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Furniture Retail Tip #12 From Grandpa Mike-e-e! at 90 - "STEP FORWARD BY STEPPING BACK"

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Michael Greene (Grandpa Mike-e-e at 90)

Do you realize that you spend more time each day hustling at your furniture store than you do living at your home? Please don't point this lifestyle out to your spouse but it's a fact. Besides your spouse already knows it.

Anyway, measure the numbers: 9a.m. to 6 p.m. at work... and that's a 9 hour average if you pack up and go without answering the phone or putting in the extra hours beyond this as most retailers do.

Home? Eight hours of sleep if you are lucky. That leaves 5 hours for supper, kids, questioning, TV, reading, reporting and love making or commenting on it.

With that kind of imbalance on hand, make sure you make that business cycle pay its hungry way. Look your retail operation over carefully inside and... yes! especially, from the outside, too. And when I say outside, I mean outside like from your moving car, from a standing spot across the street and definitely from your side parking lot. That's right! Look it all over. Even from your website, social networking and old media advertising. See what your customers and non-customers see.

And since I'm getting personal, I ask: Do you know that no matter what list of products the signs and windows of your store reveal to the passing public, you also have a REAL ESTATE inventory to offer? A real estate inventory to offer? Yipes! You exclaim and "Absolutely!" I answer.

Every month you rent and pay for one ceiling, four walls and one flat floor. Honest. Therefore, why have you not been merchandising this paid-for real estate like all sharp, aware entrepreneurs do? Wide awake retailers I've visited with, like:

A while back, I busted a couple of buttons on my ski jacket so I headed for "The Button Shoppe" in my neighborhood. I walked in and was faced by walls and walls of stacked, varied, cardboard boxes with sample buttons pasted to the front of them for identification purposes. Two smiling, salespersons approached: a grey-haired senior with a younger one in tow. I handed the senior my crushed sample, which was diligently examined by the two, and off they went after picking up a ladder on the way.

"Isn't it that one up there?" I pointed and guessed proudly. "Uh! Uh! Was the senior's answer with a smile. "Our manager's got it up there." A pleased, young man came down with matching buttons in hand and a smile on his face. "I'm Mr.Wong the new manager." he explained. I thanked him and wished him the best of luck in his new button business adventure but on the drive home I kept worrying: How in the world was he going to manage that inventory of thousands of buttons accumulated over a thirty year stretch by a grey-haired senior?

In June I returned with cracked golf jacket buttons and noticed two entrances to the store where only one existed in January. Mr. Wong remembered me, tracked down my button styles with ease and gave me a proud, cook's tour of his up-to-date showroom.

His old ceiling had a fresh coating with contemporary, brighter, efficient energy lighting. New cartons (multi-color-coded) with oversized drawings of his buttons, lined the walls for easy selection. A rolling-wall-ladder was the finishing touch for prompt service. And "service" now also included a neat alcove with a spotlighted sewing machine and a curtained dressing area. The seamstress present was introduced as Mrs. Wong.

Oh! Yes. Why an additional entrance door next to Mr. Wong's? Simple. So that the new next-door tenant could have in-and-out access to the real estate area rented to him by Mr. Wong. Who had sliced it off his new, ample neat, efficient button store.

So, what can we learn from the example of the Button Shoppe? Plenty! While you are looking at your furniture store from the inside and the outside as well, think about how your customers view your operation. Are they scratching their heads at how come your old incandescent lighting is hot, inefficient and store poorly lit? Are they wondering how they are supposed to find what they want quickly and without bother? Are they discouraged by your customer service policies, lack of decorating assistance or house call program? Do they wonder why your delivery guys are clueless?

And while you are thinking about those issues, question if you are using every bit of your real estate efficiently. That includes walls, ceilings, outdoor space and entrances. Can you re-allocate, condense, expand or sublet space to become more efficient?

There are some things that are obvious to someone walking in off the street, but which some guys in management think are good enough because, "that's the way they've always been done", and they can think of a thousand reasons why they are too difficult to change.

Don't be one of those guys or gals who spends too much time at work for too little return.

Thanks, again, for listening.

Grandpa Mike-e-e! at 90

P.S. In the coming weeks we will look at two more instructive retail examples, "The Highway Home Furnishings Gallery" and "The Bagel Hole." REAL ESTATE life stories will follow.

Got a question? Got a comment? Great!! E-mail: grandpamike-e-e!@furninfo.com

About Michael Greene (Grandpa Mike-e-e!)

Retailer, author, columnist, lecturer, composer and lyricist.

Came to US with immigrant parents in 1924 at the age of three.

Graduated high school at 16.

Managed a small bedding retail and manufacturing company at 18 in 1939.

Hired as Assistant to the VP of Purchasing (Sweets Corp. of America... approximately 500 employees) in 1940 at 19.

Drafted into US Army Signal Corp - Communications Personnel Div., Fort Monmouth.Tested and selected for Army Specialized Training Program, Rutgers University. Qualified for O.C.S. - Officer Candidate School and graduated as Second Lieutenant, Inventory/ Personnel Division in 1944 at 23.

Married his sweetheart, Anita, and he gives thanks to the Almighty that they are still sweethearts... after 73 years.

Rejoined Sweets Corp as Director of Personnel in 1945 at 24.

Joined his suddenly widowed sister as President of a small retail/ manufacturing company in 1946. Stayed on for 46 years managing the custom designing of over 20,000 childrens rooms and master bedroom beds.

Attended Hofstra University (evening program), and graduated in 1968 at age 47. Two of his kids followed right along at two other college campuses.

Applied for 30 day temporary columnist opening offered by the Reed Business Newspapers in NC and stayed on for 27 years. His retail columns were distributed everywhere from Brooklyn to Bangladesh, to Belgium to Beijing.

Traveled the US and visited with 3rd/ 4th generation retail owners.

He was admitted to the Writers Hall of Fame for, "Conspicuous Excellence In reports and appraisals of the furniture industry."

Retired from retail management at age 70.

BOOKS: (1) At age 72: published first book "Where's The Green Pea?" vegetable character stories including his original music and CD.

Designed programs for primary and pre-K schools and presented them with his Anita. (2) At age 76: Gee! I Wish I Had A Bedroom All My Own," lectured in middle schools (teenage), with tech info for parents, teachers and students in Home

Science. (3) At age 80: Tzedakah - Caring And Sharing classic book with original music CD and illustrations for high school chorales and drama groups.

At 89 -- published Retail Life: How To Get In, Stay Alive a-n-d Love It! in online and printed version for business schools, industry, and entrepreneurs. Includes how-to educational section for "Wise Women Who Love A Challenge" and "Oldtimer Retailers Who've Missed Some Basic Goodies In Business Promotion. Also provides business professors and career students seeking everyday practical trade experiences and business thinking.

Invited to address Levitz Furniture retail salespersons, Furniture Designer Associate members,

IHFRA sales associations, High Point University students and F.I.T. retailer evening sessions. Also accepted as an ASID associate member.

At 90 plus... is a musical playwright, composer and lyricist with original music and thinking for very young and very old America.

Grandpa Mike-e-e

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