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  • Writer's pictureMiriam Simon

Using quiet moments commercially in Retail's Quarter One...

The first two months of the year are often the most depressing for Retailers. It’s a time when footfall is at its lowest. And also when most of the bleakest retail headlines appear.

You are often in a quiet store, hearing about the Retail Casualties of the Peak just gone.

And this year, more than ever, it’s a bleak story. The Department Stores are in pain. Even retailers previously heralded as leaders have fallen from grace; you only have to read the press about John Lewis or Ted Baker to see that no retailer seems safe right now..

However, it’s important to remember that it's always the negative news that makes headlines. Every January and February feels this way. Whilst those headlines have become more sensational each year - there is a familiarity about this 'no man’s land' of trading.

Quarter One. A time when the product seasons are unclear. Where stores are often still a mishmash of the new, the old and the totally unsaleable remaining SALE.

And whilst you wait for warmer weather, for anything to give the customer buying signals for a new spring wardrobe… Whilst you wait - there is a lot you can do to get your house in order and make best use of this quieter time.

So, here are some suggestions, in no particular order, on how you can use those leaner weeks to your advantage and to help strengthen your business.

1. Re-set after Peak

May sound obvious – However, many retailers fail to do a structured housekeeping exercise post peak. Quarter One gives great opportunity to do a really deep clean of your store(s) - both front and back of house. This is the time to clear down and scrub the place as well as to review and refine layouts and improve retail standards.

If you have multiple sites, turn this into a competition. You'll be pleasantly surprised at how engaged your team will get as well as at how energising this exercise is for everyone involved.

Re-organise your stockroom so that it works more effectively. Start of year is also the leanest stock-hold time. This makes it opportune time to rethink stockroom layouts and efficiencies.

Tip: In every instance where I introduced these post-Peak re-set exercises for a retailer, it increased sales. Every time!

2. Review PEAK properly and plan for the next one.

This is THE best time to plan for next Xmas. The recent weeks of Peak trade are still fresh in your mind - so take some time to record what worked well and what you'd do differently. Believe me! You won’t remember much of this if you leave it until just before next Peak. A little time taken now will ensure you are better prepared for Q4 of this year. My previous article 'Why you should be planning your Peak 2020 ...NOW!' gives some guidance and headings to help steer this.

3. Build your Commercial Calendar for the Full Year

Quarter 4 trading may fall differently this year. Black Friday will seem late again - It's 27th this year v 29th November in 2019. This is also a Leap Year. Christmas Day will fall on a Friday in 2020, versus a Wednesday last year. This will almost definitely impact when people will finish up at work before Christmas. It will also therefore impact those final days of pre-Xmas trading.

I recommend you draw out all peak trading influences onto a calendar now. This will enable you to see at a glance exactly where your planning focus needs to be.

Easter, Communion/Confirmation season, School holidays, Cyber Trading etc. This approach will help you plan your stock drops, key buys, etc. as well as plan your commercial approach and sales targets for the year ahead.

4. Remember Your Customer!

This is fundamentally your No. 1 Priority!

Businesses that succeed, are those that adapt and change to suit their customers changing needs. There are less customers in your store at this time of the year. Take this opportunity to talk to those that are in your store. You'll get seriously valuable commercial insight into your own business .... through their eyes!

How are they trafficking your store? Watch. When they come in - which direction do they go? How long before they slow down? Where do they linger? How do they shop? Is your shop fit or layout as easy to navigate or as commercial as it could be? Your customer sees the store differently than you do. Stand back and observe...

Talk to them! This is a great opportunity to ask your customers what they like. And what they don’t! About your store, layout, product, service...

Remember that all feedback is a gift! Ask your customers what you may be missing/ how can you be even better than you clearly are already.

And if all of the above doesn't keep you busy. Or you need inspiration or support to get the tills ringing... drop me a line and we can chat.

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