In the ever-evolving world of retail, one of the constant challenges facing companies is the high rate of turnover.
As bad as losing an employee is for any business, however, it can be even worse for independent retailers. In addition to leaving you shorthanded, regular turnover can deflate company morale, interrupt workflow and decrease efficiency in the workplace. Replacing employees also cuts into your time for other tasks and can be quite costly. With a smaller staff, fewer resources and a lower operating budget than big-box retailers, these issues are only magnified for small business owners.
On the bright side, there are ways to reduce employee turnover. Here are a few tips to keep your team together for the foreseeable future.
Get it right the first time. There’s no better way to cut down on employee turnover than by hiring the right people in the first place. While no hiring strategy is foolproof, there are ways to increase your odds of landing long-term employees. Expanding your recruitment campaign, widening your candidate pool and prolonging the interview process are a few ways to ensure your new hires are not only qualified, but complement your company culture and have a passion for your industry. It’s always better to invest time and money upfront than it is to react out of desperation and repeatedly make the same mistakes.
Value your employees. Yes, this means offering your employees fair wages and enticing benefits – but it goes beyond that. More than anything, people want to feel appreciated and respected. Instead of simply handing out regular raises, pay attention to each individual’s needs and act accordingly. In most cases, personal perks and a little bit of flexibility will go a lot further than a nominal pay increase. Encouraging employee feedback and listening to their ideas will also make them feel like more than just a hired hand.
Inspire your employees. Think back to the passion and excitement that fueled you to start your own business. Now try and infuse that passion into your team members. By sharing your interests, goals, experiences and knowledge, you will give your staff extra incentive to go the extra mile. The goal of working towards a common objective will also give them a greater sense of accountability and a vested interest in the success of your company. If you want your employees to treat their positions as more than just a job, they have to see you as more than just a boss.
Boost company morale. One of the most common causes of employee turnover is a negative work environment. Aim to create a positive and optimistic workspace by celebrating milestones, praising employees (both as a group and individually) and engaging in regular team-building activities. Public displays of gratitude, peer-recognition programs, social activities (such as company BBQs or group volunteering) and open communication lines are also great ways to boost morale and retain employees.
Provide opportunities for growth. Regardless of tenure or position, people have an intrinsic desire to evolve. By providing your employees with room to grow – and investing in additional training and professional development programs – you will reduce the chance that they grow bored, despondent or resentful. Instead of seeking greener pastures elsewhere, they will stay committed to you and your company while improving their knowledge and expanding their skill set. In addition to regular reviews, ask your employees about their professional goals – and do your best to help them achieve them. The effort will help reduce turnover and pay dividends for years to come.
In the world of independent retail, finding new customers can be a challenge. Between limited marketing budgets, increased online shopping and competition from the big-box stores, even getting noticed can be an uphill battle.
But one way to level the playing field is with giveaways. In addition to being a whole lot of fun, retail giveaways can increase brand awareness, bring people into your store, and, ultimately, boost sales. When executed properly, a giveaway will also create a buzz about your business that money can’t buy.
Pulling off the perfect promotion, however, takes planning. Here is a five-step process to creating the ultimate retail giveaway.
Define your purpose. A giveaway for the sake of a giveaway will get you nowhere. Before launching your contest, be sure to establish at least one concrete goal. Whether it’s collecting customer data (such as email addresses or shopping preferences), promoting a new product or increasing Facebook followers, always begin with a clear objective. The more specific your purpose is, the easier it will be to plan and implement a successful campaign.
Pick a prize. But not just any prize. Deciding on the bait for your giveaway is arguably the most important aspect of your promotion. When choosing your prize, it’s important to balance budget, customer appeal and relevance. While giveaways can be fun, they are also an essential marketing tool; be sure to stay on brand while offering something that relates to your industry and will be of value to your target audience. Gift cards for your store are always a great way to gain new customers, as they will bring people into your store and provide an opportunity to win them over.
Pick a format. Now that you’ve picked a prize, it’s time to pick a type of giveaway. From simple sweepstakes to user-generated content (UGC) contests, the possibilities are endless. When deciding on a format, it’s important to revisit your initial goals. If you want to collect email addresses from existing customers, you may want to consider an in-store contest; if the goal is to increase your Facebook audience, you may ask users to like and share a specific post. This is also the time to lay out the contest rules, such as barriers to entry, deadlines, etc.
Make some noise. With a prize and a format picked out, you’re well on your way to a successful retail giveaway! The next step is to spread the word and get as many people involved as possible. Again, your end goals will determine exactly which audiences to target, but a good place to start is with in-store promotion, existing email lists, your company’s blog (yes, your business should have a blog) and your social media channels. You could also reach out to other bloggers within your industry, who may be willing to share the news in a post. If you can also find a way for entrants to draw attention to your brand, all the better.
Wrap it up. After you’ve done all you can to promote your giveaway and the contest has run its course, it’s time to pick – and announce – the winner. After all the buildup and anticipation, it’s important to keep the momentum going by publicly awarding the lucky entrant and thanking all who participated. This is also the time to evaluate the success of the campaign and determine whether or not you reached your goals. Either way, you are now equipped with data, ideas and strategies to make your next retail giveaway even better!
In last week’s blog post, we served up five tips to make the most out of your retail space. This week, we’ll take a closer look at one of those tips: creating a more efficient layout for your store.
As a small business owner, the struggle with limited space is real. Resources to constantly reorganize your space are scarce, and more inventory than shelf space is a constant reality. But instead of stressing over your situation or thinking about ways to get bigger, focus instead on making the most of what you have. Here are four easy ways to create a more efficient layout.
Less is more. The first key to optimizing any space is organization. So cut clutter, always keep things clean, and aim for a simple, streamlined layout. While you certainly want to display your hottest products and show off your extensive selection, you don’t want to overwhelm your customers with too many fixtures or too many options. You also don’t want to make navigating your store a challenge. In the case of independent retail space, the adage of quality over quantity certainly applies.
Move on up. It never ceases to amaze how quickly shelf space can fill up. But you probably have more real estate than you think – simply look up. While you probably don’t want to place your most popular products beyond arm’s reach, don’t be afraid to extend your shelving and take advantage of the upper portions of your wall space. The extra space can be used to store overstock, display signage or even show off your personal design touches. Staggering your shelves and incorporating vertical design features can also break the monotony of browsing, create the sense of more space and draw the eye to more products.
Lighten up. Any expert will tell you that one of the most important elements in design is lighting, and the same holds true for retail space. While bright overhead lighting alone can make your space seem stark or industrial, you also want to avoid something too soft. Achieve a happy medium by incorporating lamps and built-in lighting, and using strategically-placed mirrors. Also be sure to use any and all windows to your advantage, as natural light is a great way to make any space look bigger. When in doubt, use the rule of thumb that a space worth filling is a space worth lighting.
Living in color. Much like sufficient lighting, proper paint can pay huge dividends in retail layout. You’ve probably heard that lighter colors create the illusion of larger spaces, which is true; you can never go wrong with whites and off-whites. But brighter, bolder accent walls can also make a big difference. “One dark wall makes the room recede farther,” says design expert Libby Langdon. Whatever you decide, be sure to stick to your branding – and have some fun!
As an independent retailer, your brick-and-mortar store is the backbone of your business. And as an independent retailer, you probably have a limited budget to house said store.
But what you lack in space you can more than make up for in productivity.
Regardless of where you’re located, what you’re selling or how many square feet you have to work with, there are ways to maximize your space and optimize your revenue. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Efficient layout. The first key to making the most of your store space is using it as efficiently as possible. Working with the principle that less is more, start by decluttering your store; not only do cramped and crowded spaces taint the customer experience, but they make it harder for people to find – and buy – what they need. The second key is to keep your space tidy. While some fixtures, displays and signage are necessary, keep them to a minimum – and only if they serve a purpose. Also consider the traffic flow of your store; ensure customers can navigate with ease and place your popular products where people are sure to see them.
Invest in staff. Having the right employees in place will improve customer satisfaction, increase revenue and spur loyalty. In addition to strong sales skills and a knack for upselling, an ideal staff member will have strong product knowledge, passion for your industry and familiarity with the store layout. Also, provide regular training and professional development opportunities, whether it’s product conferences, or upselling.
Premium product selection. When it comes to product selection, more isn’t necessarily better. Would you rather have piles of product collecting dust, or fewer items flying off the shelves? In addition meeting your customers’ most common needs, a more streamlined product line will cut down your overhead and free up some cash flow. A good way to stay on top of your inventory is to study sales reports and data on a regular basis – and stock up accordingly. Where you place your products can also affect sales; by placing sale items at the back, you will force customers to walk through the entire store, thus exposing them to more of your premium products and increasing the odds of impulse purchases.
Optimize prices. One of the more overlooked strategies to make the most of limited retail space is to price your products properly. In order to increase your sales per square feet, you want to find the sweet spot that gives you the highest margin possible without scaring customers away. Again, studying your data and analytics (as well as the competition) will give you an idea of what people are buying – and at what prices. There are also a few timeless pricing tricks you can use to improve sales, such as ditching the dollar sign or pricing items to end in .99 instead of .00.
Get people in – and keep them there. When it comes to retail, getting people into your store is half the battle. In order to get the word out and make a name for yourself, look beyond traditional advertising and promotions. That means leveraging social media and technological advancements, hosting community events and taking advantage of marketing trends, such as the current Pokemon Go craze. Once you have people in your store, it’s important to treat them as potential customers; they may not buy something right then, but making a great first impression will give them a reason to remember you. And may just gain you a customer for life.
From afternoon activities to weekend retreats, team-building exercises are a great way for small business owners to build a better work environment.
Whether your team is made up of five employees or 50, some time away from the office is an opportunity to improve communication, increase productivity and boost company morale. But best of all, team-building activities are a great way to recharge your team’s collective battery and help your employees see you as more than just a “boss.”
Here are a few benefits of team-building activities for small businesses.
Better Communication. All clichés aside, small business owners know how important communication truly is. By organizing a team-building activity for your staff, you’re not only improving their communication skills, but forcing employees to converse outside of the work environment. The more comfortable people are around each other, the more efficiently they will interact and the better their overall rapport will be. Familiarity within the workplace will also increase collaboration and coordination, resulting in a more efficient and productive company. Better communication among staff members will also play a key role in employee retention.
More motivation. While the primary purpose of team-building activities is to improve teamwork, it will also motivate employees individually. By engaging your employees in an environment outside the workplace, you allow them to display their strengths, discover their potential, and express their personalities while improving their skill set. This can help solidify their roles within the team and encourage them to continue developing professionally. As an added bonus, higher motivation often leads to higher performance and productivity – always a good thing for small businesses.
Higher morale. Better communication and more motivation among your staff members will undoubtedly lead to a boost in company morale. By developing interpersonal relationships and improving problem-solving skills in a group setting, your team is likely to bond and become more cohesive as a unit; regardless of their roles and positions within the company, this will help create a positive work environment and benefit your business in the long run. Organizing team-building activities is also a great way to show your employees that you’re proactive and passionate about the success of your business – and hopefully encourage them to follow suit.
In the August issue of Paint & Decorating Retailer magazine, columnist Jan Niehaus touches on the increasingly relevant issue of training millennials. As she puts it: “the generation born between the early ‘80s and late ‘90s, who will represent 75 percent of the workforce by 2025, expect to be trained. But they don’t want just any old training.”
Given the prevalence of technology and social media in the lives of millennials, it’s no secret that traditional forms of training no longer cut it. Instead, businesses are better off using what Niehaus calls “dynamic media” – things your employees can interact and engage with, such as video, graphic animation, infographics and more.
How you train your millennial employees is also an opportunity to show who you are and what you’re all about; will they see you simply as the source of their next paycheck, or as a company – and a cause – worth championing. To increase the odds of the latter, here are seven tips for training millennials in today’s marketplace.
Give them a purpose. Although your millennial employees are unlikely to work for free, their sense of purpose probably isn’t fulfilled from just a paycheck. More than past generations, millennials gravitate toward work that matters to them – or at the very least interests them. By educating them about your company’s vision and defining their role in it, you will validate them professionally and motivate them to go the extra mile.
Switch it up. As Niehaus states, “Instruction that starts with Module 1 and drones through Modules 2, 3 and 4 will bore them to tears.” Most millennials prefer to learn in multiple ways, so use a wide variety of teaching techniques. The more varied and more innovative, the better.
Be hands-on. With more opportunity than past generations, millennials are eager to develop various skill sets and learn as much as possible. What better way to learn than by doing? “Whenever possible, incorporate actual work tasks into the training,” suggests Niehaus. In addition to offering instant gratification and real-time results, hands-on training is easier to retain than online modules or traditional training manuals. Much like lack of purpose, boredom is a sure way to lose a millennial employee’s interest.
The more the merrier. Whether in person, online or at work, a sense of community is important to millennials. Team-building exercises, group learning and collaboration are great ways to engage employees in a social and interactive way. Providing one-one-one mentorship is also a great way to pass on role-specific knowledge and keep your younger employees engaged.
Get with the times. “If employees see images of people working at old-fashioned computer monitors,” Niehaus warns, “they will wonder if the rest of the content is also dated.” Avoid this by keeping their training tech-savvy, digital and accessible. Since technology changes at a rapid pace, be sure to keep your training fluid and flexible. And whatever you do, no PowerPoint!
Less is more. Perhaps more than any generation before them, millennials are inundated with distractions. Ensure you keep their attention by making your training concise, relevant and specific. It’s also more effective to break training into smaller sections and keep it ongoing than to lay it on them all at once and hope they remember it.
Talk to me. Although feedback may not be unique to millennials, it goes a long way in retaining employees. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to hold their hands, but keep lines of communication as open as possible and don’t be afraid to hold frequent evaluations. Advice and criticism (so long as it’s constructive), as well as guidance and praise, will benefit everyone involved.
In last week’s blog post, we shared three ways to get new customers through your front door. This week, we’ll focus specifically on one of those tips: improving your curb appeal.
Much like a prospective homebuyer seeking out that perfect property, each of your potential customers will form an opinion before they ever step foot inside. For better or worse, first impressions can make a lasting impression – so why not put your best foot forward?
In addition to keeping your storefront clean and accessible, an attractive presence and personal touches can make the difference between passersby coming inside and walking on by. It can also make the difference between gaining a customer for life and a missed opportunity. In order to cut down on cases of the latter, here are three simple ways to spruce up your store’s curb appeal without breaking the bank.
Windows. Whether you do it yourself or hire a local company, keeping your store’s windows clean is essential to maintaining a respectable street presence. But what’s behind your windows is equally important. Instead of simply hanging posters or stacking overstock, use window space as an opportunity to extend your branding and show people what you’re all about. Remember: like any good story, it’s better to show than to tell – and less is often more. Window presentations are also a great way to promote new products, upcoming events and seasonal trends.
Signage. Just because your signage shouldn’t take up all your window space doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have it. But signage shouldn’t be strictly promotional; instead of simply advertising sales or listing your products (or hours), try to engage passersby with something a little more personable. Again, stay on brand and remember that less is usually more – especially if your storefront space is limited. Setting up stylish sandwich boards on the sidewalk can also turn heads and get people through the door – just be sure to keep them relevant and current.
Paint. As a paint and decorating retailer, there’s no better way to put your money where your mouth is than by showing off your creativity and design expertise. While some commercial properties have certain restrictions (especially if you’re leasing), try to think outside the box and show a bit of personality with your color scheme. Even if your entire storefront can’t be painted, try for a bold front door, funky window frames or a sign that stands out. At the very least, ensure you touch up scrapes and chips as they happen and apply a new coat regularly. After all, nothing will turn a potential customer off more than a business unwilling to walk the walk.
By now we all know that online shopping is on the rise. With the countless options and added convenience – not to mention the technological advancements and explosion of smartphone use – it’s no surprise that people have turned to the Internet for everything from books and clothing to electronics and jewelry.
But in the land of brick-and-mortar retailers, it’s not all doom and gloom. While a website’s “Buy” button may save customers time and money, there’s still a lot to be said for a top-notch shopping experience. In some industries – paint and decorating among them – there’s no replacement for experience, expertise and sage advice. As long as you offer quality products at fair prices, and provide exceptional customer service, there will always be a market for your business.
The biggest challenge for independent retailers, therefore, is not competing with online shopping outlets; it’s finding your audience, getting them in your store and doing what you do best. Here are three ways to get more people through your front door and set your business up for success.
Promotions and events. Tempting as it may be to simply throw a “Blow Out Sale” sign in your window every couple months, in-store promotions should be about more than just bargains. They’re an opportunity to meet your neighbors, make a good impression and grow your customer base. Regardless of your industry, there are countless ways to draw a crowd without seeming desperate or overly sales-y; take advantage of holidays, piggyback on local trends or team up with other businesses or organizations in your community. The more inclusive your promotion, the more traffic – and more business – you’ll get.
Improve Your Curb Appeal. No matter how many times we’ve been told to never judge a book by its cover, we all still do it. For people visiting your store for the first time, dirty windows, trash on the sidewalk or a scuffed front door can be enough to turn them off. And between online shopping, big box stores and the other independent retailers in your area, there’s no shortage of alternatives for them to turn to. As a paint and decorating retailer, the pressure is especially high to look the part and make a lasting impression; take advantage of your position to stand out and show what’s possible with a keen eye and the right paint. Sprucing up your storefront is also a great way to catch the eye of someone who may be new to the neighborhood or never knew you existed.
Referral Programs. While the days of traditional media advertising may be behind us, the power of word of mouth is alive and well. While a diverse product line, extensive industry knowledge and service with a smile go a long way, referral programs provide extra incentive for satisfied customers to recommend your business to others. Whether it’s a one-time discount or entry in a draw, rewarding your customers for referrals shows that you value their business. Once the new customer is in your store, however, the onus is back on you. Be sure to provide the same experience that got them in the door – and provide them the same incentive to refer the next one.