By Gordon Hecht, Serta Simmons Bedding
You have to be a real tough cookie to survive, flourish and grow in 2020.
Our retail world has been rocked to the point that we’ve worn out the terms “unprecedented” and “uncertain.” And just when we think we’re seeing the light at the end of this long train tunnel, there’s another speeding 600-ton Union Pacific locomotive shining its headlight right into our eyes.
Under the best of circumstances, retail, and especially big-ticket retailing, is incredibly difficult. We’ve always been able to put up our dukes and get down to it. We look to our long history and count on our experience to get us through. This year, however, it’s been all about unknown adversaries.
When I meet with retailers, I try to put it in perspective. There is a circle of concern and a circle of influence. The first larger circle (the concern circle) contains all the factors that affect your ability to run a successful enterprise. The second smaller circle contains all the things you have the possibility to change and affect. The problem is that many of us tend to focus on the larger circle (and it can be quite depressing) and don’t spend enough time on the smaller one, where we can actually make a difference.
Here’s the good news: We are resilient people living in a resilient country and consumers want our products. May 2020 and Memorial Day specifically delivered sales results beyond expectations. So far June 2020 is continuing that trend. The “new normal” appears to be above normal.
The 24-hour news cycle is working hard to explode your circle of concern, with more and more things for you to worry about. Sure, it’s important to look at the big picture, but balance it with your circle of influence. Here are some things to consider right now:
Ease of Shopping: Your customers found out that is easy to sit home in their pjs and order just about anything they need. It’s not enough to have a pretty store anymore; you need to have an inviting digital storefront too. If your number one marketing expense is not invested in that World Wide Interwebby thing, your online presence is probably equal to a dirty window — just another drive-by store. Take control of it, learn it, and get the help you need.
Help Wanted: We started the year at 3 percent unemployment, meaning everyone who wanted a job had a job. COVID temporarily rocked that number, but chances are good that we will return to low single digits again. I’ve spoken with too many retail chiefs that opened their doors without enough associates in all fields. Recruiting must start today and become a 365-day-a-year project. The good/bad news of it is that a few national and many local retail stores are not coming back. You’ll probably never have a better time to build your team. And, BTW, if you want to build a winning team, populate it with players that look like your shoppers. Bi- and tri-lingual, multicultural, young, old, and a few tattoos are encouraged. Hire for attitude and train for aptitude.
All things being equal, speed is the tiebreaker. There is a lot of pent-up demand out there. And with vacations cancelled or postponed, reduced expense at home for things like gasoline and entertainment, your shoppers have lots of bucks to spend. They want our products and they want them now! This is the time to lay in an extra supply of inventory. Check out your five best sellers for January through March and start there. Add in a few lower-end models and a few pricey models too. Let your sales team and shoppers know what’s in stock with an “Available Now!” tag. Inventory stock is not a one-time thing — be sure to replenish as you sell through.
It seems every decade had remarkable challenges. As we crossed the bridge from the 1970s to the 1980s Pat Benatar recorded “Hit Me with Your Best Shot.” It ought to be re-released this year.
“You come on with it, come on,
You don’t fight fair
That’s OK, see if I care
Knock me down, it’s all in vain
I get right back on my feet again”
Don’t let this year be a heartbreaker. If you do a morning huddle with your team or like to rock out on the radio during the commute to work, CLICK HERE to check out the song in its entirety to get some kick-in-the-pants motivation.
Gordon Hecht is Senior Regional Manager/Strategic Retail Group at Serta Simmons Bedding. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.