As surely as the days grow shorter and the air goes from being crisp and refreshing to downright cold, small retailers know that their hottest, brightest time of year is fast approaching. Many small retailers will do as much as a third of their business in the final two months of the calendar year. It's an absolutely critical period for maximizing sales and profits, and squirreling away the necessary cash to carry the business until the spring selling season blooms anew.
November is a critical month for small retailers to be sure that they are well positioned to have the kind of December which will set them up to go into the New Year in the strongest position. The objective is to maximize both sales and gross profits while minimizing potential markdown exposure.
The strategy is to narrow and focus merchandise assortments, so that by the end of the selling season the weight of the available inventory to sell is on the proven best sellers. Even retailers whose "raison d'etre" the rest of the year is offering their customers a complete shopping experience must recognize that at this time of the year the business must become item driven. Focus your purchases for late November/early December delivery on your best selling items.
Think of it from a customer's perspective. As they shop throughout December, their objective evolves from seeking a full range of potential gift items to seeking that item they know is a "can't miss." When they are shopping those last few days they are looking for those one or two items that they just know will be right! Merchandise assortments that meet those customers expectations will assure that sales are maximized and markdowns are minimized.
Here's a quick checklist of things to keep in mind as you go through November, and gear up for that big final push:
The time to plan for a great finish to the season is now. Planning for a small retailer can seem burdensome at any time of the year, but right now, right at this moment, it is critically important to take the time to identify your best selling items, plan out your needs carefully, and execute your plan. It can be the difference between going into January with a warm, comfortable feeling or feeling left out in the cold.
Ted Hurlbut is the Principal of Hurlbut & Associates, a merchandising and inventory management consulting firm based in Medway, Massachusetts. Hurlbut & Associates helps clients increase sales, profitability and cash flow by improving the productivity of their inventory investment. Ted possesses over 20 years of experience in a variety of merchandising, inventory management, buying, and purchasing roles, in both large corporations and smaller organizations, in retail, wholesale and distribution settings. To learn more, visit Hurlbut & Associates, at www.hurlbutassociates.com.