Whether you own an independent coffee house, a boutique clothing chain, 148 stores around the globe, or an interiors store like mine, as retailers our goals are all the same: increase sales, reduce costs, and improve profits. If your cash registers aren’t ringing or remain stagnant, then there is a problem. A big one. And it needs to be solved fast, as you don’t last long in this game otherwise!

Today’s post is all about helping you increase retail sales. Who wants to limp along, barely hanging on for months or years? (If that’s even possible!) No one. This post is about addressing the problem and increasing revenue.

Before we get down to it, I want to say two things. Firstly, take all the advice you want, but ultimately nobody knows your business better than you. You created it and gave birth to it, so you are the only person who can fix it and change it. That said, don’t be narrow-minded or stuck in your ways, or let any kind of ego get in the way – you’ll fail if you do, it’s as simple at that. Secondly, it’s never quite so bad as it first appears: there are always answers. They’re usually found at the bottom of a really bad bottle of wine that you dug out of the back of the cupboard. You know that bottle – it’s the one that a relative brought over for Christmas, ignoring the fact you like to drink biodynamic, organic wine, not friggin’ Liebfraumilch! It might resemble paint stripper and make your teeth fall out, but hey! Sometimes needs must.

The following steps will improve your sales – and not only that, they will also increase your chances of success. I know they did mine. And I didn’t go to business school, either. Sometimes I made these choices intuitively and other times I found out the hard way – normally the latter!

Are your products drool-worthy enough?

Do people drool, gasp, tweet about your products? Do their hearts skip a beat? I don’t buy any product for my store unless my jaw hits the floor or my pulse races! I won’t buy anything I couldn’t imagine having in my home. I don’t care how much money it could potentially make us, if I wouldn’t want it, it’s not coming through the doors. Little did I know, my pig-headed stubbornness has actually led to our brand’s success: press and customers love our products as much as I do. And if people love your products, they’ll buy or write about them. It’s as simple as that.

Successful retailers aren’t any more talented than you: remember that!

Market in a different way

We don’t pay for advertising in the traditional sense. Any money that could be used on advertisements instead goes to creating a brand experience. We don’t spend money on small messages – instead we invest in creating a story. Money goes into creating the coolest website, or buying the best products, or back into the store design so it engages our customers. We mailshot our customers and we operate a Facebook page, a Twitter handle, and an Instagram account, but we don’t have to bombard customers with adverts to pull them in. Think a little differently before agreeing to pay for ads – you’ll be surprised at what you can do.

Sweat the details and get distinctive

This totally relates to what I’ve said before: make sure you sweat the details. They all count: from the font on your website, to business cards to products to visual merchandising and newsletters – everything and anything that relates to your business should be carefully considered.

Know your customer

A lot of the big wiggers spend a lot of time discussing the company perspective or the marketing perspective without focusing on relating the brand to the customer. They plan away in the boardroom but they’re not walking in their customers’ shoes. Become an expert on your customers. The minute you know and understand your customer base is the minute you see sales increase. For me, it’s easy: I am the customer, I buy what my customers are buying, I’m in the store oohing and aahing over the latest plants, flowers, and cushions, just like they are! If you don’t know your customer, then you’re doomed. Customers literally determine if you succeed or fail!

Run the stats

Every Monday we sit down and look through what’s sold and what’s not sold. Is all your money resting in stock sitting on a shelf or in the warehouse? You’ve got to have a handle on the inventory as you need to maintain a proper balance between the right amount of stock and the demand. If stock isn’t moving, sell it on. You won’t get the buying right 100 percent of the time. Don’t sweat it! I don’t.

Pink flamingo, anyone?

Don’t fly blind

You need to be kept up to speed continually, so know your financials inside and out:  they keep you posted on how you’re doing. Cash flow shuts businesses down, no matter how cool, hip, or unique your business may be. Without cash, you can’t survive.

Finally: Stay on your toes

Your business will constantly keep you on your toes. There will be ups and there will be downs. In the down times you’ve got to dig deep and keep up the energy levels, the drive, and the enthusiasm to push forward. Businesses fail for these 5 reasons:

Lack of cash flow

Lack of knowledge

Lack of strategy

Lack of vision

Lack of goals

According to Bloomberg, 8 out of 10 entrepreneurs who start businesses fail within the first 18 months. That’s an 80% crash and burn rate! Scary. Actually not so scary, because now that you have this knowledge, you can put things in place to make sure you’re not one of them, right?!

If sales are stagnant and aren’t  improving month on month re elevate and don’t panic. The biggest advantage you have is that you are small,  you can make changes and implement changes instantly to turn things around and that is one massive advantage that the big boys just don’t have!

Check out the weekly biz column archives for more tips and business advice.

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This is my ultimate A-Z guide for anyone thinking of starting their own business, or looking to take the next step in building their retail empire.

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