helper and driver and later served in sales, retail management and consulting roles.
Read other articles by Gordon Hecht