How to make the best of a roiling retail scene

By Gordon Hecht, YSN Contributor

There’s a lot of moving and changing parts to Our Retail World these days. Here are a few updates and suggestions that may help you maximize upcoming opportunities.

The Tax Man Cometh

The IRS recently announced that early filers can expect refunds starting tomorrow (March 1). This is a change from the last few years when refunds began arriving Feb. 15 or earlier for people who filed their 1040s in the first week of February.

Don’t despair if your shop isn’t seeing the rush of shoppers flush with refunds of their own; they’ll be breaking down the doors shortly. If you get some early birds hoping to wish for something and do a little pre-shopping, take them out of the market by starting their order at today’s pricing for a $99 deposit.

We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat

Fans of the film Jaws may remember that quote from co-star Roy Scheider. Your business has something in common with Mr. Jaws — the shark must constantly move or it dies.

This may be a perfect time to think about growing your retail empire.  While there is still premium pricing on leasing stores under 5000 square feet, there is a glut on the market of 15,000- to 80,000-square-foot retail slots. Between major drug retailers and department store closing locations, if you’ve thought about a superstore, it’s a great time to act.

If you look hard enough (or have a professional look for you), you might even find a hidden gem of a smaller location. Keep your business growing or you may end up with a big dead fish.

Family Feud

Many readers operate family businesses or have family members as employees.  Business consultant Donald Cooper defines a family business as an environment where “Blood boils at room temperature.”

It’s a dangerous intersection where family meets business. As difficult as it seems, your company leaders must separate the two within the four walls of your shop. It’s easy to say “Treat employees like family,” but harder the other way around.

The key is to act toward your relatives as you would your best employees.  That means respect, kindness, and without regard to the discussion at the breakfast table or whom mom liked best. Good work, good plans and good ideas can come from anyone on your team.

R.I.P. $299

In 1993 I took an interim job selling furniture and mattresses for a large department store chain that sold a helluva lot of bedding. The lead advertised item was a queen pillow-top mattress set for $299.  Even back then, almost 30 years ago, it was of questionable comfort and durability.

Flash forward to 2021 and there were still retailers trying to pay their bills by leading with a $299 queen bed. In 2022 it’s a fool’s errand to operate that way, and if you took pencil to paper and added up your operational, sales and display costs, you’d see that every $299 sale puts you closer to Chapter 7.

You sell great sleep, which comes from proper comfort and support. With increases in raw materials, wages and fuel, it just can’t be done at the $299 price point any more — just like the $399 fridge, new $15,000 car, new $200,000 house, and $9.99 steak dinner.

Sell better goods and both you and your shopper will sleep better.

Gordon Hecht is a business growth and development consultant to the retail home furnishings industry and a regular contributor to YSN. You can reach him at Gordon.Hecht@aol.com.