Archive for January, 2015

Retail Success Tips & Strategies

If there is one lesson to be learned from Target’s massive failure in Canada, it’s the fact that solid management and leadership ability are still the most important ingredients for success.

We must also understand that not every manager who is running a retail business is equipped with the innovative ideas and tools…or, even the fundamental and necessary ideas and tools… to make sure their operation becomes or remains successful.

A lot of retail managers keep doing the same things, over and over again, expecting different results. By the way, this previous sentence is widely recognized as the definition of insanity.

A lot of retail managers are running around talking about, and seeking information on, the latest and greatest technology, when their very foundation of infrastructure type systems are not correctly in place and may, in fact, be crumbling.

And there seems to be a malaise that affects most retail managers causing them to avoid the study of better and more effective strategies, tips and tactics. It may even be a degree of arrogance among retail managers … everyone thinks they know everything already.

How do you break this vicious cycle?

You need to inject different ideas.

What kind of ideas?

Ideas that have been time tested and proven. Yes, apply the proven ideas first just to be on the safe side. There will be plenty of time for innovative ideas once the solid foundation is built.

Where do you get these ideas?

From people who have been there and done it successfully. They may, or may not, have gotten the T-shirt.

We are those people. But, we don’t expect you take our word for it. You can check out hundreds of testimonials on our website.

So, if you want to get some sharp ideas that will actually MAKE a DIFFERENCE, join us for the

Retail Success Tips & Strategies webinar this Wednesday, January 21, 2015.

If you register and then find that you are unable to attend, for whatever reason, we’ll send you the recording.

Admittedly, it is not free, it is not even cheap, but that’s how life is.

Good things are usually not cheap. But, one thing I can guarantee is that you will recover your investment 100 times over if you implement even one strategy from this webinar.

All the Success!


PS: Don’t procrastinate…sign up now. Go here to sign up.


When Focus is not on Target

So, by all accounts a really good retailer in the USA, Target is a bust in Canada!

Who would have thought that Target would have to close up shop, literally, and leave the country? As all the reports say, Target’s missteps into the Canadian market will become case studies for many future students of retail management.

And, rightfully so. However, while many are busy listing the reasons why Target Canada failed and are suggesting various solutions that would have saved them there is really only one thing that went wrong and it is critical that the  case studies focus on this or nothing will be learned.

Target Canada was a victim of bad management. Everything else stems from that fact.

Yes, the supply chain was an issue, and they didn’t do a good job managing expectations regarding pricing and they didn’t have a web presence, and some of their Zellers locations were duds (and better management would have realized which ones they were and steered clear of them for a while) but none of these things would have happened if Target Canada was managed by someone with better skills.

It’s really that simple. The things that went wrong were not natural disasters, nor were they things that   were impossible to foresee. The fact that they were not foreseen means someone (or everyone) was asleep at the wheel…or the switch, or whatever you want to call it.

I have seen no end of reports written – and sometimes pictures -about the empty shelves and the missing Canadian Target website. I even saw one report that said Canadians simply haven’t taken to one stop shopping yet. Excuse me? In the great, white north where cold winters are long and harsh…Canadians would rather run all over town getting in and out of their cars to shop in several different places? I think not.

And, even if it were so, then it would follow that Wal Mart is leaving Canada also, right? No?

That’s what I thought.

There are the reports that Target couldn’t compete with Wal Mart and Costco. And, in the USA these competitors do not exist?

Oh, and according to some…they couldn’t compete with Sears Canada and Giant Tiger. Seriously?

When Target first announced that it was coming to Canada, Canadians were thrilled with the prospect. Many of us have done lots of shopping in the USA and are no strangers to Target.

Naturally, expectations were high…we knew what to expect of Target based on our experiences in their stores south of the border. So, when they showed up in the lousiest of old Zellers locations…with empty shelves and higher prices, it was disappointing.

Quite a big let down, actually.

So, what is it? Are they just lucky in the USA? Why do they do well there and tank here in Canada? And, no one should settle for a list of all of the ‘things’ that went wrong being the answer to that question. It’s, at the same time, more straight forward and much more complicated than that.

Some more important questions: Who made the decision on who would be in charge of the move into Canada? And, what was that critical decision based on? There are some who say it was arrogance – that Target USA saw the move into Canada as a slam dunk…or like taking candy from a baby. Either way, bad management is still the issue.

The big questions have to be answered by people at the highest levels of Target. It would be a huge mistake for them to list the reasons why things went wrong, clean up the mess, take their financial lumps or write offs, and leave it at that.  If they do, they’ll be none the wiser in future and this multi-billion dollar lesson will be wasted.

The case studies that are developed must not only focus on the ‘things’ that went wrong. They must focus, first and foremost, on the quality of management and how the lack of high caliber management was, in fact, responsible for the disaster that was Target Canada.

I can hear it already. Some people will quote Murphy’s Law and others will say “stuff happens… you can’t put all the blame on management”. Well…why not? Is it not reasonable to expect the management of a company to know what they face when undertaking something as important, and expensive, as a launch in a new market that just happens to be in another country?

Should they not have examined the supply chain situation just a bit closer seeing as so much would be riding on it? Should they not have sought out better intel from knowledgeable resources, about Canadian shopping habits; about the importance of a Canadian web presence; about locations that are dead or dying? And, so on?

It’s understood that hindsight is 20/20. And, if a couple of things were overlooked and then identified as problems and corrected quickly enough to save the day, then we might just be able to say that management did its job. After all, no one is perfect.

But, that is not the case here.

Do not be tempted to make excuses for poor management. We must insist that management be accountable. Always. Everything else being equal, caliber of management makes the difference between the success or failure of a company. This is where the case studies need to focus.

Too many retailers and, in fact, companies in general just do not pay enough attention to who they give the keys to. Or, the major projects… the tough but exciting jobs.

I had major surgery once. Do you think I chose the Doctor by asking who had been around the longest? How do you suppose that moon landing teams are chosen? Seniority? I seriously doubt that. Just about any serious endeavor requires good people…some would say the best people. Never the ones that happen to have been here the longest with that being their only qualification or claim to fame. And, certainly, never the ones that just happen to be willing to relocate.

A major project with a lot of shareholder money riding on it is serious business. Target executives, I’m pretty sure, are aware of this. So, how could they fall into this trap?

It does seem that retailers, in particular, tend to promote, and keep promoting, the employees who have seniority – whether they’re any good or not. Sometimes, the only reason they have been around so long is because they aren’t really that great and they know it. Of course, they stay. Usually, these individuals are serious ‘yes’ people because to be anything else would be detrimental to their long term career plan. Often, they do not have the knowledge to be anything other than ‘yes’ people, either. Remember, I did say sometimes.

There is no doubt that experience counts. If a long term employee has proven him/herself to be a great leader and has the other attributes that make him/her a good choice for the big project – like taking your business to a new country – then that person may be the perfect choice. If the person was the perfect choice, or even just the right choice, then the team s/he chose would also have been, at bare minimum, competent and in all likelihood strong players and we would not be talking about Target Canada in these terms today.

It appears that key management players who were involved in this unmitigated failure were (some still are) long term Target employees. Whatever the case, someone who should have known better, wasn’t thinking all that clearly when they put Team Target Canada together.

#2 – Flyin’ vs Dyin’

Yesterday, we started a conversation about getting too many emails that aren’t relevant to your business which just means you spend a lot of time pressing the delete key.

But, as many of you agreed, every so often you get an email that gives you food for thought, or a little piece of advice that really hits home and actually gives you some help with something that you may have been struggling with for a while.

Of course, not everything will be equally helpful to each of you because we have a lot of subscribers…from every level and type of retail management.

In any case, we all have the same goal in mind…to grow our retail business; make sure that same store, or comp store, sales and profits increase and that expenses are under control.

Improving and moving forward is a must, not an option. And, as we discussed yesterday, it’s tough to keep the forward momentum going, year after year, without getting some new ideas, advice, practical tips and how-to’s.

Things are always changing and we need to be on our toes all the time.

We want to help you with that forward momentum. We want to accompany each of you on that journey. DMSRetail has a wealth of information you can use, right now, to ensure your business is flying and not dying!

Today’s installment is about sharing information within the organization, and coaching…which just happen to go hand in hand.

Coaching and Information Sharing 

Highly successful Retail Managers excel at, and believe strongly in, information sharing. It is part of the management style we discussed earlier.

They stress that sharing information, continuously, is the best way to coach people. Of course, sometimes the coaching has to be more formal with time set aside for conversations on particular subjects. But, for the most part, they find that their general style of sharing information doubles as coaching.

Using every conversation to coach your people has a remarkable effect. Employees are picking up information as you speak and they can determine, for themselves, if this is something that they can use for their own betterment. Remember, highly successful Retail Managers have high quality people working for them and those individuals have been given a lot of autonomy so they often know what they need to pick up from a conversation. If the Manager doubts that the information is being understood properly then they can be more specific.

It is not always necessary to point out a deficiency if an information sharing conversation will have a more positive effect. It works.

The key word is share. Information is a great thing to share. All of us need information in order to perform well. The more information we get, within reason, the better we are able to perform.

If you do not share non-confidential information it may be because you are concerned that:

  1. The employees cannot handle the information. You could be correct about this, depending on the situation. Perhaps the employee is new or there is some other reason but you need to take it upon yourself to make sure that, at some point, the employees can handle the information you have to share.
  1. The employees may end up knowing too much. Take the approach that they can never know too much if it helps them do their job and look after the best interests of the company. A highly successful Retail Manager is confident that sharing non-confidential information is not going to jeopardize their position. Surrounding themselves with employees who have extensive knowledge and information is what they strive for. If the employees happen to know more than the Manager, so much the better! Maybe you can learn something from them, too.
  1. You don’t want to take the time – the great deal of time you must invest – to share. If this is the case, you cannot be successful. Keeping information to yourself simply increases your workload and stress level and does nothing to further the cause or develop employees.

Sometimes we need to talk with an associate to tell them what we have observed and how they might be able to do better next time.

Taking a positive approach yields more positive results.

Remember, coaching is something that never stops, no matter how good your team gets. Only your approach should change; being mindful of their status and ability.World Champion athletes who are at their peak performance levels didn’t get there without a coach. And they can’t hope to stay in the game for long without their coach’s help.

We hope you found this email helpful in some way. You’ll find these coaching tips and much, much more in our Ultimate Retail Success Collection and you can check it out here.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s installment.

All the Success!

DMSRetail Team

PS:  The Retail Operations Management Workshop and the Retail Category Management Workshop take place in Miami in February. Click the links for Dates, Program Outlines, Fees, etc. Register soon to avoid disappointment.

PPS:  We’ve just completed our 6 month Schedule of Workshops. Send an email to to request a copy.

Food for Thought About Flyin’ vs Dyin’

If you’re anything like us, you get too many emails that are not relevant to your business, or not relevant to your business at the moment. So, you spend a lot of time pressing the delete key.

But, every so often you get an email that gives you food for thought, or a little piece of advice that really hits home with you; helps you with something you’ve been struggling with for a while.

This is the time of year when many retailers are taking a long, hard look at their business results for the previous year and start making plans to ensure this year is better. Regardless of what the previous year looked like, you’ve got to do better this year, right? That’s the way to grow our businesses…keep doing better in comparable stores; maybe add some new stores, or even some new revenue streams.

The idea is to go forward, in any case.

It’s tough to keep the forward momentum going, year after year, without getting some new ideas, advice, practical tips and how-to’s. Things are always changing and we need to be on our toes all the time to stop us from rolling backwards or, even, from maintaining the status quo.

We want to help you with that forward momentum. We have a wealth of information you can use, right now, to ensure your business is flying and not dying!

For instance, you would be a rare retailer if you don’t have at least a few problem employees. You may already understand that you have them because your hiring practices aren’t as sharp as they might be. Perhaps a lot of canned questions are being asked during interviews which, of course, leads to canned answers and you and/or your management people aren’t getting at what you really need to know about the applicant making it impossible to predict what they’re going to do for your organization.

Here are a few Questions and Tell Me’s designed to get right to the heart of the matter. Ask these and you will learn a lot. If the candidate gives really short answers…you’ll have lots of information to use to drill down. Any retail candidate should have no problem with these. If they do, head’s up.

Customer Service Orientation

What basics do you think the customer has the right to expect when in your store?

Tell me a few things about telephone etiquette.

What are the elements of a positive shopping experience?

Ability to Sell, or Coach Others on Selling Skills

What are the steps in the selling process?

Elaborate on those steps as much as you can.

Do you consider yourself a good salesperson and, if so, what indications do you have that support

your answer?

And, of course, it’s always a good idea to hand the candidate your pen or notebook or other object and have them sell it to you.


How important was your personal contribution to the goals and objectives of the business unit

you last worked in?

Can you give me an example of a company procedure or policy that did not make sense to you?

How do you communicate your agreement/disagreement with company initiatives?

Relationships and Team Building

Tell me about your past relationships with your subordinates/peers.

Tell me about your past relationships with your superiors.

What type of Manager would bring out the best in you?

We hope you found this helpful in some way. You’ll find these interview tips and questions along with the expected and acceptable applicant responses and much, much more in our Ultimate Retail Success Collection and you can check it out here.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s installment.

All the Success!
DMSRetail Team

PS: The Retail Operations Management Workshop and the Retail Category Management Workshop take place in Miami in February. Click the links for Dates, Program Outlines, Fees, etc. Register soon to avoid disappointment.

PPS: We’ve just completed our 6 month Schedule of Workshops. Send an email to to request a copy.

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