If you are a retailer, it's inevitable — sales will slump. Whether it's due to forces beyond your control like the city tearing up the street in from of your store or seasonal sales dip or a decline in foot traffic, all retailers will experience a slump in sales at some point. Here are 10 simple ways you and your staff can improve your retail sales slump or if you're just having a slow day.
Create Your Own Holiday
Most retailers only celebrate the national holidays like July 4th or Christmas. But, people love to celebrate. They love excitement. So why wait for the big holidays? Create a holiday of your own. Consider fun things that your store does or sells and the customers who shop with you and then make a holiday around it. For example, in my shoe stores, we celebrated National Hamburger Day. Granted the only connection was that shoes and burgers are both made from cows, but making an event out of it drew a lot of people.
Just when you may think it's time to cut back the marketing dollars, you should probably be advertising more. It is wise to increase marketing efforts during slower sales periods because there is more competition and fewer consumer dollars. Consider newspaper ads, magazines, specialty publications and other forms of marketing. One great way to do this is to use remnant advertising. These are spaces in the paper that are "holes" for the local newspaper. You simply create a branding ad that the newspaper can drop in at its discretion. For example, for our shoe stores, our ad had a headline that said "Feet Hurt? We can help." We got a ton of traffic off of that ad. The key, though, was that the ad was as much a sales motivator as it was a branding play.
Generate a Buzz
Whenever anything noteworthy happens within your business, send a press release to the media. The idea is to grab any free coverage possible. Get involved with community events. Consider hosting classes, meetings or other networking events in your retail store. Use a unique promotional event to generate a buzz about your business.
Examine Your Pricing Strategy
When purchasing and pricing products, be sure you've considered the cost of goods and that your retail shop is able to make a profit at that price point. Your product price should be competitive, but still profitable. Ultimately, the right price is the price the customer is willing to pay for the product.
Design Store for Sales
Take advantage of cross-merchandising strategies and impulse sale opportunities. Use lighting techniques and creative displays to attract customers. Play videos for product education, customer entertainment and any other upsell or promotional tie-in. Involve all of the senses in your visual merchandising. Remember, an energetic store is a magnet.
Connect With the Customer
Excellent customer service is the key to increasing sales. Listen to your customer to understand their needs and wants. Then educate him/her about the products. Finally, let the customer know you appreciate their business. Offer value-added services and products. Create a mailing list by asking for contact information from each customer. Remember, the customer is looking for an experience and not just a product.
The easiest, most cost-effective thing you can do is social media. Make sure that you have a steady stream of activity online. Customers who see a flurry of activity from you and then periods of silence know you are only online because sales are down. Use social media to position yourself as the place to shop and buy.
Manage Your Money
This may seem like an obvious step, but as retail operators, we can become too involved in the little details of our business that we lose track of our financials. Create a budget, know where every dime is being spent, keep an eye on cash flow, and control inventory.
Create an Event
Some of our most successful days were during the worst sales periods of the year. We accomplished this by partnering with a local charity and creating an event in our store. For example, we did a weekend event in February (usually a dead month for us) that had our stores as the drop-off point for baby care products like diapers and lotions to be used at the local shelter. A local charity, Baby Love, provided products and services to infants of homeless parents. We gave a 20% discount for every donation and we did this discount when they brought their donation into the store and not as a "bounce back" coupon for later. We built credibility with our local community, increased our sales and helped some babies in need all at the same time.
It is a retail phenomenon that when stores look like something is going on, people will want to check it out. Enter the sidewalk sale. This old but good idea has been around as long as retailers have. Often times, if it was really slow, my stores would move merchandise outside. This created a look as if there was something going on at our store and people would get curious and come check us out. When you do this you get the "passers-by" who normally ignore your store - after all, it's not on today's to-do list. But when they see stuff out front, it draws their attention and that can create traffic for you.
We didn't always make it a sale. Sometimes just moving racks or a table outside was all it took.