The face of retail has changed so much over the past few years. So I've come up with my own A to Z for successful independent retailing.
A is for Advertising: Whether you consider it an enhanced form of communication or merely manipulation, most of us consider it necessary for our businesses. In fact, I could write a whole article just on advertising come to think of it...
B is for Budgets: I'm on safer ground here. If you don't have a budget then you might get a nasty shock. This happens when you haven't done your sums right, and it turns out that all your profit is tied up in your stock room!
C is for Credit: Be nice to your suppliers and you can negotiate favourable credit terms.
D is for Define your niche: OK, so I've pulled that one a bit, but if you don't define your niche you can end up chasing any opportunity that presents itself, which often results in a mismatch of styles, stock and confused customers.
E is for Employees: Sooner or later you're going to have some. Start off with contracts and write everything down - this will save you a lot of heartache.
F is for fashion: Also known as trends. It is the cyclical law of nature that as things go up, they come down. Fashion reinvents itself each and every season. While giftware doesn't follow quite so rapidly, it can still become obsolete, so read magazines, visit tradeshows and generally do anything else that can keep you up to date with what's going on in your market.
G is for Gift Vouchers: A fabulous way for happy customers to let family and friends know what they'd like from your store.
H is for Happy face: There's nothing worse than a miserable face behind the counter. Be pleasant and make sure that your staff are. Why not employ a mystery shopper to independently grade your service. Remember that most people leave a business because they just don't feel valued or recognised.
I is for Infectious enthusiasm: Yours specifically! To lead a team you must be enthusiastic. If you have no team and its just you and the customers then you still need to be enthusiastic (see previous letter)
J is for Just looking: You're going to hear that a lot! Rather than asking the age old dumb question - "Do you need any help?" Perhaps you could instead ask a better question - such as, for example - Have you seen our new collection of X....? At the very least you won't get the just looking answer.
K is for keyword search: In our technological age, make sure your store comes up under your chosen keywords.
L is for Loss prevention: People will try to steal from you - Don't make it easy. Look for blind spots and instill good security habits as a key part of your staff training.
M is for Marketing: Marketing is anything and everything you do to promote your business.
N is for Newsletter: A great tool for communicating with your customers, reminding them that you're still there, that you have new stock in and putting a more human face on your business.
O is for Operations Manual: You'll definitely need one of these as soon as you have your first employee, you'll notice that they don't do things like you do...! That's why you need the operations manual - it says how things should be done, in which order, when and by who.
P is for Price: The all important question, how much to charge? My tuppence worth is that someone will always undercut you, so unless you are a pound shop, it's worth defining other areas as the USP for your business - service, stock, knowledge, design for example.
Q is for Quest: Q is a hard one! I chose Quest because I see it as a positive word, a go getting word. Quest implies striving, searching and constant improvement.
R is for Relationships: With your suppliers, your staff, the local council, the local media, and the wine bottle when its not going so good! Invest some time and make them as good as possible (with the exception of the wine bottle!)
S is for Sales: Selling is a combination of art and science. Time invested in studying the psychology of selling is never wasted. Remember to sell benefits, not products, and always answer the oldest question "What's in it for me?"
T is for Technology: You can't avoid it. So you might as well take a few courses and work out what tasks you need technology to do for you.
U is for Uniform: Are you going to have one or are you confident that everyone else shares your good taste and style?
V is for vision: Think about it, articulate it, print it and make a bit deal about it!
X is for Xtra: OK, I stretched that one a bit. But every self employed person I know does more than a bit extra. Extra hours, extra jobs, extra learning, extra training. you get the idea.
Y is for You: the one that generates the vision, the standards and delivers on it!
Z is for Zero Tolerance: To anything that falls below standard, it's so easy to slide as standards slip imperceptibly, but standards are what set businesses apart