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January is Not a Slow Month

Every year, right around this time, Store Managers are trying to do the impossible…or very nearly impossible. That is making January schedules with the hours that they are allowed to use as directed by Head Office.

In fairness, I must say that this is not the case with every retailer. Some have learned the ‘right’ way to schedule for January.

Let’s begin by discussing the holiday season of many years ago. In November and December stores were jam packed with shoppers trying to find just the right gift for each of their friends and family members. The momentum built and built right up until the early afternoon of December 24th each year.

And then, a hush came over the stores, malls, parking lots….just about everywhere. People had gone home to their families or other festive seasonal celebrations.

They were finished shopping.

In fact, they were finished shopping for quite a lengthy period of time except for the big bargain hunter rush the few days following the 25th. After that, the stores and malls became so quiet it was barely worth opening the doors.

That’s what January used to look like.

Naturally, retailers reigned in their spending on labor just as customers reigned in spending on just about everything they didn’t need. It was time to pay off their credit card bills and get some money put aside in savings again.

But, gradually, all of that changed. Many shoppers waited until well into December to get out and shop, leaving retailers to wonder and worry if it was going to happen. January changed also. Some retailers have changed with the times, but some still have not.

January is no longer a super quiet month for retailers. They won’t necessarily make record breaking sales but, if they play their cards right, they will manage to hang on to a lot of the sales they made in December and gain some more besides.

This is where the Head Office people who are working with allowable hours have difficulty…particularly those who are not out in stores. What they see are low sales numbers, on paper, that simply don’t warrant high wage expenditures.

And the cycle continues. No hours, no sales. No sales, no hours.

Store Managers have been told that sales achieved in January of the prior year were very low so the Store Manager can only use a skeleton staff this year. The wage cost will be way too high, even at that. But, what those Head Office people do not see is how different things are now.

The stores are not empty. There are lots of people out spending gift cards. There are lots of people trying to return or exchange gifts. And there are many people just out and about to see what kind of bargains they can find.

Some may even say “It’s a zoo!!”

Now, the smart, experienced Store Manager will a) schedule to meet the needs of the business…meaning traffic in this case and b) will make sure that many of those hours are used to turn refunds into exchanges with upsells and add-ons to get even more dollars in the register and c) will make sure that many of those hours are used to actively sell to all of the people who are in the store trying to spend their gift cards or cash from Grandma!

Those people want help… product knowledge, location, sizes, color choices…all of the things that Sales Associates should be all too pleased to help them with.

Using a  small store – say 2500 square feet – as an example, some Managers will only have enough hours to schedule one person to open, another to come in for a three hour shift to cover lunch and then an evening shift. In bigger stores, just scale this up. The result is the same…too few people working in the store and customers are not being looked after.

The staff will be heads down at the cash register, probably processing return after return. Most of the customers might be open to exchanging their item but with no staff on the floor, they’ll just do the easier thing and bring it to the cash desk for a refund.

When the staff member does get out from behind the cash desk, s/he probably has to deal with a trashed store and the spiral just goes down, down, down.

And, all of those people who came in with the gift card or cash from Grandma didn’t have anyone to talk to or to sell to them…so they very likely either did not buy or did not buy as much as they would have if someone were engaged in a conversation with them…actively selling to them.

I experimented with this a few years ago when the trend was changing. I was the Regional Manager and told all of my Store Managers to schedule for nearly double their sales target, coming in at a respectable wage cost. The plan was to have enough floor coverage to beat target by a huge margin and come in with a lower wage cost. It worked.

Our advice to you regarding January is…schedule to have the stores well covered for the expected traffic level and for potential sales.

It’s not a free ticket to go crazy with hours and needs to be watched carefully but, it really does make sense.

All the Success!

Josephine Hill

DMSRetail Inc.

PS: We are currently giving away a 2016 Store Manager’s Organizer/Planner to everyone who signs up for the 7 day – $1.00 trial of the Retail Business Academy Platinum Membership. Check it out Retail Business Academy



Holiday Tip (Tips for Retail Sales Managers)

Here are some snippets for you to consider, and expand on, to improve your retail sales management skills:

People are your most important strategic advantage. If you look at other stores, for example, in a chain store environment all stores have similar if not the same layout, merchandise, tools, procedures, etc. The difference is the people.

Capitalize on the activities you can measure; remember the adage “if it can not be measured, it can not be managed.”

Every day put some time aside (commuting time would be ideal) to think about ways and means regarding how to make your people more productive.

Take the best practices of the top sales associates and put them in place for everybody; the best demo, the best objection-handler, the best closer, and transfer those best practices to the whole sales team. Have the owners of these best practices train the others to do the same. You’ll find your 10% + sales increase just from this.

Sales performance is a function of sales skills + people skills + product knowledge + knowledge of the store environment (like knowing the inventory, being able to process customer inquiries and questions with speed and efficiency, etc.).

Your market and customers are constantly changing. Change is the only constant. What made you successful last year, may not work this year – you must constantly reevaluate your effectiveness. Stay ahead of the curve in terms of what’s happening in the retail world, particularly in your niche.

Retail Sales is a marathon, not a sprint… though it feels like a sprint during these days,  you still have to keep your eyes on the first position and want to get up every morning on the run.

Don’t procrastinate if there is a decision to be made – make it. Get the facts and then make the decision. Ultimately a quick decision-maker will be ten decisions ahead of a slow decision-maker and that’s a competitive advantage.

Remember people pay attention to what the boss/head office pays attention to. Make sure you are in tune with business objectives/tactics and that you clearly understand them. If in doubt, this is a great conversation to have with your supervisor.

Listen to customers; learn to read between the lines. Do not assume you know what they are talking about, or complaining about. Look for quick solutions to customer issues. Make this a culture in the store(s).

Look at and examine your whole sales process. What is not working or can be improved drastically? Where can you increase the productivity/efficiency/effectiveness?

Whenever you are inundated with too many things to do (which is almost always) prioritize. What are the three things that provide the most leverage (most important for your sales performance), then forget to-do’s 4-10 because you’ll never get to them and they are not worth it.

Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions to customers or associates because you may not like the answer. Develop an inquisitive mind. You want to know why customers are or are not buying, why a certain process or promotion in the store is not working. Remember that retail business is not a popularity contest. Get to the bottom of all issues affecting your sales performance.

  Sign Up for the Retail Business Academy, where you  find a ton of resources like techniques, advice and training to move you up a few notches in your skill and capability set. Click to Sign Up Here

Good Selling!

DMSRetail Team 

Word to the RetailWise 2

Today’s ‘Word to the RetailWise’ is: Look at your store –  including windows, cash desk, fitting rooms (if any), displays, etc. – from your customer’s point of view.

Literally…position yourself exactly the way a customer would.

Walk past your windows, stroll around looking at displays and signage, touch the merchandise, if applicable try a garment on and see what the fitting rooms are like, etc.

Many would say that they do all of these things as a routine and they complete a checklist to ensure everything is perfect. But that is not what we’re suggesting. Anything that has become routine enough to be added to a checklist can easily be dismissed, glossed over or taken for granted. You know what we mean, don’t you?

The point here, is to determine what the customer sees and senses, not whether policies and procedures are being followed.

Are the windows too crowded? Is there dust anywhere? Are the lights aimed properly or do they shine in your face? Are they casting an unusual color of light onto the merchandise? Is there room to move around freely? Are the signs clear or confusing? Are there any sharp edges, pointy hooks, loops in the carpet or anything else that could represent a safety hazard? Is there gum stuck to the floor?

Are the employees well groomed? Are they all poised and ready to assist? Do you like the music that’s playing? Is the door to the backroom or receiving area propped open revealing a not so pretty picture? Are the mirrors and glass all crystal clean?

When standing at the cash desk – remember…from the customer’s side – what do you see? A mass of wires coming out of the POS? Merchandise, paperwork or supplies piled high? Dust? Cashier’s notes stuck all over everything?

What the customer sees and senses, while in your store, is really important. There are plenty of other things you can look for when you do your customer walkthrough. Only you can come up with them all for your particular business. This is just a start.

Aim to perform this exercise often, but spontaneously.

All the Success!
DMSRetail Inc.

PS: Check our most definitive resource center for retail managers and enroll! The Retail Business Academy

Word to the RetailWise

Today’s ‘Word to the RetailWise’ is: Make sure your new hires know what is expected of them. And I want to illustrate that with this short, but very telling story.

Here it is…

In a store that is part of a large international retail chain, I recently witnessed something that gave me reason to believe that their new employees simply did not know what what was expected of them. And, here is why I drew that conclusion…

While checking out, I was the customer next in line behind a woman who was purchasing no less than 15 women’s blouses. 15! It was a great sale for the store. The other item the woman was purchasing was something of a carryall bag. The woman wanted the cashier to put the blouses into the bag – very environmentally friendly and all that, right?

So, as the cashier scanned each blouse, she removed the security tag and crumpled it up and put it into the carryall bag. Not folded, not even close to being folded. These blouses were being handled like something one would throw into the trash can. Seriously, I am not exaggerating.

Overcome with a sense of responsibility to defend every customer everywhere, I spoke up.

I said to the cashier “You know, this lady is buying all of these lovely blouses and you are not handling them very carefully. They’re going to be full of wrinkles and they’re brand new. I would be happy to help you fold them up.” Just a note here, the customer in front of me spoke very little English and that made it difficult for her to get involved in the conversation.

Some may say I should mind my own business but, in my line of work, it’s next to impossible to ignore these things.

I was ready for the worst…possibly a scene!

Anyway, to my absolute astonishment, the young cashier said, “You don’t have to help me. I’ll do it. That’s why I have a job.” I had expected a nasty stare, a flippant or sarcastic remark or, at the very least, a miserable attitude. But, no. The cashier – who I have not seen in this store before and am quite certain she is relatively new – proceeded to fold the items and then when it was my turn to be served  she continued to be very pleasant. What an employee…the kind we don’t come across very often anymore.

The moral of this story is: Teach your employees what is expected of them. This young woman; this new cashier simply didn’t know how she was supposed to handle the merchandise. She was very receptive to my ‘training’. I only hope I did not embarrass her. I commend her for her accepting attitude. But I must fault management for not having taught her properly in the first place. They basically set her up to fail.

All the Success!
DMSRetail Inc.

PS. Check out the Retail Business Academy, cashier performance course is in there too.

Effective Mentorship

This excellent summary of traits of highly effective mentors courtesy of Michael Hyatt:

Be a servant. Remember the mentee is the hero. You, the mentor, are the guide. Your job is to support, never to undermine, supplant, or steal the limelight.

Be observant. Notice everything, even details that don’t seem particularly relevant. Your advice is shaped by what you see. Make sure to see enough to have beneficial advice.

Be nonjudgmental. Listen to your mentee without sizing up and judging them. This doesn’t mean you have to approve, but influence takes access and judgmentalism will close the door.

Be curious. Ask good questions—this is more important than having the answers. A mentee will often come to the right answer on her own if she has the right questions.

Be authentic. Be who you are, even if it feels a bit old fashioned. Remember, as a mentor your most important asset is you—everything you know and have experienced.

Be calm. Cooler heads, as the saying goes, prevail. A good mentor can keep the temperature down. This is especially important when things get chaotic and others freak out.

Be confident. Mentees need wisdom and insight, not tactics—which they can get practically anywhere. Realize your experience is relevant, even if you don’t understand the nuances of the mentee’s industry.

Be reassuring. In the midst of challenging times, it’s easy to lose sight of our value and what we’re capable of. When the stakes are high, remind your mentee of what she has already accomplished.

Be courageous. Call on your mentee to make the difficult decision or have the difficult conversation. This is sometimes the only thing that separates success from failure.

Be generous. When the mentee achieves the desired result, give her the credit. Always interpret other’s actions in the best possible light.

Omnichannel Retailing

The future of retailing is shaping out to be one that combines physical with digital. Customers want the advantages of physical like being able to try on or try out the products they are considering, ability to interact with knowledgeable store personnel, and the overall social aspect of being out in the store.

They also want the advantages of digital—such as the ability of looking at a much wider selection, price comparison and reviews of the products by like-minded shoppers. It is becoming clear that the retailers who do a good job of combining both worlds are going to be the winners. Although the absolute share of digital retail is still small (9%), research shows that the 50% of physical purchases are influenced by digital information customers obtained before or during purchase.

Advantages of Physical

  • Ability to test, try on, or experience products
  • Instant access to products
  • Faster and more convenient returns
  • Help with setup or ongoing maintenance
  • Help and input from knowledgeable associates
  • Carefully selected assortment
  • Shopping as a social event and an experience
  • Instant gratification

Advantages of Digital

  • Broad product information
  • Other customer reviews, tips and advice
  • Price comparison from various sites and special offers
  • Wide selection
  • Easy (usually) and fast checkout
  • Anytime, anywhere access

Technology for a successful implementation of OmniChannel is readily available. For more information, contact John Callaghan at

See and Feel the Relationship Between You and Your Customer

What is at the foundation of Retail Store Design and Visual Merchandising?”  If I could boil it down to two principles that guide everything, it would be these:

1.  Don’t think.  Feel.

Now, don’t get me wrong here – I am about as strategic as they come regarding store design.  However, having said that, everything that I do in designing a store experience is targeted at the customer’s emotional response.  99.99% of purchases are emotionally based.  And I’m being generous with the 0.01% – I have yet to have anyone show me a purchase that they’ve made that doesn’t have an emotional element to it.  One famous example is: a presenter asks everyone in his seminar to look at their watch.  He explains, “If you spent more than $20 on your watch, it was for emotional reasons.”  In today’s world, a $20 watch will keep time just as well as a $6,500 watch.  (For that matter, we all have time on our cell phones, so who needs a watch?)  And yet, millions of people are still spending the additional $6,480 to make themselves feel special, elite, sophisticated, refined, discriminating, successful.  The same can be said for the store environment.  We buy things from stores that make us feel the way we want to feel about ourselves – stores that are in alignment with the way we want to be perceived by others.  In any purchase decision, feelings will always trump thoughts.  How do your stores make your customers feel?

2.  Stop looking at your stores through your own eyes, and start seeing them through your customer’s eyes.

One of the greatest values that we bring to our clients is the ability to see their stores through the eyes of an outsider – through the eyes of their customer.  You can do this too – and you must, if you want to connect with your customer.  Step outside.  Get some distance from your stores (literally, if you have to) and then come back and see them with the eyes of someone who has never seen them before.  Put yourself into the mindset of your customer.  What is their life like?  What do they want?  What do they need?  What do they worry about?  What do they aspire to?  Forget everything that you know about the behind-the-scenes operations, the company history, the insider knowledge of what you’re capable of as a company.  See only what is – what is in the space here and now – and see if it from the perspective of someone asking themselves, “Does this feel like me?  Does it feel like the me that I aspire to be?”  As a company there is likely a long list of things that you would want customers to know about you as they shop your stores.  Are the most important ones being communicated by the store environment itself?  And again, if viewed through the eyes of your customer, do your stores make you feel the way you would want to feel in order to be inspired to buy something just to be able to take that feeling home with you?

Most of us at one time or another during our upbringing, or during our education in preparation for entering the business world were taught to “dress for success.”  What that means and looks like will differ from person to person depending on their own unique personality, the response they’re hoping to get from people, and the environment in which they’re trying to succeed.  Stores are the same way.  Whether they’re “dressed for success” or not will depend on their unique personality (your Brand), the response they’re hoping to get from customers (the emotional reaction that leads to a purchase), and the environment in which they’re trying to succeed (the marketplace and competitor pool).  Successful store designs are a function of combining a series of seemingly minor elements – space planning, fixture selection, lighting, colors and materials, signage and graphics – that, when taken together become a powerful, emotional shopping experience.  It all begins with Seeing and Feeling the relationship between you and your customer.

Check out the “Retail Store Design and Visual Merchandising Workshop”

Lifetime value of a customer

Knowing how much a customer is worth to you over the long-term is the best way to convince yourself and your staff to become more committed and determined to treating your customers right and keeping them happy.

Calculating the lifetime value of a customer is reasonably simple. Take the example of your local supermarket. A typical family of four will spend approximately $200 each week on groceries and household items. Given that they are on vacation for two weeks a year, and say they are away for other reasons for another 2 weeks, that means they will shop at their grocery store for 48 weeks each year.

Over the course of a year, this single family will spend approximately (48 x200) = $9,600 at that supermarket. Now, let’s assume that the average family stays in their community for 15 years. Without taking into account inflation or the time value of money, that one family is worth $144,000 ($9,600 per year times 15 years) to that supermarket.

Now imagine the quality of service — be it speed, friendliness or special treatment – that family would get the next time they bought groceries if the store staff and the cashier knew they were worth $144,000 to the store (not just the $200 they were spending that day). It would probably be much better, wouldn’t it?

Suddenly, when you and your staff realize the lifetime value of customers to your business over the long-term, making decisions to benefit them (and not just your short-term interests or profits) become much easier. Take the time to figure out the lifetime value of YOUR customers. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Retail Success Accelerator is a product that is full of such practical, insightful and actionable ideas. Take a Look for Yourself-Click Here

All the Success! 
DMS Retail

PS. It is a combination of many little things that are done consistently which brings the ultimate success. Do yourself a favor and get a copy of the Retail Success Accelerator today.

How to Control Your Retail Business More Effectively-Part 1

One of the ways you can simplify controlling your retail business is through Gross Margin Return on Inventory Investment (GMROII) – commonly called JimRoy. It is, arguably, one of the most important Retail Key Performance Indicators (KPI).

Why is GMROII so important? Because it takes into account 3 very important operational activity areas in retail:

1. Sales performance

2. Desirability (demand) of the product (or buying effectiveness)

3. Profitability

Here is the formula for GMROII:

GMROII = GM% x (Sales / Avg. Inventory)

As a numerical example, if we assume Gross Margin of 33.33% and the store net sales of 24M over 12 months with 12 month average inventory of 4M, then:

GMROII % = 33.33 x (24 / 4) = 199.98% (some people use margin as a fraction, in which case this result becomes 1.9998)

Which means that for every $100 investment you make on your inventory, you get $199.98 back! Pretty good deal!

This metric is also a great tool for benchmarking similar stores, districts and regions as well as companies within the same retail vertical. It is also used to evaluate suppliers / vendors. You can apply GMROI to department, category, brand and SKU as well. A very versatile KPI indeed.

Keep a close eye on your GMROII, since through reporting of one number, you can reduce the amount of reports you have to look at or, at least, you will be consuming less time figuring out what’s going on.

Next week, we are going to dig even deeper into how you can manage your whole business through just one number

All the Success!


PS. Retail Math-Made Simple, 3rd Edition has a lot of information on KPI’s and their calculations. Choose from an electronic download, printed version, DVD presentation or any combination. Learn how your retail business operates by the numbers.

You can check it all out here.

Seasonal Temps, like Michelle, Add Value


It’s that time of year again. Many retailers are on a mission to beef up their staff rosters so they’ll have enough floor coverage and extra help, to handle the increased traffic coming into their stores.

And, let’s face it, many of our customers may be subjected to some confused new hires who don’t know as much as they should. But let’s not be too quick to blame those new seasonal employees.

Even though many new seasonal hires may only be with you for a few weeks, they can add a lot of value if you do certain things right. Over the years, both as a customer and as a District/Regional Manager I’ve heard lots of comments about seasonal people…usually implying that something went wrong in service delivery, or mark downs, or visual display, or cleanliness or, whatever… due to the fact that seasonal people were involved.

That’s kind of unfair to them. If you’re going to invest the time and effort to recruit and hire people – seasonal or not – then you’ve got to make the most of the investment. There’s no room for the excuse “s/he’s just a temp” when it comes to your store(s) and your company’s reputation.

One of the greatest benefits of hiring seasonal employees, like the one in the story below, is that you get to see them in action; it’s like a working interview and you can determine quickly and easily if the seasonal employee is someone you’d like to bring on permanently after the holidays.

Lots of retailers get some of their ‘gems’ this way, and here’s why…

People who are looking for seasonal employment may not be your regular job seekers. Some want to get into the workforce temporarily to earn a bit of extra income, and some may want to see if retail is something they’d like. Others may find that it’s easier to land a job when so many employers are trying to find people.

Here’s a true story about one seasonal employee that I hired…

Michelle was new to the country and, although she interviewed very well, you could see that she was a little self conscious about her language skills. It was clear that she was bright, well educated and very enthusiastic about getting the job.

We hired Michelle as a cashier and she worked out very, very well. She was excellent at adding on merchandise at the cash desk.

Then, one day, we needed her to cover out on the sales floor. She was a bit apprehensive but she agreed. Michelle displayed a lot of natural talent but needed a little confidence building.

After a couple of hours of training on the basics of the selling process, she was amazing. Obviously, it helped that she was a very willing student.

Anyway, once she got going, there was no stopping her. And, you guessed it, we hired her on a permanent basis at the end of the season. Definitely a win/win.

Whatever the reason, once hired, many people shine just like Michelle did.

There have always been at least a few seasonal employees that I encouraged Store Managers to hire on a permanent basis following the holiday period.

Of course, there are the others as well…the ones that make you say “What were we thinking?”. You know…the party animals who show up late for their shifts looking like death warmed over, and the chatterboxes, and the timid onesstanding as far away from customers as possible, and the loud, boisterous ones who think they know everything (when they clearly do not), and the list goes on.

But, what do you do once the season is well underway? These are the people you have so you often end up putting up with them.

But, if you really want to add value to the seasonal hiring effort this year, there is something you can do to get something beneficial out of the process.

You don’t have to put tons of time in or take your other people out of their stores/districts to make this happen. If you have hired seasonal employees who are new to retail, or sales and customer service functions then give them something that they can get through quickly and easily.. something that will help them get ‘in tune’ with what you expect from them and give them some skills to bring to the job.

Give them a little training; something that they can do on their own, and the party animals, the timid, the chatterboxes and the know it alls will, at the very least, understand that you expect more from them and that you’re investing to make sure you get what you expect. We guarantee it.

I’ve seen lots of people, just like Michelle, who turn out to be worth their weight in gold.

This time of year is way too important to leave this to chance. If you can help your new people get up to speed quickly enough to make a difference this season, why wouldn’t you? Consider this very simple example.

Your seasonal employee, Jane, will help clean and organize the stockroom, she’ll change lightbulbs and keep displays tidy, she might even be a really friendly greeter when positioned at your lease line. You may be very happy with Jane.

But if Jane learns some sales & customer service skills she can be more productive by actively selling to customers, in addition to her other duties.

Depending on your average sale, if Jane made just a couple of decent sales, you’d quickly recover any investment you made in training her and it would prove to be very worthwhile. And, she would thank you for taking the time to help her, as well.

In addition to monetary gain through increased sales, you also get more commitment, respect and loyalty.

You can decide to make your seasonal employees a very valuable asset this year.

All the Success!


P.S.: If you’re looking for something to help you realize your investment in your seasonal employees, here it is. Get your copy of the Retail Selling Skills & Customer Service Fundamentals Self Study Course now. The digital version is only $97. In just a couple of hours, your new employees will learn how to contribute so much more to your business.

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