Increasing your retail sales

Katherine Grace, Director, Graceful Solutions Marketing

This article appears in the July/August 2013 issue of Business Franchise Australia & New Zealand

“Retail’s waaaay down;” “People are buying overseas;” “Consumer confidence is bad;” “The online market is killing us;” “Big chains beat us on price,” and so on.

While these all may (or may not) be true for your street, your precinct or your industry, the fact of the matter is that if you are to remain in retail (or sell out at a reasonable price) then the only choice is to work out a way to be successful despite the  always present external factors. Because even if less people are buying retail, some still are, and so it falls to those retailers putting up their hand (or waving frantically if required) to pick up the majority of the pie.

I firmly believe that there is always enough business for those doing marketing and looking creatively at “Well, what can we do?”

Add to this an improving market and a definite trend and social media movement towards buying and supporting local independent businesses, and it’s actually looking up for retail at the moment. You may also take heart in the fact that all of my  retail clients (and most services) have experienced between 15-30 per cent growth every year since 2010. Consequently, their businesses not only pay them back for their effort but they are looking more and more attractive to a potential buyer, at a  time when many businesses are worth just the value of their stock. How? By doing stuff.

So, what can we do?

The most important thing is to do anything, as activity leads to energy leads to sales. As a starting point, here are some specific strategies which will increase your retail sales - by a little if done poorly, by a lot if done with gusto and commitment, but always by something. If you haven’t tried all of these yet then they are a good place to start. If you have, have a look at my website as there is a list of marketing strategies to choose from.

1. Get a database

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Service based businesses with regular clients (such as hairdressers, gardening, allied health, etc.) tend to always have databases as it is a necessary part of their operating model. Retail businesses tend to be the least likely to have them. I once  onvinced my client to get their friend, who had just opened a fish and chip shop, to start a database - and soon you will understand why. Having a list of all your clients gives you the power to control the flow of business, as well as what people buy. My toy store client has seen her takings increase by over $1,000 each time she has a sale, in line with her increasing database size (quite simply, more people know it’s on). Call them your VIP clients, and contact them often to let them know about  ales, new products, special events and even personal news about the staff (people love to hear your stories). And of course, to ask for their support in referring their friends.

Collect a database (name and email is essential - mobile is also good, SMS marketing fits very well with retail) either by offering an incentive “Join our VIP Club for advance news about sales and receive a $10 gift voucher as a thankyou gift.” or by  running a competition “Enter here to join our VIP list and go into the running for this hamper of products worth over $500!”. And don’t overlook that either offer can just as easily be placed outside your store to pull in people who might not have met  you yet (I have placed hampers at schools, major restaurant foyers etc.).

2. Increase your average register ring

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If a register ring means $10 to you at the moment, what would happen if it meant $15? Yep, your business would increases by 50 per cent, all without a single cent on marketing.

Observe what you do with customers (the owner is usually the best salesperson by a mile) and train your staff to do the same things. Show them how ‘upselling’ is not a dirty word if it genuinely helps the customer. Offer product training nights (get  the reps to present and even pay for dinner!) to engage your team in your products and make it easy for them to convincingly sell them. Even better, let them take the occasional (high GP) product home to experience it and be able to say “I use that at home”.

Measure the average sale, by person if you can or by the team if you can’t, and reward anyone hitting your new goal. Go through scenarios with them brainstorming examples of where that extra $5, $10, $500 might come from in each case  (sometimes you can even have a formal ‘fries with that’ menu for everyone to refer to, i.e. “If customer buys X try suggesting they also consider getting Y or Z”).

3. Get people to visit more

Imagine if your store was so welcoming that people dropped in just to say “Hi” to you and your team! Work on making your store an amazing space to be and your customer experience an unforgettable one. People will come back more often and refer many.

On top of that, engage your customers in a community and let them know that their support keeps another family business alive. Use social media, database marketing and just day to day chit chat. Invite them to sales, product launches, VIP nights,  open days and even just social, getting-to-know-you evenings. Send them timely newsletters reminding them you are the perfect place to visit before summer, winter, Christmas, school holidays, etc... If your efforts result in just one extra visit by  each customer each year, what is that worth?

4. Be intuitive in your buying

Or rather, ask, listen and respond to what your customers want. The best way to sell more is to stock more of what people want, or stock items they are already buying from others but would buy from you if you had them (or in some cases knew you  already do have them!).

It’s a great idea to survey your best customers (via email, phone or just as they come in) and find out what they like best about you, what else you could stock and how you can add to their convenience and your sales figures at the same time. For  example, a lingerie store found that many of their clients were buying sleepwear as gifts for friends, so they expanded on that range and added a few other gift lines that were in keeping with the atmosphere of the store. It went gangbusters, in part  because the clients who gave their opinion also felt indebted to buy the things they had suggested.

5. Make it easy to buy

You wouldn’t believe the amount of businesses missing out on sales because they are not forward thinking or flexible in how customers can buy. Depending on your industry, you can offer credit cards, lay by, renting, special orders of things you don’t have, interest free financing.

6. Add value

Rather than thinking about the disadvantages you might be facing, look at the advantages. If you are an independent, or your local area marketing rules allow it, you can offer your clients a large range of valueadded services just by partnering with  other independent businesses either within your industry or in your shopping precinct. Think about strategic alliances that would please your customers, such as a coffee shop offering customers five per cent off a clothing boutique in return for the clothing clients being given a free coffee - both businesses will expand their clientele as well as making current ones happy. Also, in many cases your franchisor will have connections or a loyalty program ready-made to help you over deliver to your customers.

As I said earlier, doing any of the above well will definitely result in an increase in your sales, as well as reinvigorating you and your team to be working on deliberately building the business rather than ‘getting through a tough time’. How you think about the market at the moment is as much about your opinion (and those of your neighbours) as it is about what is actually happening - and I can confidently say that there is a lot to be gained by ignoring the press.

Katherine is a former General Manager for the Jim’s Group, with over 17 years’ experience in franchising and trades. She has also been a successful ActionCOACH (#14 in the world) and runner-up Franchise Woman of the Year in 2010.

Graceful Solutions is a marketing company specialising in no-cost, lowcost and local area marketing. Their team of eight consultants offer services including websites, database marketing and low-cost strategies to engage existing customers and find new ones.

Phone: 0400 865 277