By Gordon Hecht, Serta Simmons Bedding

Last week we shut the door on 2020. While some of us had triumphs and victories, I haven’t talked to many who aren’t looking forward to turning the page to 2021, with the hope of a return to good times for our businesses.

For the last 19 years I have committed to a New Year’ resolution, and for most of those years I have persevered all the way to January 15. For 2020 I had made an easy resolution: Lose 20 pounds by the end of the year. This past New Year’s Eve I realized that to reach that goal before midnight I would need to cut off my left leg.

In the dawn of 2021, those of us who make resolutions will have to decide what we want to accomplish in the following twelve months. I conducted extensive research for some guidance (a 30-second check of Wikipedia and asking my ever-lovin’ bride) and found the Top Seven New Year’s Resolutions that people make. They are:

  • Improve my health
  • Improve my looks
  • Make new friends
  • Go back to School
  • Find someone to love
  • Be more popular
  • Give something back to the community

If you are like me, you may find this a good time to choose one or more of these as Retail Resolutions. If you write it down and plan it out, you should be able to get way past that January 15 wall.

Improve My Health: The key to better health is building strength, and retail strength for the first four to six months of 2021 will mean bulking up on sellable inventory. “In-Stock” is now a stronger phrase than Free Delivery, 84-Month Financing or 50% Off! Today is the day to place your President’s Day Sale merchandise orders and double up on those POs. When it comes to inventory in your warehouse (Caution: ’70s hipster expression ahead), thin may be in, but fat’s where it’s at.

Improve My Looks: I tried Just For Men and it just wasn’t for me! And besides, my ever-lovin’ bride thinks grey hair makes me look distinguished (or did she say extinguished?). For you in ground-level retail, look at one of your biggest investments — the four walls around you. Your customers judge your store within 20 feet of your entrance. Start by standing in your parking lot. Are there potholes in the asphalt, rust on the sign or is the facade old and tired looking? Remove the Scotch-taped signs and yellowed Visa stickers from your front doors. Then check your walls for nails with no pictures, holes with no nails and dented, faded or torn signage. It may be time for a color refresh; a few buckets of paint go a long way in improving your store’s appeal. And how is that carpet looking? Don’t wait for spring to have it cleaned, it will only get worse.

Then look at your sales counter. Does it inspire or detract from a customer’s confidence in your operation? Remove all those signs that are taped to the counter or wall. They are ugly and unprofessional. And those hidden areas behind the counter that you think people never see? Well, shoppers do!

Make New Friends: With more people making and meeting friends online and through social media than ever, it is imperative that you check out your Business Facebook Page. If your last update was in the summer, that is equivalent to not calling your best friend or favorite uncle in the last six months.

Updating your Facebook page is free, so I am sure that fits in your budget! And boosting posts only costs $25 to $30 a week to attract 2,000 shoppers in your area. Also, new friends love to chat! If you don’t have an active chat feature on your website (or if you don’t know what that means) you can be sure that the retailer down the street is chatting up your customers. Make it a point to find a resource to help you and squeeze that expense into your budget.

Think like a retailer, don’t think like a mattress or appliance guy! Not everyone is going to buy today, tomorrow or ever. But connect with 2,000 shoppers weekly, treat them like friends and guests, and something good is going to happen.

Go Back to School: That doesn’t mean buying a new “Happy Days” lunchbox, and I don’t think my knuckles could take one more rap with a yardstick. What it does mean is improving your skills. For some it could be enhancing your computer skills in Excel or in graphic design (I heard computers are here to stay). Or you may want to read a book on salesmanship, efficiency, customer service, coaching or the science of sleep. If you only read one book a year, I suggest Simon Sinek’s “The Infinite Game.”

Start a store library for business and people-skills books. Add a section on Sleep or Managing Social Media. Sign up for trade magazines like Sleep Savvy or Furniture World, online or print editions, as they are both free.

Find Someone to Love: It happened to me 30 years ago, so that resolution is off my list. But in my retail life I was always looking for someone to love … and by that, I mean recruitment. It truly is an everyday thing. The average sales consultant produces $350,000 to $1 million in retail sales every year, which averages out to about $50K a month. So, if you have a vacant spot in your schedule you can figure on losing close to that amount every month until you fill it.

You might believe that the balance of your staff makes up the difference, but it simply isn’t true. I have never seen a retail store add a well-trained salesperson and have a drop in total sales the following month.

Wouldn’t you love to have a million-dollar writer on your staff? If you have one already, wouldn’t you love to have two? If they are not on your staff today, they are outside of your doors. Recruit and you may find that special someone to love!

Be More Popular: Operating or managing a business is not a popularity contest, nor should it be. You have to make the hard decisions and choices and must be “fair” and responsible every day. Keep in mind though, that the No. 1 reason someone decides to leave or stay on the job is their relationship with their immediate supervisor. If they believe you treat them with respect; honor an equitable work/life balance; and are fair with them, your staff will stay with you forever — even if the other guy pays more, makes fewer demands, asks them to work shorter hours or is closer to their home. This doesn’t mean that you kowtow to their every whim. Mostly it means doing the most important part of your job: Being a leader.

A little fun once in a while helps. The company summer picnic and holiday party need to return in 2021. Or move into the 21st century and host an Xbox party in your warehouse. Heavy traffic and big promotion days are more fun when served up with a “covered dish” buffet. You don’t need to spend a lot, but you will get a lot.

(I personally suggest the buffet. Let me know when you are having yours!)

Give Back to the Community: Someone told us that her new boyfriend is very civic minded. In fact, he just completed 200 hours of community service!

You probably want to give back to your community in a different way. It doesn’t have to be big, bold and splashy, because every little bit helps. Choose a cause or project that you believe in, and give your time as well as your money. Anyone can write a check, but to be involved you have to be on site. It’s also a great team builder for your staff (see previous item). It’s OK to remind people that Amazon doesn’t provide uniforms for the local kids’ soccer league!

You will feel great, you’ll be helping someone, and you will soon build a strong network of community leaders who know that your store is a great place to shop.

We have a fresh new year ahead of us! The top seven resolutions give us a lot to do and it is a tall order. But a journey of 10,000 miles begins with a single step. Take the one or two resolutions you like, commit to them, plan them out, and let me know about your successes. May your resolutions make it past January and cross the finish line next December. And when we go to lunch … order me a salad!

Gordon Hecht is Senior Regional Manager/Strategic Retail Group at Serta Simmons Bedding and a regular contributor to YSN. You can reach him at ghecht@sertasimmons.com.