by Christine Jaros | December 13, 2021
Whether a brick and mortar, or an e-commerce business, a retail store has several moving parts that either all work well in collaboration with each other and keep the business ‘humming’ along or fight each other and create chaos and failure.
Having spent 35 years in New York City fashion where I built a career in wholesale sales and marketing to retail stores of all kinds, I’ve worked with the best of them, and the most challenging, through great economies, and the worst, including the pandemic.
So, how do you plan out your strategies for opening your season and navigating the arena in which your business performs? Like a musician strumming chords on a guitar, a retailer must look at multiple calendars to achieve business harmony and success. Keep in mind my two favorite ‘gems’ of retail wisdom:
- Know your calendar tracks.
- Timing is everything.
Break it down now
- Development Calendars
Every product (and store) has a ‘back end’ where the ‘magic’ is made – meaning, where the product is conceptualized, sourced, produced, or purchased. And with each step, there is a cycle time associated with it. For each item you offer, how long does it take before you have a finished item to sell to your customer?
Calculating too much time will cost you money in having to store unsold product. But over-estimating how smooth the cycle time will be may result in late fulfillment, missed sales or customer dissatisfaction. Work backwards. Clearly if you are buying products from a source who has your items ‘in stock’, the cycle time is almost immediate (yet your cost of goods sold (COGS) may be higher). If you’re developing your product from a sketch, don’t forget to factor in sample time, correction time, materials delivery time, production time, labeling and packaging time, and shipping time. Whew! That’s a lot of time! For many this is a six, nine, or 12-month process before these goods appear on their shelves.
Since most retailers carry a variety of products, you will play the band leader coordinating the arrival of your offerings so that the merchandise you want to sell is curated in such a way that your revenues sing in harmony.
- Market Calendar
When (and from where) do you shop for the products, you want to offer in your store? There is a world of wonderful wholesale markets from which you can source your merchandise. Be creative and explore your range.
Most markets offer a Spring and Summer assortment, but like any supplier, they too are working backwards from when you need to put product on your shelves. You may shop in February, which is considered a winter month, but the market may be for purchasing Fall products, which you will offer in August or September. Yes, you will have to anticipate what your customers will buy. This should be based in part on your selling history from the previous year.
Have a budget of which you spend only about 75 percent. Save the balance to shop during the selling season buying back into those ‘best sellers’ I talked about previously. This is also where competition becomes fierce as every retailer wants the same best-selling items. Give your customers a different playlist, a new genre of products to maintain their loyalty and sing your praises by shopping the sources less frequented. Newness and innovation are key. If you take no risk and wait until selling season, you will leave your customers flat and seeking other tunes.
- Selling Calendar
What is your selling season? Does your product sell consistently all year long, or are there highs and lows? More homes sell in July. Why? Because people want to move into a new home before their kids start a new school year. The number one selling period for chocolates is December, followed by February. More new cars are sold in June (tax return time), and more televisions are sold in January/February because old models are being cleared in anticipation of the new ones hitting stores in March/April.
Again, look at your selling history, or utilize analytics for identifying best-selling time periods for your products. Being in tune with your industry and product segment will best position your business for maximum sales results.
- Events Calendar
Keeping a lively sales beat means adding events that woo customers and encourage them to buy. Start first with your dates for marking down product. Most retailers will keep merchandise at regular price for eight to 10 weeks before taking their first mark down of 25 percent off.
Two to four weeks after that, another mark down reducing prices to a discount of 40 percent off will take place. Then after another two to three weeks it goes to clearance.
Other events can include special promotions, time limited offers, visiting personalities or celebrities, community service participation and more. For standing ovations, build an event that combines these things, engages consumers, and provides a unique experience.
- Financial/Business Management Calendar
Creating this calendar is like graduating from the college of rock. You are a superstar! This calendar includes your dashboard metrics which are weekly, monthly, quarterly, seasonally, or yearly. You also need to set aside when you will meet with your banker, accountant, and tax preparer.
Raise the Roof
My experience is that those who are most successful at retailing are most passionate about their products, the business, and their customers. They love playing to a packed audience that is there for their merchandise. Yes, it does take time, but it also takes the due diligence of work – analyzing your critical metrics, creating your calendars, and reaching out to develop customers.
Anything short of this hard work you become a one hit wonder at best. So, pull out your calendars and start marking them up. Create the music and the magic that builds a sustainable business that grows and thrives and plays on and on and on.