Tag Archives: Retail

The Truth About Retail Sales Reporting

Retail sales during the  Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season are followed by the news media very closely.  This is because consumer spending is a key economic barometer and the annual holiday season accounts for a large  percentage of total annual retail sales. Some estimates are that the fourth quarter retail sales account for more than 30% of total retail sales reported by department stores, specialty stores and mass merchandisers. The percentages can vary widely. For example December sales for jewelry stores account for 23% of the total annual sales.

“This November, (same-store) sales are going to be incredibly important to gauge the state of consumer spending, and thus fourth-quarter earnings and stock trajectory, and it’s also an important statement about the economic recovery,” said Deutsche Bank analyst Bill Dreher.

Comments like this from Bill and others may not be accurate.  I learned how to analyze retail performance from experts responsible for running multi-billion dollar international businesses.  These lessons helped me tremendously in operating my own retail business and in my business consulting work with other retail companies.  Consider the following:

Same Store Sales Can Be Very Misleading

Same store sales are when you compare the sales in one period, for example November, with the sales from that same location the previous year. Seems simple enough but it is not always straight forward. For example, consider one store.  What is your conclusion if the store just opened the first of  November last year or if a major competitor closed a location near you this year?  There are many variables that can affect same store sales and you have to be careful in knowing you have true comparability.

Consider 2009, the same store sales that will be reported this year are being compared to 2008 which is considered one of  the weakest retail sales periods ever. At the company level a moderate increase in same store sales this year may not be a reason to celebrate except that of course it is better than a decline.  Regardless of the results, retailers must go deeper than looking at the aggregate numbers.  They must keep “peeling back  the onion” until the lowest common denominator is evaluated and that is at the item level.

Same Store Sales Are Not A Direct Indicator of Profits

Many retailers promote heavily in the holiday season. This is part of the marketing funnel.  Hot items sold at or below cost  are used as lead generators.  The Internet has educated shoppers on finding the best deals.  This has resulted in  add on sales  dropping which means more of the sales being reported on a monthly basis have lower profit margins.

Keys To Successful Retailing In This Economy

First point is the foundation of  a profitable business in any industry is largely the same.  Companies make money when they offer what people want at a profitable price.  In retail, customers often want a shopping experience that goes beyond price. For example, a recent testimonial from a customers experience on Black Friday demonstrated the success of a much smaller retailer with this customer vs. the major competitor. While having a slightly lower price for the laptop offered, the major retailer did not have any “unallocated laptops”   at 5 in the morning even though the item was heavily promoted. On top of that the crowds there were not pleasant to navigate.  The competing smaller chain, had inventory available and a more pleasant shopping experience.  So you know who got the business and a repeat customer.

Off line, location is increasingly important as well as the overall appearance inside and outside.  Large retailers win the game store by store.  When demographics and traffic patterns change, and they always are, the store needs to change as well.

Customer shopping experience is major for building customer loyalty.  This is mostly how customers are treated by staff when shopping.  This is the one area where many retailers fail.  There are great examples of customer service but they are not the norm.  On line, ease of navigation, speed of checkout and access to customer service are key. Many retailers with web sites pay little attention to the customer service that is needed.  People have questions and at times returns or exchanges may be needed. How this is handled is key.

Have you noticed the most ridiculous new message you get when calling larger customer support lines?  It goes something like this: “Due to heavy call volume, your wait may be longer than normal. Many questions can be answered at our web site.”  I don’t know about you but when I hear that message, which I do with increasing frequency, I think …this company has problems.

At The End of The Day, Profit Must Be Made

As a business consultant and coach, I always look to the profit trends and what is the practical near term strategy for strengthening profits.  Every  business must earn a profit to survive and grow.   There is always an opportunity to improve business performance.  It requires defining the performance targets then establishing  a disciplined process for meeting or exceeding those targets.  That process always works when the process is worked.

Sending you energy of health, happiness, prosperity

Steve Pohlit

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About: Steve Pohlit is a CPA,MBA and has been the CFO of several major domestic and international companies.  Steve is a business owner and an expert business consultant focused on building profits and net asset value. He is very experienced with Internet marketing and social media marketing.  All articles published by Steve unless specifically restricted may be freely published with this resource information.

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Comments On The WSJ August Retail Sales

The Headline Reads: Retailers Report Weak Sales For August (Click For The Story) Then highlight is:

“Industrywide, same-store sales fell for a 12th straight month — highlighting the woes retailers have been under as consumer spending continues to decline.”

Then there is discussion as to what will happen this holiday season as well as the impact of the clunker program. This is followed by reports of what key public companies in the retail industry reported. Remember there is a lot that is not reported. Also remember, economic recovery is driven by consumer spending and there is little evidence that is strengthening.

The point made that I commented on was that going forward the monthly same store comparisons will look better because you are comparing against increasingly weak numbers from last year as retailers tanked in the fall of 2008. Here is what I wrote:

The comparison may show less dramatic declines and even a greater number of positive percentages when current year sales are compared against months last year when retailers began to experience sharp declines. Those may be feel good metrics. However, the key is what are the volumes and margins that are planned in connection with an acceptable profit plan and how are actual revenue and profits doing against that?

Typically that information is a bit more difficult to extract. The well run retailers have a profit plan by location that is based on category proformas. The key is to be profitable at each location and in each category within that location. I still see very little advancement in the use of direct response marketing and social media marketing. Tools and technology that have been readily available and proven to work for quite some time.

There is a lot of the “same ol same ol” and that is not going to work in an economic climate likely to be very soft for quite awhile.

Steve Pohlit
http://newdigitalmediainc.com
http://stevepohlit.com

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This Restaurant Industry Headline Is No Surprise

“The Restaurant Industry suffered Its Worst Quarterly Decline In Customer Traffic In 28 years In the Second Quarter 2009”

I love the retail industry and I consider restaurants part of that overall industry. I recognize restaurants are distinguished in the financial press for reporting purposes.  I also recognize that if you are a restaurant then you should be studying how you are doing in comparison to others.

The business of retail is so much fun because there is a tremendous amount of valuable information available and generally with the volume of customer traffic, you can test just about anything and receive feedback quickly as to whether it is working or not.  In retail the most energy should be devoted to marketing and in all fairness it usually is.  No whether that marketing is effective or not is a topic of debate. My view is that it isn’t and the view of the people dong it is that it is.

That brings us back to the overall results reported for the Second Quarter of 2009.  I wrote that the decline is written in a headline like it is a surprise.  Many may be thinking my view was based on the state of the economy with unemployment still running high and consumer confidence still running low. But actually my view is based on dismal failure of restaurants to pay close attention to the details of what is important to customers.

To support my view, I look at the exceptions. Here is one reported on by Fare Magazine. That exception is Panera Bread. They  have not cut prices, they have not gone promotional and the company continues to grow profitably. Click Here for the complete article.

There is always value in studying what is working for others and, for that matter what isn’t. Look within your industry and outside of your industry.  I forget what bank was the first, but I remember the story of a bank president looking at the success of drive thru windows in the fast food industry.  He tried in banking and it rapidly became very successful.

In any economy there are always companies that do well and those that fail.  The ones that do well are those who consistently pay attention to the details important to their customers.  This is the value exchange principle.  The more value I give you the more you are willing to pay for it.

Sharing with all my readers the energy of peace, happiness and abundance

Steve Pohlit, Expert Business Consulting

Email Me, Steve Pohlit to schedule A No Obligation Consultation On Building Your Business Profits.Need more customers? Let’s discuss how to use cutting edge Social Media Marketing in the revenue building cycle of your business to drive your profits sky high. If  your company is not growing revenue and profits,  if your company is not cash flow positive Click Here for more information about Turnaround Consulting Services for Business In Crisis

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About: Steve Pohlit is a CPA,MBA and has been the CFO of several major domestic and international companies.  Steve is business owner and an expert business consultant, direct response and social media marketing  and social networking security expert . Steve is  focused on helping companies improve their business performance. All articles published by Steve unless specifically restricted may be freely published with this resource information.

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Retail Industry News: The Sky Is Falling

Another article today in the Wall Street Journal and I am sure there are many other headlines as well about the state of the retail industry right now with retail companies dumping inventory at deep discount pricing, concerns about liquidity and credit not being available for doing deals (mergers and acquisitions)

I am not denying the specific examples cited in these stories. Circuit City is real, Pilgrim’s Pride is real and I am sure there are other bankruptcy filings today in the private sector. The real issues is leadership mindset.

I published the following comment in the Wall Street Journal today in response to an article “Retail Faces A Long Season of Stress” My response is relevant for all companies and entrepreneurs regardless of the industry:
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Many companies have developed their culture to focus on building a positive value added relationship with their customers and prospective customers. These businesses will feel much less of an impact of a global economic softening than others. Some will thrive. The operative phrase is cultural change.

Regarding credit markets and consolidation in the industry, credit constraints are real. However, it is also true there is capital available and if a deal makes strategic sense, it can get done.

Our most immediate challenge is mindset. We are tested in our ability to look for opportunities and solutions when media focuses on every possible negative story. Those who succeed with a consistent mindset that they can move forward successfully, will do so.

There are countless examples throughout history, including the depression era, of people moving forward and not being stuck. Mindset is a choice for each of us and is not a result of external events.

 

Sharing with all my readers the energy of peace, happiness and abundance

Steve Pohlit,
The Profit Expert
www.StevePohlit.com

Network with me on Facebook: LinkedIn: Follow me on Twitter

Steve is the President of International Business Consulting Resources. His firm specializes in guiding companies to rapid increases in revenue and profits with a sustainable growth rate. Don’t miss my FREE Report: How To Make More Money With Your Business Now and Long Term I am building my practice and welcome new client inquiries. Call me for a fee consultation at 727-587-7871

This report may be freely distributed without restrictions with the original content including this resource box remaining unchanged. Author: Steve Pohlit, Business Consulting Services, Executive Coaching, please visit www.stevepohlit.com

PS. My doors are open for new clients and referrals are well compensated.

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Social Networking: Response To WSJ Marketing In The World of The Web

Tom and Michael’s article “Marketing In The World of The Web”  is excellent work pointing to the changing landscape of retail marketing. The high rate of growth for the social networking sites is surprising many. Naturally strategies to recognize these trends are in the experimental phase. 

 

My own research into social networking was launched by becoming very active on a number of sites. My experience has been very enlightening. The guidance I offer as a result of this experience is actually very similar to when the Internet was in its infancy: “Make best use of the tools that become available. Continually test to determine which applications work best for your business. The primary goal as it relates to building revenue is to continually strengthen positive relationships with your customers and prospective customers. Use technology to assist in achieving that objective. Relationships are key as they will confirm what you are doing right and what you can be doing better.”

 

Social networking appears to be great resource for building relationships. Ultimately a social networking strategy needs to be linked to the point of purchase. If you are largely selling on line you should have an aggressive program to build a strong social network. This recommendation becomes progressively stronger when your on line customer base is international.  I recommend one of your most experienced and talented marketing professionals be in charge with the sole objective of linking your social networking strategy to the goal of further achieving the customer relationship objective. There is a huge integration opportunity.  

 

Harley Davidson was mentioned in the article. Harley is a great brand. They will and should continue to strengthen the brand. Their opportunity is to build a tighter connection with their dealers in the marketplace from the eyes of the customer and potential customer. The social networking value in this example is generally solidified within a market and ultimately by the dealer. Again another integration opportunity with strong customer and prospective customer relationships being the goal.

 

So the landscape is changing but I don’t think the underlying fundamentals are. Develop customer loyalty and those customers are your most significant asset with your prospective customer. Communication is key in executing that strategy. Social networking makes it that much easier to communicate.

 

Sending all my readers the energy of wellness, peace and abundance

Steve Pohlit,
The Profit Expert
www.StevePohlit.com

Network with me on Facebook: LinkedIn: Follow me on Twitter

Steve is the President of International Business Consulting Resources. His firm specializes in guiding companies to rapid increases in revenue and profits with a sustainable growth rate. Don’t miss my FREE Report: How To Make More Money With Your Business Now and Long Term I am building my practice and welcome new client inquiries. Call me for a fee consultation at 727-587-7871

This report may be freely distributed without restrictions with the original content including this resource box remaining unchanged. Author: Steve Pohlit, Business Consulting Services, Executive Coaching, please visit www.stevepohlit.com

PS. My doors are open for new clients and referrals are well compensated.

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5 Steps To Stop Insane Management From Driving Business Into The Ground

As a reminder the popular definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over and expecting the different  results”. Most companies continue to do business the same way and blame the economy and high gas prices on their declining business results when they should be looking in the mirror. There seems to be a strong undercurrent of “I am waiting for somebody to do something vs. I am responsible.”

The operative word here is most. There are sectors of the economy that have been hit by current conditions. I will leave that analysis to economist and academics. They have a lot more expertise in such matters and enjoy the intellectual debates of cause and effect. I have a laser beam focus on what individual companies can and should be doing to achieve their potential.

I am excluding from this article any company who is in serious cash flow difficulty. When a business gets to that point, crisis management… turnaround expertise is needed. MY firm International Resources does that work and we are very good at it. I always advise if you are in that situation, call me or a firm like mine right now as time is of the essence. My direct line is 727-587-7871.

What are “The 5 Steps To Stop Insane Management From Driving Business Into The Ground?”

1. Have a very clear profit plan at each line item of business performance. Measure actual performance against plan and have clear accountability for achieving the plan line item by line item. To implement this you must have timely, accurate and relevant information. No excuses…must have.

2. When people who are accountable for line item performance consistently fail to meet the stated goals, replace them. Period!

3. The number one function in a business that will be the subject of most of the excuses is sales. These excuses come from people who do not understand how to market to a consumer who places ever increasing importance on relationships. Why do you think the community building sites like YouTube, MySpace and Facebook are in the top ten most highly visited sites globally? According to Alexa, YouTube is 3 , MySpace is 6 and Facebook is 8 ) Every business must have a relationship driven marketing strategy and then implement it. See Relationship Marketing below.

4. Always be evaluating the market including on line competitors. I wonder if Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL in retrospect would have done anything different when Google first came to market?  No company is immune from being seriously weekend by competition. I look at the drugstore landscape. I live in Florida where competition is very active particularly for pharmacy prescriptions. A new format of drugstores was introduced not that long ago by Walgreens, CVS, and others with positioning of buildings with 24 hour drive through pharmacies on high cost real estate. Two things have happened with those changes. Prices skyrocketed to pay for real estate and relationships with the pharmacy customer has almost become extinct. Within this landscape I am aware of several privately held drugstores doing very well because of their attention to customer relationships.

5. Don’t push a boulder up hill. Some companies were never meant to be. People start companies or buy existing companies because they think it is a good idea. The only opinion that matter is the market. If your business was not all that strong in the past and you are basically doing everything right, the best action to stopping the profit leaks may mean closing the doors. If you are not sure Contact Me.

Reality Business: The following examples are taken from just one day’s experiences – today.

1. I was talking with a former client who is now a good friend, who told me they have exposure on a large receivable as it looks like the customer is going out of business. After asking two questions I understood that procedures installed during the consulting project were ignored. Insane management. This happens all the time where people make exceptions to sound business practices and then wonder what went wrong. Follow well founded established policies and procedures without exception. Does that mean nothing will ever go wrong? No, but the surprises will be fewer and far between.

2. During a meeting with a very successful fund manager I asked him if there was any one or two things that he attributes to his success. We were specifically talking about clients who transfer portfolios of $250,000 and higher to him from other firms. He said: “just two things: first I have a “high touch” approach which cements the relationship. The markets have been unforgiving lately. I increase my meetings with clients when competitors are shying away from making calls to people whose portfolios have been hit. Second I have marketing funnel to my target audience that has consistently worked very well.” I am not writing the details as this is proprietary but I will tell you this – you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure it out.

3. I was invited to lunch at a very nice restaurant in Tampa. It has a fairly steep price tag for most of the selections. There were many tables available. Like nearly every other restaurant I have ever dined, regardless of price point, when I left they have no idea who I am and have no way of inviting me back. Insane management.

All in one day!!

Relationship Marketing:

I love talking about how easy it is for retail business to install a relationship marketing program. This is actually easy for every company, but most readers can relate to experiences with restaurants, grocery stores, dry cleaners, specialty shops and other retail stores. Just ask yourself when was the last time you received a thank you note, an incentive to come in for a special on a particularly slow day or a brief questionnaire asking you how they can serve you better? It happens. I listened to a story the other night about a business getting a fax every time it rains near the lunch hour from a nearby restaurant saying “It is raining. Our business will be slow today. Come in for a free Taco.”” Of course, nearly everyone will be buying more than one taco. But isn’t that cool and how hard is that to do?

Visit http://www.localretailmarketing.com for an idea on how you can begin strengthening your customer relationships. The information is free. My firm is not if you want us to do it for you. We get it done now which can be very valuable for you.

Accept The Responsibility and Take Action Starting Now!!

Sending all my readers the energy of wellness, happiness and peace.

Steve Pohlit
http://www.stevereports.com

Don’t Miss These Free Reports from my new business consulting site:

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Steve is the President of International Business Consulting Resources. His firm specializes in guiding companies to rapid increases in revenue and profits with a sustainable growth rate. Don’t miss my FREE Report: How To Make More Money With Your Business Now and Long Term I am building my practice and welcome new client inquiries. Call me for a fee consultation at 727-587-7871 Remember many of my business building articles can be found at Steve Reports and my prosperity building tool (best tool ever for helping you manifest your goals and dreams) is The Prosperity Tool Chest and guiding articles posted very often at Prosperity Tip

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The Secret of How Staples Business Depot Became The Largest In Canada

Click Here for the details of this story: In summary, at first glance it appears the company’s success is do to ……let the President Steve Matyas tell it: “It sounds like a cliché, but everything we do is about making shopping easy for our customers. We continually ask ourselves and our customers, ‘What can we do to make shopping with us easy?’”

Specifically what are they doing better than their competition and pay very close attention to this as there are very valuable lessons to be learned:

1. Clearly defined niche – small business owner.

2. Establish a process for staying in touch with their customers and then offering the products and services they want and need. Have you heard the message: find an hungry market already spending money on what you are offering then position your offer better than your competitors?

3. Make is easy for your customers to do business with you. In the article you will notice there are different size store models depending on the market. Staples cannot profitably operate the same store format in all markets because of demographic differences.

4. After following the first three steps they are able to reap the rewards of their focus on “making shopping with us easy” and they know how important it is to have the right employees in their stores to execute on this goal. Notice their emphasis on innovative recruiting to attract people they need for their growing business.

This is a great example and lesson of a business understanding and serving their customer.

Sending all my readers the energy of vibrant health, happiness and prosperity.

Steve Pohlit
http://www.stevereports.com

Steve is the President of International Business Consulting Resources. His firm specializes in guiding companies to rapid increases in revenue and profits with a sustainable growth rate. Don’t miss my FREE Report: How To Make More Money With Your Business Now and Long Term I am building my practice and welcome new client inquiries. Call me for a fee consultation at 727-587-7871 Remember many of my business building articles can be found at Steve Reports and my prosperity building tool (best tool ever for helping you manifest your goals and dreams) is The Prosperity Tool Chest and guiding articles posted very often at Prosperity Tip

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