Marketing, merchandising, management, PR, and big-box competitors – these are just some of the challenges that come with being an independent retailer. The Insider gives you solutions to your most common pain points so you can spend less time problem-solving and more time growing your business.
You’ve likely heard the saying, “No pain, no gain.” It’s one that rings particularly true for retailers! Running your own business isn’t easy, but the rewards of being an independent retailer sure are worth it.
No one wants to embrace pain unless it’s necessary, though, so to help avoid some retail pain points in the coming year, we’ve tackled three of the most common.
Pain Point #1: Juggling The 3 M’s of Retail
We’ve written about the 3 M’s of running a retail store: Marketing. Merchandising. Management. It’s a mouthful just to say these things, not to mention actually doing them. For starters, there’s never an end point. Marketing should be ongoing, merchandising rarely has a pause point, and management permeates everything you do. How do you stay on top of it all? By staying organized and carefully managing your time:
Allocate specific times during each week for necessary details. Put them directly in your email calendar so you have that time set aside and receive a notification each week. Mentally making yourself unavailable for other tasks will keep you in the habit of regularly addressing details.
Delegate what you can. Yes, it takes more time to train an employee on a task you can easily do yourself, but taking the time once will free up your time to tackle other projects.
Accept flexibility into your schedule. Retail is full of surprises! ‘Fires’ rarely have ideal timing and something may require your immediate attention ahead of what you had scheduled. Allowing yourself the flexibility to juggle unexpected tasks alongside your routine will help you stay afloat without letting the details slip through the cracks.
By creating a schedule, delegating smaller tasks and remaining flexible, you’re more likely to stay on track with necessary marketing efforts, routine merchandising goals, and management of both employees and your own time.
Pain Point #2: Gaining Publicity for Your Business
There’s a misconception that because press is technically free, it’s easy to get. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth. As a small business owner, you are stretched thin with time when it comes to operating your store – which often means not being able to do all the things you want to do for your business, including seek out regular press.
To help take control of your publicity, remind yourself why it’s valuable to your brand. Among the reasons publicity is so vital for independent merchants is that allows your business to compete with big-box rivals by keeping your story top-of-mind among customers. Additionally, press positions your store and even yourself as a go-to-destination among your local community. This enhances customer support and as a result, sales.
Finally, remember that the media influences consumers – so make sure you are not only familiar, but friendly with relevant editors. Aim to please when it comes to nurturing media relationships by giving them timely, well-organized information, including photos. Your reward? More frequent, less difficult press received.
Here are a few tips for communicating with the press:
Create a one-sheet of your important company information. Including your store name as you would like it to appear in articles, your store’s founding year, your preferred title, and a quick history of your business. The less you rely on email or calls back-and-forth to verify information about your company details, the less likely editors are to make a mistake.
Go ahead and reach out. You don’t need to have a PR agency to develop relationships with relevant editors, and you don’t always even need to reach out with a story idea to stay top-of-mind. A short message that liked a piece they wrote will be remembered and appreciated.
Set realistic expectations. Even at small publications, editors receive hundreds of emails a day. Be persistent, but balance the value of an article against the effort you put in. Announcements like a new store location or a consumer event are easier stories for editors to publish right away than a feature story.
Pain Point #3: Big Box Competitors
Let’s face it – big box competition, whether online or offline, isn’t going anywhere. So what are smaller merchants to do? For starters, don’t fight it. Stressing over your big box competitors doesn’t help you, although strategically planning to compete against them can.
One key area to narrow in on is customer loyalty. By focusing on how you can retain customers who have already expressed an interest in your business by having previously purchased something from you, you are better equipped to build long-term, more lucrative relationships with these consumers.
Customer service at large can be something you can aim to improve upon, as well, since many big box stores don’t excel at this and even those that do can’t compete with the unique care smaller retailers can deliver. Using your size to your advantage, leverage customer relationships and the care you give consumers to help strengthen your store in competing against your big box competitors.
Finally, embrace challenges as opportunities to improve your business. Being a small, independent retail presents you with many perks and many hurdles, as well. Take each step in stride, reflecting on what you can do to maintain the strengths in your business while aiming to ease the challenges you will undoubtedly face. Turns out, that old saying “no pain, no gain” just may be your recipe for success in 2017.
Nicole Leinbach Reyhle is the Publisher of Retail Minded Magazine, Co-Founder of the Independent Retailer Conference (takes place inside ASD!) and a regular contributor to Forbes. Reyhle is the Author of , “Retail 101: The Guide to Managing and Marketing Your Retail Business,” from McGraw-Hill and has been the Spokesperson for Small Business Saturday from American Express since 2014. Follow Reyhle on Twitter at @RetailMinded.