5 Steps to safeguard your business

With the wave of UK Retail bad news coming in of dropping sales and business closures it’s perhaps time to remind ourselves of some areas to focus on.

1. Concentrate on what is within our control

We can’t do anything about the economy, high unemployment or the weather so focus your energies on what is within your control. What can be done to increase your sales and/or margins? How can you reduce your buying costs or overheads?

2. Revisit and, if necessary, revise your Business Plan

Hopefully we all have a business plan but circumstances change and they often need to be ‘tweaked’. Do you have an ultimate goal and a route  to get there? Is the strategy still valid given the 2011 trading conditions? Do you have a friend, mentor or business expert who can look over your plan and challenge you on each and every aspect of it to make sure your expectations are realistic?

3. Look hard at the selling prices

We all want to make sure the prices are competitive but some prices could be increased to compensate for the ‘loss leaders’. For example, there is very little margin to be made selling Apple products but the money is made on the accessories. The consumer that wants the latest iPhone/iPod with will spend  £14.99 a on cover which costs only £1-2 to buy in. Are they any add-ons that you sell where you can boost your margins?

4.  Improve your Staff Training

You need to maximise the sales from your customer footfall so make sure your staff are the best. Instigate on-going  product knowledge training to ensure your staff are ready and able to offer the customer the full information required for them to make the correct purchase. Train the staff to not only have the ability to maximise sales but to minimise losses. Let them be constantly aware of potential threats to stock losses and damages. A polite good morning to customers who enter will show potential thieves (let’s not pussy foot around calling them shop lifters etc.) that you are aware of their presence and it may be better for them to visit an outlet where the staff don’t appear to be in control of their surroundings.

5. Maximise your marketing

Yes, money is tight and nobody likes to spend money on advertising but marketing can take many forms and, with the internet, can be done  cheaply but effectively. It costs nothing except time to access your database and send emails when new ranges are in or there are special promotions. Have you got a Facebook page and Twitter account alongside your website? Put on events in the shop to create a buzz. Last Saturday a sports shop client had the cricketer Mark Ramprakash attend, paid for by the supplier who sponsors him. He reckoned that he made new customers not just from the cricketing fans but 50% were from fans of Strictly Come Dancing.

Let’s take the time to take a good hard look at your business to ensure it’s in great shape for 2011 and beyond.

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