Friday, May 25, 2007

Green Days are coming

The world is going green- and I don't mean with Kermit the frog movies and videos. In today's media, it seems every article out there about consumer trends and buying patterns involves some element of saving the environment for the next generation and buying environmentally and eco-friendly products. The press continually talks about this "green" trend as being consumer driven and thus, a money making opportunity for all who are affiliated with servicing consumers in today's market. The question is, have you thought about it for your store?

Today's Retail Forward news (this is a wonderful free newsletter chock full of retail information- sign up for it now had a great article regarding manufacturers who are now creating products to meet this new consumer demand for green and environmentally friendly products- and who are making money because of it. (read more

All this talk begs the question for all of you retailers out there----Have you thought about this new trend and what it might mean as a business opportunity for your store?

If you are a women's apparel store, are you carrying (or at least testing) some new "eco-friendly" designers?
If not, spend some time researching the market and be sure to add them to your stop by list at the next market you attend.

Do you own or run a gift store? Have you thought about carrying some reusuable shopping bags-- perhaps even ones with your store logo on them? I could go on and on, but you get the point.

What is the Retailer Call to Action here? Consumers are driving many parts of the new "green retail machine" Don't get caught in the back of the pack- take the lead on this and watch your sales grow because of it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Women Entrepreneurs Rock!

Last week, I had the pleasure of reviewing business plans at a formal competition for one of my favorite women's business organizations in Boston. The Center for Women and Enterprise ( whose mission is to empower women to become economically self sufficient and prosperous thru entreprenuership, was finishing up another one of their fabulous training classes and I was to review and make comments about the plans presented.

This business plan review came at the end of a 13 week training session that CWE sponsors to teach women (and yes, there were a few men in the room) various aspects of entrepreneurship. My task was to review the business plans for viablity and give some comments/suggestions to the budding entreprenuers as they looked to get funding for the business or as they began to launch their ventures.

What I found was amazing. These women (and men) had so much passion for their new businesses and it came thru loud and clear in their delivery. What they may have lacked in previous business ownership or professional business endeavors was more than made up for their drive and desire to see their own businesses succeed.

While listening to the presentations, I found myself thinking about my most successful clients and how they completely understand their market, their target customers and their competition. The successful retailers I work with understand how critical the marketing and brand message is to a profitable business and that the marketing efforts for any business must be painstakingly detailed to have an effective outcome.

While some of the plans I reviewed were quite detailed, many of them were light in their planning for the marketing of their business- They missed the message that all the successful retailers I work with know--effective marketing requires planning and a sustained effort in order to succeed.

I offered a few suggestions to the group about how to improve their overall research and marketing efforts for their businesses-

1) Do a good job of researching your industry-- know the business trends-- is it going to get bigger in the next 5 years? If not, shift your niche-- nobody should be entering into a declining market-- but know what you are getting in to --

2) KNOW YOUR COMPETITION- and this includes the INTERNET-- it's not enough to know all the local businesses in the surrounding towns-- the internet is a competitor for your customers retail dollars and you must be aware of pricing thru this method of retail operation.

3) Good marketing doesn't have to cost a fortune today- in fact, it's less than ever before- a good email marketing campaign can reach 2000 or 20000 potential customers for less than $150 per month! How about that for saving on postage! Find out how.

4) A good marketing campaign must be delivered repeatedly to be successful- I can't tell you how many of the business plans I reviewed said they were going to run ONE big grand opening ad-- If that is all you are going to do, don't waste your money- hire a guy with a large sign to stand out on the road and flag down passers by. That will do more than running one ad in the newspaper one time! It needs to be a coordinated effort-- and for a sustained period of time to be really effective.

I could go on, but I think you get the message- Don't make the same mistakes with your business-- plan now for your business to succeed- focus on a comprehensive brand and marketing message that will target the consumers you WANT and not spend money on a campaign that misses the mark--

Check out all the great classes at CWE in the month of June- if you live near Boston, Providence or Worcester- add this organization to your network today!,com_extcalendar/Itemid,36/extmode,cal/date,2007-06-01/

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Cash in on your Niche

Cash in on your Niche

How can independent retailers compete with the big-box giants today? One phrase sums it up- Product is King. Selling products that are unique in nature, offering your customers a fair value for the prices you charge, and by managing the inventory of these products so as to avoid costly end of season markdowns will do just the trick.

Every retailer today knows the value of a dollar. The old phrase, cash is king has never been truer than with the independent retailer community today. Paying attention to daily and weekly sales to assure that there's money in the bank to meet payroll and other expenses, or on building a cash balance during the busy season to get you through the slower times is just as critical as finding the perfect piece to sell.

Obviously, there are many factors that determine whether a small retailer is meeting, or exceeding, its cash requirements and building cash balances on an ongoing basis. But for most, the cash profile of the business can be traced directly back to a series of fundamental decisions on how the store is positioned in the marketplace.

Independent retailers have the ability to maximize sales by responding quickly to customer needs, while offering one on one customer service. Big-box retailers on the other hand (known as category killers for their ability to single handedly drive down prices and create a “commodity” price mentality on almost every item they sell) are less fluid in nature- short of their capability to lower their prices on a dime. Big Boxer’s understand that for these many items, the vast majority of shoppers today are highly price sensitive.

This is where the independent retailer can step in. They must find products to carry in their stores that are not “commodity” but are “quality” and thus resistant to the pricing deflation that is occurring against the big box retailers. There is a growing segment of the consumer market that is indeed looking for unique niche products of high quality sold by a salesperson that is deeply knowledgeable about how that product works.

The lesson here? Independent retailers should avoid competing on the basis of price, because there will always be a competitor with larger, deeper pockets who will be able to undercut you. Competing on the basis of product quality, product knowledge, and customer service enables a small retailer to present to their customers a compelling value proposition and maintain critical price integrity.

Back in the saddle

Just getting back to the blog--- sorry for the delay hope you enjoy-- lets keep the dialogue going ok?