Resources

The Metric That Will Predict Your Company's Fortunes

On the face of it, Starbucks hit a home run when it released its fourth quarter earnings in early November. The coffee shop chain had strong earnings on the back of $21 billion of revenues for the full fiscal year. And it continued to perform exceptionally well on mobile payment systems — one quarter of its U.S. transactions are paid through its smartphone apps.

Still, as hugely impressive as these results are, Starbucks has a lot to learn about acquiring and keeping online customers.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: I want to revamp our tagline, but I have no clue where to start. What’s the best way to come up with one that truly reflects the unique gifts and shopping experience we offer without being too wordy?

Catch ’Em All!

Catch ’Em All!

It's been a few weeks since the Pokémon Go phenomenon began making headlines and motivating people to venture outside to “catch 'em all.” Over the past 20 years, the Pokémon franchise has taken many forms—trading cards, TV shows, video games, and now augmented reality. However, this most recent iteration of the game has been nothing short of revolutionary not only for the gaming world, but for other industries as well.

Where Community Is Always In Season

Where Community Is Always In Season

Colorful, eclectic, playful, unique, enchanting. These are just a few of the words customers use to describe Winter Sun & Summer Moon, a lifestyle boutique on the Hudson River in Rhinebeck, N.Y. Even more telling is how customers describe their shopping experience: warm and friendly customer service, awesome atmosphere, pleasant and helpful staff. It’s no wonder, then, that Winter Sun & Summer Moon has become part of the fabric of community life in Rhinebeck—it’s a store for all seasons that appeals to locals and tourists alike.

A Retailer's Guide to the Chakras

A Retailer's Guide to the Chakras

More and more consumers are becoming aware of the power of intention and positive thinking in creating the life they want, and as retailers, we have the opportunity to share products that help our customers maintain focus on positive thoughts and affirmations.

What Story Are You Telling About Your Business?

What Story Are You Telling About Your Business?

As an independent retailer, you already know that to be successful you have to do more than simply sell “stuff.” But, how do you tell your unique story and connect with the people who aren’t yet your customers, and how do you know what information will resonate with them? Your local customers know your story and your focus on helping people live more fulfilling lives, but what about the larger community around you, or visitors to town? If you aren’t also reaching these people, you are missing a large opportunity to interact and build your story (and brand) with potential customers.

What Story Are You Telling About Your Business?

What Story Are You Telling About Your Business?

As an independent retailer, you already know that to be successful you have to do more than simply sell “stuff.” But, how do you tell your unique story and connect with the people who aren’t yet your customers, and how do you know what information will resonate with them? Your local customers know your story and your focus on helping people live more fulfilling lives, but what about the larger community around you, or visitors to town? If you aren’t also reaching these people, you are missing a large opportunity to interact and build your story (and brand) with potential customers.

Tapping Into Happy

Tapping Into Happy

What does real happiness look like, and how do we achieve it in our daily lives? Those are the questions at the heart of Live Happy: Ten Practices for Choosing Joy. Deborah Heisz, the author and co-founder, COO, and editorial director of Live Happy magazine, recently spoke with Retailing Insight about her new book and how to apply the solutions in business and life.

Maggie Feeney: What inspired your research on happiness?

Tapping Into Happy

Tapping Into Happy

What does real happiness look like, and how do we achieve it in our daily lives? Those are the questions at the heart of Live Happy: Ten Practices for Choosing Joy. Deborah Heisz, the author and co-founder, COO, and editorial director of Live Happy magazine, recently spoke with Retailing Insight about her new book and how to apply the solutions in business and life.

Maggie Feeney: What inspired your research on happiness?

Five ways to take care of yourself!

Owning a shop is a 24/7 gig. Your daily to-do list can seem endless when there’s no one else to answer that email, write those bills, place that urgent special order, and truly care about all of it. You end up not sleeping well, not getting enough exercise, skipping dinner, or missing your kid’s soccer game. Ironically, it’s all for the business you started because you thought working for yourself would be a cake walk.

A Retailer's Guide to the Chakras

A Retailer's Guide to the Chakras

More and more consumers are becoming aware of the power of intention and positive thinking in creating the life they want, and as retailers, we have the opportunity to share products that help our customers maintain focus on positive thoughts and affirmations.

So You Want to Go to a Gem Show

So You Want to Go to a Gem Show

Does the sparkle of brilliant, clear Arkansas quartz in the sunshine delight you? Are you amazed when the sun hits the dull, dark colors of labradorite, revealing an array of blues, greens, golds, and, sometimes, purple? Do you love blazing heat, blinding dust, torrential downpours, sloshing mud, sunburn, and a sore back? Then it is time to get down and dirty and go to a gem and mineral show!

Now, before you run to your office, turn up the air conditioner, and look online for wholesale minerals, not all gem shows are out in the elements … but some of the best ones are.

Radiating Good

Radiating Good

Forty years ago, Dee Ann Williams and Sheila Marsh shared a vision of creating a place to support wellness through massage and herbs, a place called Radiance. Over the years, while the ownership has changed, the original vision that was embraced and cultivated by their Olympia, Wash., community continues to shine under the guidance of Karin Olsen and Andrea Seabert.

Maggie Feeney: Radiance recently celebrated its 40th anniversary. Congratulations!

Karin Olsen: Thank you.

Bite-Sized Tactics to Tackle Digital Innovation

Kate Atty

For businesses or products to stand the test of time, they must be willing to change with the times. In the marketing realm, this means one of two things:

1. Create new demand for something

2. Capitalize on a need not currently met

The immortal offer

Think about the coupon. In 1887, businessman Asa Candler created the first-known variety designed to market (and create new demand for) his little-known product … Coca-Cola!

Return on Community Investment

Return on Community Investment

Your business is part of a community—geographically, socially, spiritually—and your success as an independent retailer depends on keeping that community engaged. Earning its admiration and loyalty takes more than social media posts and a great business plan. Today’s competition comes from every direction—other brick and mortars, online stores, Amazon, and more. What inspires people to shop with you and open their wallets a bit wider is challenging, but connecting with the causes they support is one way that pays off—for them, for the causes they support, and for you and your store.

Refreshing Displays

Refreshing Displays

As indie shop owners and buyers, it’s part of your unwritten job description to bring creativity, inspiration, and innovation to your corner of the world. If customers didn’t want your unique offerings and lovely ambiance, they’d be hoofing it to the mall with the rest of the herd, or stockpiling double-wide shopping carts in a big-box store, or—dare I say—pointing and clicking to their heart’s content from their favorite armchair.

Givers Get

Givers Get

When you hear the phrase “inspired living,” how does it make you feel? Uplifted? Energized? Ready to take on the world? Just imagine the things you could accomplish! Well, if you’re lucky enough to visit Boyne City, a resort town on Michigan’s Lake Charlevoix, you might just get a dose of that inspiration with a visit to Leslie Neilson’s aptly named store, Inspired Living, where energy, expression, and evolution are served up daily.

Spotlight on Soundings of the Planet

Soundings of the Planet's Dean and Dudley Evenson

Soundings of the Planet founders Dean and Dudley Evenson recently sat down with Retailing Insight’s Editor,
Maggie Feeney, to reflect on their 35-year career as sound-healing pioneers and to share the latest chapter in their lives.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: A friend and fellow retail business owner was just audited by our state sales tax office and has to pay more than $700 in taxes and penalties. They were assessed for not reporting and paying the sales tax on merchandise they donated to charities! That seems unfair. Have you ever heard of such a thing?

Sign Language

Sign Language

The holiday buying frenzy is nearly upon us. Some shoppers are already checking gifts off their lists, but what about those who have only a vague notion of what their loved ones want? They’re the ones wandering aimlessly around your store with panicked looks on their faces. Even in a small store, it’s easy to become preoccupied helping one customer, leaving the rest adrift in a sea of choices. Give them a shopping lifeline with store signage that helps them discover—and purchase—the great gifts you carry.

Breakthrough

Breakthrough

Thirty years ago, the term “glass ceiling” was first coined to describe the invisible barrier preventing women from advancing their careers, despite their qualifications. Nearly every business has its own version of a glass ceiling, one made up of unseen obstacles such as sales numbers that won’t rise, unplanned expenses that undermine profit, and employee problems that leave little time for the real work of building one’s business. In this mix are the owner’s fears and unproductive habits, which create weaknesses in the health of the business.

Finding Peace of Mind

Finding Peace of Mind

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. That’s precisely what Gena White, owner of The Peace of Mind Center in Shreveport, La., did 16 years ago when a twist of fate left her searching for a new career. Venturing into the unknown, she built a center for body, mind, and spirit in an area unlikely to embrace metaphysics. Retailing Insight sat down with Gena at the International New Age Trade Show (INATS) in Denver, Co., where she shared the story of her journey to store ownership and her subsequent, long-lasting success.

Protect Your Customers' Data

Protect Your Customers' Data

Credit cards: What would today’s retailer do without them? If you’re like most merchants, you’ve found the ubiquitous plastic card has become the default transaction tool for purchases large and small.

There’s hidden danger, though, in being too cavalier about how your staff handles card transactions. Last year’s data breach at Target—affecting some 70 million to 110 million people—drives home the need for every retailer to be vigilant in protecting customer data.

Who Likes You Now?

Who Likes You Now?

Are your customers inspired and entertained when they visit your store? Do they appreciate your sales associates’ knowledge about the products you sell? For most successful retailers, the answer to both questions is yes. What happens when your customers move online? Do your website and social media profiles project the same sense of fun and product knowledge as your brick-and-mortar store?

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: I read yesterday that a recent survey showed almost 80 percent of American adults do not approve of retailers playing holiday music in their stores before Thanksgiving, and almost as many resent holiday decorations and merchandise being out before Thanksgiving. But, it seems all the big retailers do it anyway. Is there a guideline for small retailers?

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: My business partner wants us to bring greeting cards into our store, and I am hesitant. They have a low price point and limited profit potential because they are already pre-priced. What is your thinking on this?

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: We have been open two years and everything appears to be going well. Sales are increasing each month, as are the number of customers who come in each day. I was even hopeful I would be able to take a small salary this year until I got my store tax return back from our accountant.

Always "Be Prepared" for Holiday Sales

I was a girl scout for many years, an experience that gave me many fond memories and probably started me on my road to becoming an entrepreneur—I won the Cookie-Selling Award every year! The Girl Scout “Be Prepared” motto is explained in the 1947 Girl Scout Handbook: “A Girl Scout is ready to help out wherever she is needed. Willingness to serve is not enough; you must know how to do the job well, even in an emergency.” I believe this applies to all of us in retail, whether you were a Girl Scout or not. Do not put off holiday planning. It is never too early to “Be Prepared”!

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: I would like to pick your brain about hiring holiday help. Do you hire extra help for the holidays or does your current staff work more hours? If you do hire extra staff, when do you do start hiring? Where do you find people? What kind of training do you provide?

Making Spirits Bright

Making Spirits Bright

The all-important fourth quarter is not quite here, but most shoppers have already begun to look for holiday gifts and décor. According to the National Retail Federation, nearly one fifth of consumers begin their holiday shopping before October! Even if your store is proudly known as the antidote to commercialization and the last place you’d expect a deluge of red and green, you can still highlight your store as the destination to find truly unique and meaningful gifts for all the winter holidays and decorate in a way that highlights the festive energy of the season.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: I have a situation you may think I’m crazy for complaining about, but I’m hoping you have a suggestion for us. We have a customer who comes in a few times a year and essentially takes over the whole store.

Coming Up Roses

Coming Up Roses

You can’t be in two places at once, so the saying goes. Fortunately for Pacific Northwest shoppers, Compass Rose doesn’t take stock in that motto. After 14 profitable years in Olympia, Wash., they set their sights on expanding, opening a second store in Tacoma in 2013. Their secret to success? The creative, energetic managers who keep the business on course for store owner Paul Shepherd. Retailing Insight recently sat down with Liz Van Dyke, manager of their blossoming Tacoma store, to learn more about what sets them apart.

What’s Your Merchandise Point of View?

What’s Your Merchandise Point of View?

No one walking into Walmart would mistake it for Target. You may be looking for a brand of paper towel or hair color found in either store, but you know which store you’re in the second the sliding doors open. You may think this is the result of layout and lighting (and to a point, it is), but mostly it’s due to their unique Merchandise Point of View.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: Last year I went overboard in my spending and purchased way too much merchandise for the holidays. It took almost three months for my inventory to sell down to a normal level! I want to avoid a repeat scenario. Is there an easy way to set up a holiday budget?

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: Last month you answered a question about how to handle a performance review when the employee is not meeting job expectations. Before I had my store, I didn’t work any place where I received a performance review from an employer. Now that I have employees, I think I should do this, but I’m not really sure how. Can you recommend a book or give me some pointers?

I Market, Therefore I Blog

Blogger

Changes in search engine algorithms over the last few years have made generating useful web content a vital component of marketing your business. And it’s not just any content; it’s content your target customers want. But, how do you build a successful blog? Timing, persistence, and compounding, or as Jim Collins, author of Good to Great describes it, the “flywheel effect.”

Learn more here: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/234264

Name Your Game

Name Your Game

The schoolyard games you played as a kid were organized with an agreed-upon set of rules. These rules developed without much formal thought, let alone a rule book. Over generations, the 6th graders taught the 3rd graders, who taught the kindergarteners, and so it went. This was the recess culture, and every kid played by the rules passed down through the unspoken social agreements of the schoolyard.

Name Your Game

Name Your Game

The schoolyard games you played as a kid were organized with an agreed-upon set of rules. These rules developed without much formal thought, let alone a rule book. Over generations, the 6th graders taught the 3rd graders, who taught the kindergarteners, and so it went. This was the recess culture, and every kid played by the rules passed down through the unspoken social agreements of the schoolyard.

Name Your Game

Name Your Game

The schoolyard games you played as a kid were organized with an agreed-upon set of rules. These rules developed without much formal thought, let alone a rule book. Over generations, the 6th graders taught the 3rd graders, who taught the kindergarteners, and so it went. This was the recess culture, and every kid played by the rules passed down through the unspoken social agreements of the schoolyard.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: We have an employee who doesn’t always dress appropriately. Sometimes she wears jeans with big holes; other times crop tops that show her belly. I know “holey” jeans are in fashion and crop tops can be cute, but to me they look sloppy and unprofessional. When she dresses like this, do I send her home to change?

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: The other day I reached under the counter for one of our printed logo bags for a customer’s purchase, but the box of bags was empty. I went to the back room and discovered we were all out. When I asked our two sales people, neither remembered taking the last box of bags out of the back or using the last bag. How does this happen?

Romancing the Stones

Romancing the Stones

Customers often come into my store, The Crystal Garden, asking for a gemstone or piece of jewelry that will attract wealth, heal their body and emotions, draw in their soul mate, or deflect negativity. Helping your customers adorn themselves with gemstone jewelry to consciously achieve their goals and intentions dovetails perfectly with the popularity of the Law of Attraction, and it makes for a more fun and rewarding shopping experience, too.

Countdown to Calendar Sales

Many inspirational calendars are works of art that can be enjoyed every day of the year. The process of buying them is also a work of art—when done correctly. If you develop a plan of action for purchasing your calendars, you can expect better profit from these perennial good sellers. Here are 5 helpful tips I’ve learned from my calendar-buying experiences.

Crowdsource Your Store

Crowdsourcing is a huge buzz word these days, touted by marketing professionals as the latest, greatest innovation in how we do—or should be doing—business. Simply put, crowdsourcing refers to outsourcing tasks normally performed by employees or contractors to “the crowd” (aka the general public) via the Internet. Crowdsourcing allows businesses to recruit willing participants for free or at a fraction of the cost it would take to hire a staff person or find volunteers with the needed time and talents. But, does crowdsourcing live up to the hype and does it make sense for small businesses?

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: Do you take items on consignment? I have some artist friends who make their own jewelry, and they want me to carry their creations in my store. I am thinking of accepting their items on consignment, but I worry the jewelry won’t sell and then I won’t know what to say. I also don’t know how much to charge for this service. Do you have any ideas?

Inspired Living

Inspired Living

Along its 363-mile journey from New York City to the Great Lakes, the Erie Canal follows a meandering path through Western New York and the small hamlet of Bushnell’s Basin outside Rochester. There, you’ll find an unassuming shop nestled in a historic building a short walk from the canal. What you’ll find inside is not just another gift shop but, rather, a place where owners Denise Ellis and Laura Allard greet customers by name, helping them find inspiration among the bounty of natural products and unique gifts they offer.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: I have had my business up for sale for a few months and have gotten inquiries but no solid offers yet. I thought this process would be much shorter, and I’m not sure how to proceed now. Some prospective buyers have had the desire but no money, and I’m not willing to finance without a large down payment.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: My husband and I want to try a new marketing approach to bring more customers into our store. Most of our customers are women, so my husband thinks we should target men by advertising in a local sports magazine. I think it will be a waste of time and money. What do you say?

Inbox Insider

Crafting effective marketing messages is one of the most challenging aspects of running a business. A Google search for “writing successful marketing emails” returned more than 700 million results, indicating a lot of people are confused and frustrated about where to begin and how to compete. Whether you’re writing a quick email to announce an upcoming sale or compiling a full-fledged e-newsletter, I’ve uncovered a few tips to help you get the results you want.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: A customer called today very upset because her teenage niece had come into our store with a few friends, and they felt they were treated with prejudice. I really could not get the whole story over the customer yelling that we were hypocritical, but it seems her niece and one of her friends were not Caucasian, and somehow they were treated disrespectfully in our store.

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