Resolve to review all aspects of your business in 2019
The Babylonians started using it more than 4,000 years ago. Maybe you think I mean the “sexagesimal” system — the numbering scheme we use to tell time today. I’m really referring to the practice of declaring New Year’s resolutions. It’s been said the Babylonians set annual goals to appease the gods. I dare say that, like ours today, some of those resolutions were kept, some failed and some were recycled the next year.
Now that 2018 is behind us, have you set New Year’s resolutions for your store? How did you do with last year’s resolutions? On a personal level, we often set our resolutions by examining our own weaknesses. What has changed in the marketplace or in your store over the past year that points out areas of opportunity? Let’s look at just a few aspects of your store that might warrant new resolutions.
Review financing options
Do you need to make changes to consumer financing options? There has been an explosion of new players in the lease-to-own arena along with new, alternative online financing options. Financing continues to be important in the retail furniture business. Take the time to review the financing options available to your customers and compare them to what your competitors provide. Today’s customers are being offered creative financing options across all types of categories. Did you know that Expedia Travel customers can now finance their travel expenses over time with online financing companies?
There is hardly an online e-tailer that doesn’t have primary financing providers along with alternative financing options for credit-challenged customers. Take the time to review your programs and compare them to competitors, both brick-and-mortar and online. You might be surprised at what you learn. If this is the year to renew contracts with financing providers, you may want to resolve to shop the marketplace like never before.
Is your merchandise assortment still the same old, same old? Your customers today are seeing new shapes, colors and styles in a variety of new venues. Home improvement and home reality shows bring the fresh looks, colors and styles to the forefront of customers’ minds. Does your merchandise assortment resemble a closetful of outdated styles, fabrics, colors and, in my case, sizes I will never fit into again? Keeping your store fresh with new looks, while keeping your steady sellers and sprinkling in some special purchases, is no small task. Resolve in 2019 to shop not only your competitors but to visit online e-tailer sites to see what your customers may be seeing. Commit to visiting new manufacturers in Las Vegas, High Point or whatever market you shop for new ideas, even if they seem out of your normal realm.
Up your experience game
What is your customer experiencing in your store? In my opinion, this category could be voted the most important to examine. New experiences, such as online grocery shopping with curbside pickup, means many of us never have to step foot in the grocery store unless we want to. Consumers are seeking many new and convenient experiences.
Thankfully, there still seems to be a need for furniture shoppers to touch, feel and try before making a buying decision. I am buoyed by an influx of new big-box retailers entering my home market and equally amazed at the forward thinking of the customer experience they present. Some are touting no-pressure and no-stalking commissioned sales staff to make sure their customers enjoy the shopping experience. Are you regularly having your store checked out by secret shoppers, both in store and on the phone? These processes and the information revealed can be reassuring and frightening all at once. Are you looking at online reviews because you’re bored or to gain insights and information? One retailer I know with more than a dozen stores told me he starts every day by looking at all new customer reviews and his employees’ responses. He said it is the most important thing that he does. Think about that.
How is employee morale? Every one of your resolutions can be reinforced or undermined by the attitudes of your employees. These attitudes directly impact your customers. Maintaining discipline with performance reviews and feedback sessions will allow you to keep your ear to the ground to uncover employee issues. If you are not measuring your turnover/retention rate, then resolve to do so this year. Over time, this data will help you set standards and expectations for employees. A local roofing company where I live regularly promotes the fact that 80 percent of its employees have worked there for more than 20 years!
Hiring and training employees is expensive. Steady turnover strains your core employees. In today’s low-unemployment environment, hiring, training and retaining employees takes time and dedication. Keeping the band together is good for your customers and your store.
Studies have shown that most failed resolutions for individuals stem from unrealistic or unmeasured goal-setting. Those same studies show that resolutions made in the beginning of the year have a greater rate of success than those set at other times. So here’s to the New Year! Let’s move forward in 2019 with renewed spirits and realistic resolutions.