Direct to consumer (DTC) products have been wildly popular in the past few years, and as they slowly infiltrate big box retailers’ shelves, brands such as Casper, Harry’s and Bonobos are gaining more attention and getting an even bigger sales boost.
But traditional retailers are learning from them as well.
For the biggest retailers, partnering with DTC has been mutually beneficial. Walmart bought men’s fashion retailer Bonobos in 2017 for $310 million. Target is partnering with Harry’s to sell the well-made, discount-priced razors in stores, as well as Casper mattresses — which can also be found in top-tier stores such as Nordstrom’s.
Part of the draw of those and many other DTC brands is their popularity: They will drive customers into stores and online. Forging partnerships with newer, more sought-after brands helps retailers attract and create relationships with a new segment of shoppers who may not have otherwise shopped with them.
In addition, what big retailers such as Walmart, Target and Nordstrom’s can gain from well-established DTC brands is digital expertise. These products have successfully launched and sold products online with no physical stores. They are marketing powerhouses, and big box stores are learning from their strategies, particularly for their own private-label merchandise. For example, Target’s partnership with Harry’s spurred it to step up its men’s grooming selection by expanding its own Goodfellow & Co’s offering to more than 30 products. (Target is clearly focusing on the segment and rounding out its offerings by also incorporating Ulta Beauty shops this year into 100 locations this year.)
What these relationships mean for consumers is that brands and retailers are becoming more attuned to the future of shopping. Customers are fluid in how they want to shop: One day they may opt for a personal, immersive experience at Sephora and the next they’ll order lipstick online. Convenience is a driving force, but it doesn’t always mean ecommerce. Sometimes, convenience is the ease of being able to go to a physical location and try on, inspect, and ask questions.
Successful retail has always meant providing what customers want, when they want it. Today’s technology merely widens the possibilities, and requires retailers to be intuitive and flexible.
It’s a retail conundrum: Foot traffic in malls is decreasing, and brick and mortar stores are losing ground to ecommerce – yet shoppers still want to visit stores to touch and try out products before buying.
To capture more sales and remain relevant to shoppers, big box stores are thinking out of the box and partnering with popular name-brand product manufacturers.
Bringing Apple to you at Target
Target recently announced it will double the size of Apple’s footprint in 17 locations, expanding offerings in stores and online. In addition, Target team members will receive specialized training from Apple.
The retail behemoth has also partnered with Ulta Beauty to open 1,000-square-foot beauty shops, which will be staffed with Target employees who have been trained by the beauty retailer.
Notably, Ulta also provides customers with many services such as in-store hair salons, which drive considerable foot traffic: Salon customers reportedly make twice as many trips to an Ulta Beauty store as those who do not use those services.
And Target isn’t the only big box store looking to pretty itself up: Kohl’s will open 200 “Sephora at Kohl’s” locations this fall, with at least 850 locations planned by 2023. The cosmetics retailer will launch on Kohl’s website in 2022, offering more than 100 beauty brands, some of which are exclusive to Sephora.
Products across price points
The beauty segment is notable because America’s department store makeup counters have historically been the place to purchase upper-end cosmetics.
The American beauty counter is iconic.
However, they’ve gradually been losing popularity as shoppers prefer to visit specialized retailers – such as Ulta and Sephora – which can provide a more extensive variety of products at different price points.
However, by collaborating with those same cosmetics retailers as well as be increasing their in-store footprint, department stores could win back many of those customers.
Department stores are using the popularity of brands such as Apple, Sephora and Ulta to lure customers back into their stores.
Once inside, the customers can be tempted to continue shopping for other products.
In a way, department stores function like mini-malls: From motor oil to bikinis to wrapping paper, these stores have it all.
The tough part today is getting the shoppers to come into the store.
The addition of top brand names will help provide the visibility needed to get shoppers in the automatic door.
Amid recent retail turbulence, there has emerged an opportunity to provide customers a better, more intuitive shopping experience in the wake of a global pandemic that had serious repercussions in the retail sector.
With many shoppers staying out of brick and mortars due to COVID concerns, online shopping became significantly more popular, especially for buying everyday items like groceries and toiletry items.
As a result, retailers now have a year’s worth of data on new (and existing) ecommerce shoppers that can be integrated with store sales data from the Retail Pro POS for personalization, providing a more holistic customer view.
By preparing personalized and integrated customer solutions, retailers can be better positioned for success as the ability and customer willingness to visit stores increases.
Learning from your customer data
Hyper-personalization refers to enabling personalized, contextualized interactions across all channels, including sales and marketing.
A study from Ascend2 found that 62% of marketing professionals consider hyper-personalization to be critical, but only 9% have successfully implemented the strategy. Traditionally, personalized marketing would include, for example, inserting a customer’s name into an email or serving up specific content on a landing page. Personalized experiences in stores would stem from a salesperson’s ability to engage in clienteling based on the client’s history with a brand, especially in luxury retail.
Today, hyper-personalization uses intelligent tools like visual analytics software like Retail Pro Decisions to aggregate store and ecommerce data, the marketer’s email engagement data, website interactions, and other sources of third-party data to predict customer behavior.
AI algorithms can also compare a company’s shoppers with others online who display the same interests.
AI can aggregate similarities and predict future actions based on those that have already been taken by similar users.
That allows companies to deliver extremely relevant offers or product recommendations.
Rather than making recommendations to shoppers based on their own purchase history, AI compares their preferences and buying patterns to millions of others to discover more advanced, nuanced purchasing habits.
The strategy also builds brand loyalty: The more personal the customer experience feels, the stronger the relationship can be. Integrated data analysis combined with AI-powered loyalty and personalized marketing tools like AppCard for Retail Pro offers retailers something more than the competition.
Acting on data gathered during COVID’s ecommerce upsurge
With the sudden influx of customer data during COVID, retailers are learning more about what is truly important to customers, and what is not.
For instance, curbside pickup is a highlight coming out of the new normal shopping experience, a feature that in particular is helpful to parents of young children, those with disabilities or anyone on a tight schedule.
Prior to the economic lockdown during the first half of 2020, curbside delivery was pretty much limited to grocery pick up.
Retailers must leverage their data analysis capabilities while considering how recent customer trends will impact their supply chains.
They can then accurately respond to both vendors and customers in specific, relevant ways. By understanding the context of what customers want, retailers can adjust to meet those expectations. Retailers can move beyond providing customers with a robust product selection online and in-store. Today, the top retailers also offer a customized, cross-channel, personal shopping experience, resulting in loyal, satisfied customers.
Increasingly, retailers are learning that sustainability matters to their customers, and the COVID season did not stop sustainability efforts.
Recycling, energy conservation and reduction of waste are all everyday topics of conversation.
That desire to help conserve Earth’s resources has helped unite customers who may otherwise be very different from one another.
To meet the increasing requests from customers for carbon-neutral packaging and products, retailers are offering more environmentally friendly options. Gartner has recommended three ways retailers could improve sustainability within their supply chains: source responsibly; use recyclable or minimal packaging; incorporate “recycled goods” into product offerings.
Retailers can choose vendor and distribution partners who practice sustainability.
When reviewing vendors, retailers can weigh sustainability as quality.
Sustainability includes processes that mitigate the harmful impacts of pollution and waste on the ecosystem, including reducing freshwater contamination and greenhouse gases.
Retailers benefit too, because sustainable practices such as decreasing energy usage, cutting back on waste generated and eliminating equipment for pollution control lower operating costs.
Many suppliers are coming up with innovative packaging to reduce waste.
For example, dental floss can now be purchased in reusable glass vials, rather than hard plastic packages.
Not only has the product cut back dramatically on waste, but because of its very nature, it creates its own pool of customers who return to buy the floss replacement on a regular basis.
On the recycling side, L’Oreal cosmetics will market its first cosmetics in recyclable paper bottles to consumers this year.
Thrifting — or shopping secondhand—is in vogue, and not solely because items are bargains or bespoke.
Because these goods are living a second life, they aren’t taking up room at the local landfill.
In addition, significant amounts of resources are saved by not creating a new product. For example, making a pair of jeans uses approximately 1,800 gallons of water.
The production process also generated greenhouse gases equal to driving more than 80 miles.
Providing a personalized experience that’s “just right” — not overly intrusive but offering information relevant to each shopper — is the Holy Grail of retail.
Deep visibility into data unified across channels and technologies through the Retail Pro Prism platform can give retailers the level of information needed to offer the right products to the right customers at the right time, through a preferred channel or combination of channels.
Creating interaction points to learn what your customer wants
Customers want efficient trips and will seek retailers that streamline the purchasing process, and which may include an online-to-offline experience.
Enhancing purchasing channels so they complement and build on each other helps retailers optimize their investments, focus efforts, and support their customers’ journeys.
Omnichannel offers customers multiple touch points, each a part of a seamless experience, and unified data helps retailers deliver instant, informed personalization.
One way to do that is to review past purchase data, converged between transactions in-store with Retail Pro, on ecommerce, mobile, social sales, and any other channels a retailer may use.
But for new visitors, providing interactive content not only engages the shopper but also benefits the retailer by sharing customer likes—and dislikes—with the retailer.
That data helps build a unique profile for future interactions whether online or in-store.
Every personalized shopping experience is created based on customer interactions.
As the retailer determines customer intent, an online strategy must be in place to quickly feature certain products in a relevant manner, with pertinent information and offers readily available and presented to the customer with immediacy.
Matching products to the right customer with personalized recommendations
While customers appreciate personalized shopping, unified commerce also provides retailers the data for targeted inventory.
By converging a customer’s interactions with your brand at various touchpoints into one cohesive customer profile and analyzing that holistic data, retailers can learn what products are popular for which types of customers.
The information can inform text and email messaging through AppCard for Retail Pro, providing personalized content which entices shoppers to visit (or return to) brick and mortars.
Stores can reduce or optimize in-store inventory by matching certain high-inventory products to potentially interested customers.
Based on analyzing shoppers’ data, a store can determine what products will appeal to which customers and present those options proactively.
Communications that are in the know with the customer
Customer segments may require different handling; some use email, others text messaging.
Retailers who can reach the customer during the decision-making process will remain top-of-mind as a trusted provider of quality goods and services.
Engagement might be driven through personalized email reminders that highlight where they can pick up their purchased product in-store, as well as recommending complimentary products to the items they just purchased.
Mobile push notifications or text messages can highlight related items to opted-in shoppers via the retailer’s app or loyalty program.
Most important is the unified experience from the customer’s point of view: When he or she returns to the retailer’s site, they should also see updated recommendations and search results based on in-store — or previous online —purchases.
Unified commerce provides the foundation for customers to easily shop whenever and wherever they want, including starting on one channel and finishing through another.
And that is an important step toward frictionless retail.
Improving digital conversion rate is always a concern of retailers.
For those with both online and brick-and-mortar presence, conversion is even more important during COVID-19, as storefronts are hit with less foot traffic and reduced store hours.
One way to increase interest in your business is to give something away.
It could be a one-month trial of a personal shopping service, or a free online fashion tutorial; it simply needs to be of interest to your customers as well as something that has “staying power” i.e., can remain on your site for a few months.
This is not how many retailers traditionally engage customers.
Door prizes are exciting, but that type of giveaway is generally a one-shot deal.
Furthermore, at a time when people are social distancing, the thought of physically going to a store and competing for a door prize is unappealing.
Giveaways can be too much of a gimmick; they increase foot traffic the day of the promotion, but they don’t promote recurring sales.
Here are 3 ways to drive revenue with 2020’s big shift to digital retail.
1: Online tutorials
Fashion tips, makeup how-tos, home style ideas are all great ways to engage customers right from your ecommerce site.
During the demonstrations, offer a discount so shoppers can immediately select the product, go to their carts, enter the promo code and place their orders.
Offer the ability to pickup their purchased items in stores via curbside pickup, to give the option of immediate fulfillment for those shoppers who want it.
On the technology side, retailers can integrate promotions data from Retail Pro Prism POS software using Retail Pro’s open API for online redemption. This lets you use the flexible promotions capabilities in Retail Pro Prism to define promotion codes and pass the data to the ecommerce shopping cart.
2: Personal shopping
Offer consultations with your professional, talented associates who can guide customer purchases.
These meetings can be free of charge or an “insider” exclusive, and shoppers can access the service through one-to-one conversations over conferencing software or via video calls to set up their profiles.
In addition, providing online questionnaires so customers can keep multiple profiles on file is an ideal way to help them organize and to streamline gift giving.
As your personal shopper meets with new clients, they can take note of shoppers’ preferences in the customer management area of Retail Pro Prism, for use in clienteling, to make more tailored recommendations during future visits using their purchase history.
Custom fields in Retail Pro can also be created and defined to standardize the data that comes in, for cleaner use in personalized marketing.
3: Offer subscriptions
These have become increasingly popular in the last couple of years.
Customers can enjoy regular deliveries of goods as varied as IPAs and organic snacks to razor blades and workout clothing.
A curated selection of product is sent based on certain customer preferences detailed at sign up.
Retailers can use deep reporting capabilities in Retail Pro to report on most popular items and determine complementary products to include in a subscription package. Transaction data from point of sale software is immensely useful here.
Payment is made in advance, and the subscription renews automatically at the end of the payment period unless cancelled.
Recurring revenue is a reliable way of generating regular income so it can be more confident of its future.
Some segments fit more naturally on the subscription model, such as health and beauty care.
However, by thinking a bit outside of the box, almost any retailer can benefit from offering creative options that are easily accessible by customers and generate profits even in seasons with less foot traffic.
Disruptions to the supply chain — beginning in China in the early days of the coronavirus outbreak — have impacted the availability of inventory and delivery times.
Customers are now often faced with significant shipping delays — sometimes as long as 14 days.
And retailers themselves are experiencing shortages from their own suppliers.
Inventories across the board have been reportedly low (and sadly not due to higher turn), and factory closures in China and other manufacturing countries mean they may not be able to restock products easily.
Retailers who have been weathering the storm with greater fortitude have discussed production schedules with their manufacturers and have an idea of how COVID-19 is impacting their businesses.
From warehouse and store employees being affected by quarantine or illness, to an over-reliance on human intervention within inventory planning, the pandemic has uncovered existing vulnerabilities within retail supply chains.
Here are 3 areas of vulnerability to fortify during COVID-19.
1: People: Be clear on protocol for employee safety along the supply chain
Offering goods and services that delight customers and entice them to return should be the goal of all profitable retailers.
But the safety and well-being of customers, staff and the suppliers that are delivering goods to your warehouses is of first importance, especially during COVID-19.
Using the Retail Pro Prism app for your receiving operations will help your team maintain social distancing.
Advance ship notice (ASN) vouchers in Retail Pro will also help speed up the receiving process, reducing employee exposure.
Retailers weathering this storm should not assume suppliers are current on specific state and countries’ health and safety policies.
Instead, they should sponsor straight-forward discussion of expectations.
That makes delivery staff feel secure and shows the entire staff their safety is a priority.
For later reference, supporting documents should be sent via email or texts to reinforce the message and ensure compliance.
Having a direct and transparent approach will help ensure both an adequate product supply to serve customers as well as a healthy customer pipeline.
2: Process: Adapt your 80/20 to align supply with demand
Some retailers have created redundant supply chains to handle quick shifts in demand, adapting the 80/20 to source 80 percent of product for low cost and 20 percent for fast response.
Quick response with volatile demand can often be sourced more locally, even within the United States.
For each of those suppliers, a direct line of communication with a designated person is critical, as is understanding who their suppliers are.
Transparency is key.
Weekly check-ins help keep everyone on the same page, as policies affecting suppliers are rapidly changing, as are supply needs, state mandates and safety protocols.
When the interests and data of retailers, suppliers, and manufacturers in the supply chain are aligned, the decision-making of each works together to help to optimize the entire supply chain’s performance.
Vendor management tools in a POS and retail management software like Retail Pro Prism go a long way toward helping retailers keep up to date records on critical vendor information, including the following:
Account and payment terms
Currency defaults, especially for international suppliers
Special notes and product images
3: Product: Keep reevaluating inventory costs and allocations
Cost of goods sold is rising because vendors must account for the extra time and associated expenses that are accrued with no-contact delivery, purchases of masks and gloves, etc.
With a higher cost of inventory, the types and variety of products purchased must be regularly reevaluated.
COVID-19 has changed customers’ needs and preferences, so agile inventory strategies are required.
However, just-in-time strategies may seem risky at a time when vendor shipments are generally delayed.
Allocation patterns across stores will also need to be reevaluated to account for COVID-induced purchase variations.
Right now, retailers are seeing the value of integration between their retail management and enterprise resource planning software.
Such integrations, as between Retail Pro and SAP, allow for automated data exchange between the two tools so merchandise managers have up to date data unified in one picture of the entire business.
Fragmented data sources are always a cause for wider margins of error in ordering and allocation, but even more so during a pandemic when historical data is a less reliable source for forecasting.
A new study by WMG, University of Warwick, and Blue Yonder concludes that retailers must invest in creating supply chains with greater flexibility, visibility and automation: “Technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning will play a key role in helping retailers navigate future disruption, whilst still meeting customers’ expectations.”
In-depth and on-going analysis of recent shopping patterns will help retailers make more strategic decisions on product offerings, which will dictate inventory ordering.
Latent vulnerabilities existed in retailers’ supply chains prior to COVID-19 but the pandemic served to draw them out.
The added strain exposed and compounded weaknesses.
Addressing these three areas will help fortify the supply chain to last through the pandemic.
As conditions begin to plateau, retailers will be able to revisit these areas with more thought to long-term improvement.
Retailers more than ever before are faced with critically evaluating their inventory to curate a selection of products that will sell quickly and reduce their inventory costs.
The longer products sit on a shelf or in a warehouse, the faster their value decreases.
Carrying costs can be between 20 and 30 percent of inventory value, which indicates too much stock is simply taking up room and not providing revenue.
Capital costs are the largest portion and perhaps the greatest burden of carrying inventory; they include the investment made in acquiring goods and the interest lost when cash becomes inventory.
There are also storage costs and service costs.
And of course, there are risks with carrying inventory, primarily that the real value of the items will decrease while in storage, waiting to be sold.
1. Watch shopper demand
To streamline offerings, companies routinely weed out what’s not moving, and focus on products — and related items — that are popular.
One of the most efficient ways to determine exactly what customers are buying is by monitoring your inventory and sales data.
That provides the data necessary to determine what customers really want.
It can also help determine what they’ll want a few months down the road; investing in an analytics expert can be a cost-effective way of understanding and acting upon the information gathered.
Retailers tend to look at revenue as the primary metric of success or failure.
But knowing what drives those sales is equally important, because that information can help formulate a strategy for growth.
The additional analytics provide a more complete picture of a retailer’s health.
2. Audit store inventory
A complete audit includes more than an inventory count of both product on shelves and back stock, as it also can include a count of damaged products; assessments of in-store displays; planogram compliance (shelf location, number of SKUs, missing or inaccurate shelf tags).
Some retailers include a summary of competitors’ strategy as well as a look of their own roadmap.
Many retailers use point of sale software like Retail Pro to track current inventory, which is crucial in determining the right balance of products to carry.
POS software provides real-time inventory visibility and helps ensure the items are available in-store or for fulfillment of online orders.
It’s also important to confirm that data visually to have an exact idea of current stock.
While it may seem old-fashioned — and certainly not a replacement for today’s technology — performing a visual inspection could find an underlying reason for the slow sales, such as poor product placement on the retail floor.
Technology like RFID can help a retailer conduct physical inventory counts in hours rather than days.
Similarly, POS software can also help retailers identify product shrinkage, which may be easily remedied by physically relocating the item or by changing loss-prevention techniques.
3.Manage turnover ratio
By effectively managing the inventory turnover ratio, cash flow is optimized.
It provides feedback that the retailer is meeting customers’ needs, and results in maximized profits.
Even and especially the largest retailers need to be aware of their inventory situations and make their stock work for them.
Not only does that result in healthier revenue, but it also ensures more satisfied customers who know that what they come for is in stock.
Stores are starting to reopen across the world, and we are watching this very, very carefully.
We’re learning a ton of new things while watching what they are doing, because some of these stores are doing excellent business.
In some cases, they are exceeding last year’s numbers! Let’s take a look at what the most successful retailers are doing to make this happen.
Overall, you have to approach opening as if you were opening for the first time.
It has to have that level of excitement, that level of enthusiasm.
So my first, best advice to you is to get super pumped up about opening!
1. Store Presentation and Layout
This is the perfect time to reassess your store’s layout and shop-ability.
You certainly want to organize your store so your shoppers can maintain the proper social distance from each other and still see all the great merchandise you have in stock.
Here are some tips you can apply:
Start at the front door, and look inside your store as if you’re visiting for the first time. Can you see all the way to the back wall? Can you identify key areas that you want to go to to see the merchandise?
The most important real estate in your store is the immediate right. Do we have some of our best merchandise there?
Many stores are putting markers on the floor that direct people through the store, creating a path to follow, much like grocery stores or Ikea have done. The benefit of this is that when your shoppers walk the path, they can see merchandise they might not have seen. This is creating add-on sales!
As you walk the store, make sure your displays make people want to stop and check out the merchandise. Make the displays compelling with cross-merchandising, props, bundles, and multiple levels.
From each display that causes a shopper to linger, where will they go next? Merchandise your displays that lead the customer through the store, directing their eyes to the next great display of merchandise.
Signage is super important. Yes, you want to have signs that remind people to obey social distancing, but they don’t have to be negative or serious. A western apparel store put up signs that say, “There should be a cow’s distance between us!” Another store posted a sign that said, “If you can read the label on my jeans, then you’re too close!” Make it fun!
This is also a time to ensure you have excellent lighting that shows off and spotlights your great products.
For many years, I have said that marketing should have a two-word definition, which is “Creating Demand.”
That means that any messaging you send out, whether it be by email, social media, or texting, should first be checked to see if the message makes anyone want to come to the store or the website, or to find out more.
If it doesn’t, rework it until it does.
I think the best messaging for reopening is, “We are back, we are safe, and we are ready for you!” Customers need to feel like you are welcoming a long, lost friend to the store.
Show them in your videos (you ARE doing videos, right?) and posts how you are working hard to keep the store clean, safe, and fun.
There is a lot more activity in social media and emails now. More retail stores have had to quickly open up e-commerce sites, and the only way to promote those was to send out tons of social media posts and videos, and emails. So it’s noisier out there, and to compete you have to generate as much activity as everyone else. That means 2-3 emails per week, multiple posts on social media every day, and at least a couple of videos.
While I’m talking about videos, did you know that YouTube is the #2 search engine on the planet? That means that you need to have your own YouTube channel, post all your videos on there, and make sure you tag them properly so people can find and watch them, and want to come to your store.
I have to confess that up until recently, I was not doing much with hashtags in social media.
But I have come to learn that they are the best, most direct path to getting more customers to follow you.
That said, they have to be the RIGHT hash tags – in other words, “#clothing” is not going to help you, but “#darkwashskinnydenim” will.
Look at other stores and brands that you admire and take a look at their hashtags.
Incorporate those into your posts and see if they get you more likes and followers.
As you open your business, you’ll also need to give careful consideration to your staff’s needs and your personnel needs as well.
Keep in mind that with social distancing, you may not need as many people on the floor as you did previously. Also, your store may have different hours now. So first, consider what you really need in terms of floor coverage, and then deal with any employee issues.
Some of your staff may be reluctant to come back. It may be that they are scared of the virus and don’t want to return. It may also be that they are enjoying the extra money they’re getting while on unemployment. This is all understandable, but you cannot be held hostage this way. Retailers who have faced this have had to get new staff, and you may have to do the same.
The ones that do come back will need some additional training. First, they need to learn some new procedures in the store, especially regarding cleaning. We need to show customers that our stores are clean and safe, and so your employees will need to know how to clean and which areas to clean. Of special concern for apparel retailers is the dressing room. It needs to be cleaned between visitors, and I would recommend posting a log inside the dressing room that shows how often the dressing has been cleaned.
Staff will also need to be trained on how to sell from 6 feet away. How do they still engage with customers, make recommendations, and lead them to the purchase? Certainly, one of the things I think they’ll need to work on is how to move the conversation from the awfulness of this pandemic, to positive things. It’s something they need to drill before you open.
The politics of salesmanship are yet another challenge we have to get past.
Scroll through social media for 2 minutes and you’ll see tons of divergent opinions about how this whole situation should be handled.
Some of your customers are going to be worried about being out. Make sure they feel warmly welcomed, and make sure they see that you are cleaning the store, that you are safe, and that it’s OK to be there.
Other customers will want to completely ignore that there is a virus at all. Be careful about any customers who do not obey social distancing, for this reason only: you could freak out other customers who see it, and that could get you a nasty scene on the sales floor, or a nasty online review.
Lots of stores are stepping up sales by setting appointments to visit the store. An appointment is almost a guaranteed sale, because you wouldn’t make an appointment unless you had a strong interest in buying product, right?
Products that are touched by customers need to be cleaned. Garments that have been tried on need to be steamed, and everything needs to get looked at to ensure safety. This is part of what your employees need to show customers on the floor – that we are safe, and the merchandise can and should be touched!
We are seeing a large variety of methods of selling right now. It’s a broad topic and way beyond the scope of this post.
The most important thing I can tell you is that we’re all learning how to sell in this new era, and there will be lots of tips and tricks coming.
Frankly, the absolute most important thing in this blog post is a discussion of your merchandise.
Having the right merchandise is the key to your survival.
First, look at your Spring merchandise. We think Spring will be extended by a month or so, since people have not seen a lot of the merchandise you received when then lockdowns started. Look carefully at what you have and what’s on order. Talk to your vendors and find out if they still have goods and negotiate for discounts on whatever they have left, but only if your Open to Buy plan (you do have one of those, right?) tells you that you need it.
Fall goods could be tricky. We’re already hearing that many manufacturers are not able to produce their typical Fall production because of the shutdown. Start talking to your vendors about Fall and see who can and cannot ship, and how that will affect your assortment plan.
Most importantly, you need a sales plan that you believe in, coupled with an inventory plan that enables you to turn goods even faster than you ever have. In all of our merchandise planning and open to buy planning, we are putting together models that ensure positive cash flow through proper sales forecasting using algorithms and artificial intelligence. Cash was always king, but now, it’s super-king. Make sure you have a solid plan to get you through the rest of this year!
One last thing, which is really, really from my heart. I believe in independent retail. I believe in you. Every politician says that small business is the backbone of our economy, and that’s true.
That said, small businesses are the people who build communities, who take leadership roles to give everyone a better life.
To that degree, you are more than the backbone of the economy, you are the backbone of society itself.
As such, your survival is hugely important!
And you can do it, if you apply these first tips that I’ve listed here.
So go for it. Make it happen, for you, your family, your community, and for the future for all of us.
We all stand with you, and we’re cheering you on!
Get the retail reopening checklist
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One of the most difficult things for a retailer is understanding what items to have in-store and which could be successfully handled in online as part of an endless aisle strategy.
For brick and mortar retailers, physical in-store space is finite, and what’s available must be used effectively.
That is particularly challenging as brick and mortar retailers face the vast breadth of inventory that ecommerce competitors offer.
However, sometimes that enormous ocean of product can overwhelm customers.
Get insight into inventory
Traditional retailers can augment what’s in-store with online offerings, but one of the highlights of being brick and mortar is the ability to offer “look and feel” in a curated environment.
The “inner sanctum” of any retail store is the inventory area.
Making the most of that space will save any retailer money.
Storing inventory and supplies in a warehouse comes at a cost, especially if it eats away at display/retail space. Off-site inventory incurs rental and transportation costs, as well.
However, retailers must have “the right” inventory on hand so shoppers don’t leave stores empty-handed.
Retail inventory management keeps the backend in line with the front-end’s needs.
Good retail management software helps you see:
The quantities of each product in stock
A sense of when reordering is necessary
The number of items that should be ordered regularly
Best selling items
Items that are unpopular
The amount of inventory on-hand is adequate
If overstocking is a concern
If your inventory space is not big enough
Getting a handle on inventory management affects a business’ bottom-line, allowing it not only to continue operating, but also to grow.
Without a strong inventory management process, it’s easy to lose track of stock.
Mismanaged items are more easily stolen and seem to vanish without a trace – precisely because there is no traceability.
In a worst-case scenario, a retailer spends money on unknowingly replacing stolen goods, while paying to store an item that was ordered to replace a product that was never actually sold.
Additionally, not having a firm grasp on inventory levels can also mean running out of stock more easily, missing sales opportunities.
Today, many retailers offer a buy online, pickup in store option.
Not having inventory in sync with on-hand counts is a customer experience disaster.
In addition to keeping accurate inventory numbers, some stock management can be handled within the product displays.
The cost of storage depends upon the amount of inventory needed to be stored.
Planograms, or the blueprint of a store’s layout, can help retailers improve sales with visual merchandising.
Digitize the in-store experience
Today’s shoppers are used to a much higher level of convenience, choice and accessibility than in the past, because of the influence ecommerce has had on retail.
Therefore, it’s important for stores to “digitize” by providing personal recommendations, customer reviews and increased assortments, so that when customers enter a physical store, their expectations are met.
Planograms help to arrange merchandise in a way that catches the customer’s eye, organizing in a way that provides more room on your shelves, and helps estimate how much to place on the sales floor.
Brick and mortar retailers should focus on effective use of inventory space.
Too much is as detrimental as too little.
By employing retail management technology to count and manage products, they can offer what customers want, when they want it, while maintaining a healthy profit margin.
Retail Pro International (RPI) is a global leader in retail management software that is recognized world-wide for rich functionality, multi-national capabilities, and unparalleled flexibility. For over 25 years, RPI has innovated retail software solutions to help retailers optimize business operations and have more time to focus on what really matters - cultivating customer engagement and capitalizing on retail's trends. Retail Pro is the chosen software platform for omni-channel strategy by retailers in 130+ countries.