July '16

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96 THE SHOP JULY 2016 As I have said many times before: You cannot peddle out of an empty wagon! Advertise! Advertise! Most retailers quickly cut the advertising budget in tough times, believing they are saving money. Many studies have proven this to be a false strategy. It is way more effective to advertise when everyone else is cutting back. Having inventory and letting customers know you have inventory results in gaining sales (and maybe the competitor's cus- tomers). People will long remember who was there (and who was not) when they needed stuff. These are the times you can showcase your business. Clean up the store! Times slow? What better time is there to clean, paint and rearrange displays? As a sales rep calling on jobbers during a reces- sion I have witnessed countermen playing solitaire and other similar distractions. This is either a sign of poor management or a sign of a company that has given up and is just waiting for the axe to fall. They were the ones whining and com- plaining loudest about the hard times. On my next trip to the area, most of these were out of business. It was sad because I often predicted their failures based on what I witnessed. Make the store look fully stocked at all times. If you are low on inventory, take advan- tage of the companies that will furnish you "empty box" displays. Add advertising posters to fill empty wall space. Do not let the customer perceive any reduction in merchandise when they walk in the door. Of course, having inventory also trumps the "have-it-for-you-tomorrow" Internet guys and the weak store down the street. Hustle. A recession is the time to call on customers, especially those you have not seen or heard from in a while. Maybe you should start calling or visiting those lost customers. This would be a good time to start or boost an outside sales program. It is also a good time to mail specials to those on your customer list. People will buy from those they see or hear from regularly. The Internet companies don't go to see customers and people hate phone solicitors. Everyone appreciates personal attention. Bragging a bit—in that 1980 recession I was a commission-based outside sales rep and desperate for income, so I increased my sales efforts. And I more than survived— my sales actually flourished. Yours can too. Don't lose money by trying to price your parts below the competition just to make sales. It is hard to accept when they beat you out of a sale—but very satisfying when they go under and you become the long-term winner. Maintain sound business practices. You have to make a profit on every sale to stay in business. I often told my cus- tomers that I don't resent those that sell for less, because they know what their stuff is worth. Try a bargain table. Place slow-moving items or loss-leader merchandise or stuff you bought on a deal table with full retail prices marked on them. Have a big sign that says something like, "Everything on This Table – Prices Reduced 10% Every Tuesday." Mark everything down before you open on Tuesday. Date the price stickers if you can. Show multiple price stickers so cus- tomers will know how many times the items have been marked down. You will not believe how much interest (and sales) this will generate on a normally slow day. I have seen customers having a hard time trying to decide whether to buy today or gamble on the item still being there with a reduced price next Tuesday. I have seen cus- tomers in the store late on Monday become the first one in the store on Tuesday. People love bargains. I started this practice to sell off some dead items that had been in stock forever and soon found myself buying for the table every week. Don't ever put the A items on the bargain table, because they are going to sell anyway. The items that I did have to sell for a loss were few and far between. Keep yourself up-to-date and knowledgeable. This is important. Being able to truthfully answer customer questions is a strong prac- tice that will earn you repeat customers. It beats the Internet and big-box store guys every time. Don't get blindsided. If your business is less than eight years old and has been profitable from day one, you have not experienced a recession. Wake up, pay attention, and know it may not always be so easy. You planned well to start and grow your business. You should have a "no-growth plan" as well. Someday, before you are ready, you will need it and will be glad you planned ahead. Plan for the best, expect the worse, and be ready for whatever comes. You can par- ticipate in the next recession or you can out-hustle it. When that next recession happens—don't invite me because I will decline to partici- pate. (I will be too busy making sales). ED PRESTON is an "Old Car Specialist" at Driven Racing Oil. HOT ROD & CUSTOMIZATION Be sure to get out there and keep your- self educated on the latest industry trends and opportunities. Recession Recession Lessons

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