Owning a retail shop is not an easy job, is it? You opened your store, excited and wide-eyed, you had good years in business, but after years of strategies, branding, planning, management, non-stop work hours, stress, struggles, fear, success, emotions . . . you just ran out of energy. You’re just ready to let go!
Things are changing lightning fast in the world of retail with social media channels and new technologies emerging to provide customers “the ultimate experience.” The customer experience is all you hear about everywhere you go. Adding more to your daily routine in order to keep a profitable business, isn’t something you’re sure you’re willing to do at this point in life. Maybe you’ve been thinking for a while to retire for health reasons, to sneak in some relaxation, or you just have other projects in mind. But now you’re torn between giving in or giving up. Independent businesses play a central role in local communities, both economically and emotionally. When people hear that a longtime family-owned business is closing its doors they feel a heart-wrenching personal loss. People might even feel guilty like they should’ve done more to support your shop (maybe they should have). Besides offering products not available at larger retailers, your store is unique, and it helped to create a sense of community. But you need to keep in mind that your shop has to be serving you well too.
Giving Up or Giving In
If you sense it’s time to close or sell your business, no matter what your reasons, remember: change is not an easy life choice. As an entrepreneur, undoubtedly this isn’t just a business-as-usual for you. It’s more than that – it’s your passion, something that you always wanted. Perhaps you labored to build a business you thought would be your future nest egg security, but maybe it turns out that it’s not.
We’ve compiled a list of things to think about and process to help clarify your decision, and avoid regret. They’ll also help you to solidify your “now what?” plan if you do decide to close shop.
Before you go too far on your own, keep in mind that this is a big decision and you may benefit from the help of business professionals. There are a slew of retail consultants, experts in a wide variety of business such as finance, scientifically-based inventory purchasing and marketing, who just might be able to help. Don’t hesitate to reach out. There might be something you’ve overlooked, some bit of advice or wisdom they could impart that could change everything. Most trade shows offer free and low cost seminars that provide invaluable business advice. And, putting it “out there” for Higher Guidance is always a good thing to do. You never know what miracles, clarity or direction might unfold.
Fears about closing or not closing your shop
Most of us have deep fears about what others may think of us. The truth is, you only feel that way if you let your ego run the show. If in your heart-of-hearts you know you did everything to succeed, then no judgment can affect you. Also, ask yourself these two questions: “Would it really be okay if I closed my shop?”And then: “Would it really be okay if I didn’t close my shop?” Trust your honest answers and then explore them. Make sure to counter any negative notions with a positive truth of some kind.
Make sure you aren’t running
Know that you’re making a choice to close from an authentic, intuitive place of trusting that this is the right choice and the right time. There’s a spiritually-based Universal Law that states: anything that’s run from will eventually return in some form. In other words, a karmic boomerang will undoubtedly find you at some point if you’re closing just to avoid something.
Are you in a rut?
So often, businesses close because the owner stopped trying new things, lost focus on their customers, fell behind the times, lost their initial passion, or just lost hope that anything would ever be different. Maybe your shop just needs a shot of oomph of some kind.
Visualize life without your shop
To help add more clarity to your choice, do some visualization work. Imagine what life would look like, feel like and be like if you closed your shop. Know that you are the creator of your reality, how you perceive everything, so choose to see it as positive, easy, and lovingly supported. If you don’t feel that way, that’s okay too. Give yourself permission to feel emotions as long as you need to. This is a huge change and it may feel odd. Until it doesn’t.
Make sure to visualize how you want your life to look once you close your shop. See yourself in your vision (even if it’s vague) taking your next step, whatever it is, filled with joy.
Before your final decision, try doing a little inner-surrendering work. Why? On an energetic level, giving yourself permission to let go (of the struggle, of the idealism, of the need to have your business look a certain way) creates space to allow new thoughts and ideas and opportunities to come in. Often, that’s when better ideas show up, something shifts in the Universe, or even unexpected miracles occur. That process may awaken you to learn what you need to learn to move forward with grace and trust. It’s like letting go of a very wrong relationship: only then is there space for the right person to arrive.
NEW Future Possibilities
Instead of thinking about the past, switch your mindset and think about how you can apply your skills in a different way. Maybe it’s time to do something easy and stress-free, at least for a while (once an entrepreneur, always, right?) Often, past investments of time and resources can make future decisions almost predetermined, so make sure your choices aren’t based on the past. Look for new ideas, new directions. As a trailblazing indie-shop owner, you’re a natural leader, so be that in some way. Don’t let fear hold you back from trying again.
Still Not Sure?
If, after checking all the points above, you’re sensing that making some adjustments to your routine or business plan may help you to continue running your shop, here are some suggestions:
Reinvent your shop. See if you need to refresh your inventory selection. Are some items behind the times? Maybe add some trendy item to your mix to attract a younger crowd. Find ways to attract new customers by using social media, for instance.
Payroll. Take a look at your payroll and see if there are some hours you could cut or even some demotions you can make. If you’re providing a better way of life for employees or a manager than you are for yourself, see what you can do to fix that.
Store Layout. Are you carrying too much inventory on your sales floor, so things look cramped, not special? Are there items you’ve held onto for far over six months? Have certain items gone stale but you refuse to lower their price? Have a clearance sale so you can focus on what does sell and freshen up inventory. Sentimentality and attachment has no place in a retail shop. And, make sure your sales are infrequent, so you won’t be attracting only bargain hunters.
Pricing. Keep in mind that there are always additions to your cost of goods, such as shipping fees, so add that in when pricing.
Business Hours. Are your competitors open and you aren’t? Many small shops still operate only six days a week from 10am to 5pm. Consider extending your business hours so working customers will be able to shop. If you can’t stay late every evening, at least do so on weekends. And, if you must close one day a week, choose Mondays.
Shift your marketing, expand your customer base. Reach out to local papers with press releases – you just might get a feature article if you come up with an interesting angle. Get customers’ email addresses and keep them in the loop on promotions, new products, special events, etc. Keep a frequency of posts on social media. Got in a new shipment? Post some pictures!
Are customers finding your store? Make sure your website is SEO (search engine optimized) by having a specialist help add keywords and phrases that can get you a higher Google ranking. Unless everyone comes in because they’re in the area, online search is the number one tool to help get people in the door even if you aren’t selling online. Always make sure your name, address and phone number are easy to find on your website. The items you sell the most of are what you want to feature in the keywords on your site, as well as in the names of the individual pages (the more pages the better for coming up in searches). Always attach fine names and descriptions to photos so they come up in searches. Even if you don’t want to go
all out offering a full shopping cart option on your site, add at least a few best-selling, easy-to-stock items to sell online. You’ll reach so many more customers
Product Display. In a small specialty shop, each piece of merchandise is
curated and needs to look special to sell. If items are crowded together, piled
without care, everything in your shop is cheapened. Perceived value is truth. Look at your displays with a critical eye and see if there’s room for improvement.
Do you have an attitude about selling? If you feel that salesmanship is being pushy, change your perception. You are providing an important and lost art: true, caring, customer service.
After this brief evaluation to help clarify your decision, remember to trust your intuition and the Universe – he knows what it’s doing (even if you don’t, sometimes).