|Ask Lorraine April/May 2016|
|Written by Lorraine Valk|
|Thursday, 25 February 2016 09:01 AM America/New_York|
Some 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:
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.
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!
Lorraine Valk is owner of Parable Christian Store of St. Joseph and the P Graham Dunn Gallery of St. Joseph in a resort community near Lake Michigan.