I was in a retail toy store the other day and the owner randomly asked me what I thought he could do to improve his sales. He is leasing a nice store front in a small strip mall but off the beaten path. I told him that his location sucked. He looked shocked but ultimately agreed. I also told him that that’s OK. “I have successfully run plenty of retail store fronts in lousy locations.” I assumed he got a screaming deal on the lease and he had.
I then started browsing around for a game that I had read about in a business journal earlier. This store had been recognized by a game manufacturer because of a report from a consumer about the owners nine year old son. He was playing a new game and literally talked the potential customer into playing with him. They bought the game and sent an email off to the manufacturer. Amazingly, the store owner had no clue that there was a story about his store and son. After looking around I decided buy a “stomp rocket”. No up-sale suggestion like extra rockets was offered however.
“Every brand isn’t for everybody, and everybody isn’t for every brand.” -Liz Lange — In other words, do what small businesses do best and focus on a niche — and then own that niche. Be at the top. – American Express Open Forum
Continuing the business conversation… I explained that I see leasing as a marketing cost. You pay a higher lease to get a busier location that draws more traffic… store marketing. You save on your lease but the location isn’t that great your skimping on marketing unless… you market in other areas. Maybe that’s part of the solution? So I asked what he was doing in other marketing venues. Word of mouth, coupons and website was his answer. Wow. I looked at the coupons, delivered in a coupon pack, boring and no real stimulating offer. Later I looked at his website which was basically a business card with no call to action. As I was leaving I told this floundering store owner I would get back with him with some ideas and did.
My advice was three fold. Location, Marketing, and Selling.
As I said before the location wasn’t that great. First thing he should do is put a location map on all advertisements visually and verbally. It should be on his background music for his phone system, business cards, everywhere. It needs to be part of his sales pitch. Secondly his brick and mortar should be organized and easy to purchase from. It should be fun. It should be unique.
Since his location was marginal, his budget small, marketing through the web would be crucial. Investment into PPC (pay per click), a new exciting web design with localized SEO (search engine optimization), SEM (search engine marketing) and CRO (conversion rate optimization) would be needed. Becoming the “specialist” in a particular game or toy wouldn’t hurt. He already had an in with the business journal’s endorsement. He needed to capitalize on that opportunity.
The store racks made no sense. There was definitely nothing to make up-selling easier. He also was trying to do the one thing a small store shouldn’t. He was offering way too many items. Even Wal-Mart’s toy department, which accounts for a fourth of all toys sold in the US, is specialized by the hottest lines and only a few aisles.
Summary Key Component
One of the key components of selling in a retail store is the per person purchase dollar amount. This is crucial to the success of any small store. Where’s your break-even point per sale? If you don’t know what that number is figure it out now. Then work on your sales skills, product placement, and correct inventories to get to this level of sales success. If he had sold me I would have bought more. Thus a successful per person purchase dollar amount. I would use loss leaders to draw traffic to lousy locations. But my team understood that we needed to be at a certain per person dollar amount to keep the doors open. We didn’t “high pressure” sell we up-sold. We suggested add-ons, different products, and so on. We were their consultant and expert. It takes a lot of effort to get a potential customer in a store. An owner needs to optimize this experience.
Obviously there will be more to discuss and work out. With a few changes he will be able to make his store and offering the best there is. Most importantly he will be able to keep his business viable which of course is good for all of us.Photos courtesy of 123RF