Christian Retailing

Ask Lorraine April/May 2016 Print Email
Written by Lorraine Valk   
Thursday, 25 February 2016 09:01 AM America/New_York

LorraineValk 2015Some key questions have come up as I have prepared this edition of “Ask Lorraine.” The following questions apply to just about any Christian retailer. See if you agree and let me know what your retail questions are!

How on Earth do I figure out how to reorder back stock?

Stock replenishment is the hardest and most vital part of your business. It needs your constant attention. Unmonitored, it can sink your ship. I ask myself these questions before reordering backlist books:

  • Did it sell in the last three months? How many sold in the last 12 months? It should be three or more to reorder.
  • Do distributors have the title in decent quantities? If not, perhaps the title is not a good seller.
  • Is it seasonal? Is there enough time to sell the book again before the season ends?
  • Is it a classic I am committed to carrying regularly?
  • Is it a title I should be reducing stock on anyway? Perhaps I don’t need multiple copies or I still have some in stock.
  • If the book is in a series, do I stock the rest of the series, or has it run its course?
  • Is the title in my current promotion or in a forthcoming promotion?
  • Is it a specialty book that fills a niche? Examples are grieving the loss of an infant in stillbirth or dealing with a prodigal child.

It takes a commitment of time, labor and dollars to carry books, so make them earn their shelf space.

Don’t accept the “one to show, one to go” philosophy. Fight for diversity. If you can afford to carry only 1,000 books, will your customer be more satisfied with 500 titles (two of each) or want 1,000 unique titles? If you reorder frequently (almost daily) from a distributor, you will not have many occasions when you are out of stock. Obviously, promoted and best-selling books are carried more deeply than singles.
The benefits of maintaining a tight inventory are:

  • Better cash flow. Keep the inventory dollars moving as quickly as possible.
  • Fewer returns to small vendors, saving labor and postage
  • Fresher inventory and available cash to invest in frontlist titles
  • The best selection for your customers
  • Profit. No kidding! A store with overall turns of 3 or more should be profitable (e.g., annual sales of $500,000, inventory of approximately $100,000 wholesale, 3 times turning inventory during any 12 months, 40 percent margin profit to cover reasonable overhead).

Use your computer as a tool, but don’t trust it to manage your inventory levels. It cannot distinguish between true best-sellers and quick trends.

What are the advantages of being part of a marketing group?

Making good use of other people’s talents is good business. Put key people in positions that match their natural bent and they will flourish, helping your store succeed. That said, it’s important to know your limitations. I personally don’t know anyone in this industry wearing only one hat. Marketing is difficult, and promoting a professional image to discriminating buyers is a real challenge. If marketing isn’t your strength, using a marketing group is vital, and even if it is your strength, marketing groups might serve your business well.

Marketing groups can offer better pricing because of the quantity of promotions and services they provide. They complement our businesses and have strong skills that make us look professional and current. They watch trends and the market in ways we cannot. Ultimately, marketing groups save us time and money because they are so good at what they do. If I were responsible for planning all my promotions, I wouldn’t drive traffic to my store as steadily as my marketing group is able to do. My marketing group also statistically analyzes which customers are most likely to respond to my marketing, and I would never have enough time to track that.

I’ve come to the realization that I cannot “do it all.” It was an easy decision for me to defer to the experts in my marketing group, allowing me to utilize my time on other pressing issues.

Is curb appeal important?

Absolutely! I would go so far as to say to scrape together $200 and do something to the front of your store today. First impressions matter. Buy a new shovel to keep the snow at bay (yes, I’m in Michigan), or Southerners, buy a new broom. Wash the windows and doors every day. Spruce up the paint and the trim; purchase a new rug; replace burned-out light bulbs; and get a new garbage can. Take down the curling and faded posters. Pretend Christian Retailing is coming for a visit today to take pictures for the magazine—and make your store photo-ready. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression!