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Overcoming a Business Plateau and More of Your Questions for October

Like accessing a strip mall location and how to handle a moving sale.





I have a big staff, and they like to talk amongst themselves. How can I control my practice’s internal grapevine to keep gossip to a minimum and ensure the atmosphere remains as positive as possible?

You can’t really “control” a grapevine — they come as naturally to humans as the need to bond with coworkers. You can, however, ensure that the information being passed around the office is accurate and generally positive. To do that, says Andrea Waltz, the founder of Accelerated Performance Training and co-author of UNLOCKING THE SECRETS OF RETAIL MAGIC, share information broadly, anticipate their need for information and answer questions before they start asking. You can get help managing your in-house grapevine by going to those team members who have the respect of the rest of your team. “If there is something significant that needs sharing, be sure to hold a meeting as quickly as you can. That way you can take control, answer all questions and take the air away from the little flames that could have resulted from the situation. In short, be as truthful as possible,” says Waltz.

I’m looking at a new strip mall location for my fashion forward eyewear boutique. What should I be taking into consideration?

David Brown, of the Edge Retail Academy, recommends you first identify if this is a “service” or “shopping” mall, meaning are people going there to pick up a pizza, do grocery shopping, visit a dentist’s clinic? Or because they are in “browsing and buying mode?” Once you’ve got that settled, you can start to consider the details, such as is it a good retail space? “A space that is 15-feet wide x 150-feet deep is a difficult space to lay out well,” says Ruth Mellergaard, a principal at design company GRID/3. She advises you also look into the signage restrictions in the strip center and county as well as find out exactly what the landlord is providing for you in terms of ADA compliant bathrooms, drywall on the demising walls, and air-conditioning systems.

After five years in operation, my business has plateaued at a modest level (annual sales of about $250,000). The store generates enough cash to cover our bills, but I am still a long way short of my financial goals. How do I take it to the next step?

From the few details here, we suspect you might be taking too much of a “cash-flow” view of your business. As in your case, most small businesses use internal accruals to fund initial growth. While sometimes a store has a location or model that alone is strong enough to drive continued growth, in most cases you are going to need the spur of additional investments in marketing or other areas to take your business to the next level. And while you believe that you are covering costs and generating profit it is possible you’re not generating enough to support growth (it’s even possible that you could be running at a loss from a purely accounting point of view after you take into consideration depreciation and those other “hidden numbers”). So how to boost your profit? Get some outside help. Join a peer group or bring in a business coach to identify the areas you need to work on.

We are moving our store a couple blocks and are thinking of doing a relocation closing event, but we fear it will harm our business. In 14 years we’ve never had a big sale with lots of discounts. I’m wondering if I should do the event or not.

The key here is an appreciation that such an event requires a huge amount of planning. If you feel confident in your promotional abilities then run it yourself, but if you haven’t done events like this before you’d be better off bringing in a competent outsider. You’ll need to check local laws regarding what constitutes a “closing sale,” prepare a marketing plan that includes contacting everyone in your customer database as well as placing ads and doing the creative. Then there is working out your financials to ensure everything is marked to at least replacement cost, plus working out what your “super specials” are (perhaps by color code) and segregating and removing the items that aren’t on sale. There’s also the issue of do you bring in extra goods or consignment items from vendors? You may also need to hold a pre-event for your best customers to give them first shot at the discounts, as well as prepare staff. And then we start to get into the infinite details like what you will tell customers who ask, “Hey, why don’t you just take your inventory with you?” Done well, such a sale can raise a tremendous amount of cash to support your move. But don’t make the mistake of trying to wing it.



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