Retail is detail

Janine Allis, Managing Director, Retail Zoo

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

When I first started Boost in 1999, I read in a financial magazine the horrific stats on new startup businesses with regard to their success rates. I was mortified to read that four out of five new businesses fail in the first five years.

Fast forward 14 years and I can see clearly why some businesses succeed and others fail. I hope in this article you will get some insights into what I have learnt and what I believe makes a successful business. People’s expectation when they start a business is nearly always bullish; they just expect the customers to come. I often see a new business spend a fortune on a new office fit-out, a fancy car and pay themselves a large salary because they think they deserve it, or need it to survive. This is  often the downfall of a business in its early days as a fancy fit-out and a nice car does not turn into profit. One thing is guaranteed, that like a baby, a new business is totally reliant on you for its survival and whatever time you think it will take to be successful - double it and with the estimate of money you think it will take to succeed, triple it and then you may be close to the reality. This is not meant to put anyone off going into business, but it is designed to make sure every dollar that is spent  is spent wisely.

Now I do not want to sound so downcast in the opening paragraphs when I am writing about creating a successful business, because I have had the time of my life creating our business, BUT people can and do enter into their own business with rose coloured glasses and it takes every atom of your soul to be successful and lots of sacrifices are needed.

Here are some areas to focus on to create a successful business:


People will make or break you in business and in life. Surrounding yourself with great, experienced, dedicated people is critical for the success of your business. Take your time to interview, reference check and train your new employees, but equally if  they are not right, do not delay in replacing them, as I have seen many great ideas and businesses fail because of the people chosen to be part of the business. It is identical to creating a top sporting team, you must have a mixture of different skills and types to be successful, but at the end of the day for you to win the flag you need to be ruthless in your approach to having only the best. Hiring the best also attracts the best, because great people want to be with great people and be challenged  to continually lift the bar.


Being undercapitalised is also another way for a business to fail. There are some great potential businesses out there that have failed because of a lack of cash. It is better to have a small piece of a big pie than a large piece of a small pie. But make sure you get the balance right. You need to value the investment that people make into your business; I have seen people get bitter that they are doing all the work but have to share the profit with the silent partner. But they forget without the capital  to grow the business, it would not be where it is.

Customer is King

Customer focus: The basic law of marketing and business is to find out what your customer wants and give it to them. Simple, right? Then how come so many businesses do not listen to their customers, they don’t make it easy for feedback and don’t  make changes to meet the customer’s needs. Often, very often, retail businesses think too short term, they have extremely strict return policies and do not value the customer’s needs. For example, I purchased a jacket from a large department store, I  ollowed the washing instructions on the label but despite this after one wash it looked like it was a year old, instead of a week. When I returned it, I was given the third degree, she made it clear that she did not believe me and told me that the  manufacturing company had this machine to be able to tell if I actually washed it correctly or not. I had to get the supervisor to eventually allow me a credit note. To this day, I will avoid the store. Where a different outcome would have left me feeling  great about the store and given me confidence in shopping there again. Great retail businesses shine when things go wrong, not when all is normal. To be great, you always need to put yourself in the shoes of the customers, how would you feel if you  had a bad experience? We all have them, but we love the retail stores that are flexible and willing to help in any way. I would want my time respected, I would want an acknowledgement that there was a problem, I would want them to give me a reason  to tell my friends how great the store was, not how horrible or rude they were. In retail things go wrong all the time, in our case blenders break down, deliveries can be late, registers sometimes do not work. Customers understand that stuff happens now and then, but it is up to us as retailers to give them a reason to rave about us, to go above and beyond. Surprise and delight, we all have regular customers. Every now and then treat them with something you think they will like.


Retail Zoo

The product you sell must be amazing and what the customer wants. You need to be obsessed with getting your product right. I know this sounds obvious, but I walk into food courts and see food that looks like it’s days old and I wonder if the owner of the food outlet would in fact actually eat that food and if they were passionate and obsessed about getting it right, would they serve this food. That is one of the reasons at Boost and Salsas we always make it fresh, it is because that is what our customers want, and that is what I would want from a food outlet. It is because we are obsessed about getting our product right and tasting great that we are successful. It does not matter if you are in food or other retail, the product has to be perfect  and if it is not, you have to have mechanisms in the business so that the customer can let you know and then you fix it.

It is all in the detail

We have spoken about people, product and customers, but you will have no business unless you know the detail. I am sure you have heard before “retail is detail”, which means it is about the little things that make a big difference. It is about knowing  every part of your business and that includes the financial numbers. Reading your numbers tells you a story about your business. For example, what products are selling, what are the most expensive products, what products should I be marketing  more, am I managing my wastage, am I overstaffed, understaffed, are my staff stealing from me, do I need to open earlier? I am constantly surprised when retail people do not know their numbers, it is also not a surprise when the most successful  retail business people I know can roll off their tongue exactly how much they are making and all the details that the numbers offer. You read your numbers like you read a story about your business; you need to learn the language to truly be  successful in retail.

Retail is detail in every aspect.

Janine Allis is Managing Director of Retail Zoo, holding company of Salsa’s Fresh Mex Grill, CIBO and Boost Juice and the Founder of Boost Juice Bars.

Boost is now in more countries than any other juice bar in the world.

For more information contact Retail Zoo franchising sales.

Phone: 03 9508 4400
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