November '19

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NOVEMBER 2019 THE SHOP 9 Also, avoid the temptation to overbuy. "Never buy more than you need to get a lower price," recommends Dion. "Vendors may offer free shipping, for example, if you buy a certain minimum." Turn the offer down if it will result in bloated inventory. "Buy only what you need and are com- fortable selling." At the same time, buying more from fewer suppliers can be a smart way to foster good relations. "Many independent retailers buy a few items from each of a large number of sup- pliers," says Bob Phibbs, a retail consultant based in Coxsackie, New York (retaildoc. com). "But they do not enjoy any priority treatment that way. It's better to patronize fewer vendors and do more business with each of them." Finally, let your suppliers help with inventory control. "The more information you can feed to your suppliers about rates of sale, the better," says Dion. "Give them your POS data. When they get information about drop-offs in demand they are better able to react and offer some inventory balancing, return and exchange of products. There can be a lot of opportunities if you treat your suppliers as partners rather than adversaries." Bonus tip: Write off obsolete inven- tory now. Waiting until the recession hits will increase the bottom-line impact. SERVE THE NEW CUSTOMER The modern consumer is acquiring mer- chandise very differently from previous generations. How do you adapt your store to meet changing needs? Serving the millennial means moving to mobile. "Millennials are not paying attention to traditional marketing such as loyalty programs," says Dion. "Their heads are in their phones. You need to ask, 'How is my mobile exposure reaching this consumer? Have I invested in a robust mobile site?'" Success means more than adapting an old website to mobile, however. "The real Holy Grail is a purpose-built app that offers something special," says Dion. "Maybe you can schedule services right on the app; maybe it can quickly and efficiently offer information vital to the end user." Think service, says Dion. "Millennials are into 'do it for me.'" Millennials also haunt social media. "You need a social media presence, espe- cially on Facebook," says Phibbs. "There is no other social media platform as powerful as Facebook. It attracts people from different generations and allows for private groups. Remember that a lot of people become aware of brands through their friends." Bonus tip: Millennials love games, so your mobile app should offer one. For example, maybe the shopper can earn points in trivia quizzes. CONTROL CASH FLOW A recession can send a retailer's normal revenue rhythms into a tailspin. Excess inventory is a drag on profits at any time. In a recession, it can spark failure.

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