I once heard someone say (and unfortunately, I can’t remember who, but thank you!) that planning is 80% looking forward and 20% looking back.  When you’re a retail store that’s all the more true.  There’s no way to plan your goals for a new year, a new quarter or even a new event or promotion, without looking back and asking yourself the hard questions.

Sometimes you may not want to ask those hard questions but there’s a lot of information just waiting for us to cull to make setting goals and moving forward so much more successful.  So, are you ready? Let’s take a deep dive into the 6 things that we need to look at closely from last year so we can set goals that are measurable, achievable and will build our business.


#1.  What was your monthly sales curve for last year?  Do you know where your peaks and dips were?  Obviously 4th Qtr but having a clear view of other sales trends throughout the year will help you in buying and scheduling merchandise to come in. Maybe you could have extended a strong sales season a little longer if you’d had the merchandise in earlier,  If you go to market with a clear picture of your open-to-buy and the dates you want to remerchandise your store, you’ll be able to schedule your merchandise to come in to be ready for those dates.  I know when I was a retailer, there were lots of time I wish I’d planned to have my new merchandising story up at least a week or two earlier than I had planned because customers were ready for it, but I didn’t have the merchandise in yet.

#2.  Diving deeper into the monthly sales curves to really look at the top 3—and the bottom 3—categories by sales.  Now, sales are important but the number that’s ever more important are the average margins you’re getting in each of those categories  If you’re #1 selling category only the smallest profit margin, that’s a signal to take a closer look at it to see what you can do to maximize that category with either different merchandise with better margins, perhaps increasing prices or finding new merchandise that fits that category with a better margin.

#3  Looking at margins even closer, be sure to take into consideration the other hidden costs that eat away at those margins.  Shipping.  Packaging.  Discounts.  If you’re only key- stoning (100% markup) then you need to look much closer at the retail prices you’re charging so that you’re profitable (because after all, that’s what it’s about, right?).  Try to at least 2.25x to 2.75x your cost when pricing your merchandise.

#4  What in-store, or outside venue, promotions and events did you do last year?  Did you just do them for the sake of doing them or did have a specific goal?  It might have been sales, building your email list, exposure to a new audience.  Whatever your reasoning….did you reach that goal?  Take a critical look at the events and promotions that you did to see what you could have done differently, better or maybe not at all.  How many events will you plan for the coming year?  Think about other stores that are complementary to your product and that have your same ideal customer–is there an opportunity to collaborate with them?  Try to think outside the box.  There’s a great little ice cream store in my town that does the most incredible events with every other kind of retail from bakeries to breweries (yes, a brewery) to spice companies.  They even worked with a neighboring gift store to curate a collection of ice cream sundae making tabletop, books and gadgets.  It was a huge success for both retailers.  What other stores, cafe, restaurants, artists and events can you collaborate with in your town?.

#5  Marketing and Social Media–ugh!  How often are you staring at your computer trying to figure out what to post on Social Media?  You know it’s important but it’s the thing that gets pushed to the back burner all the time.  Look at what you did on Social Media last year and create a clear strategy for this year.  Maybe just stick to one platform (you don’t have to be everywhere). Create a content strategy so you’re not stuck trying to figure out what to post.  Schedule to share something funny or inspirational on Mondays, a picture of merchandise on Wednesdays, a look behind the scenes on Saturdays.  Don’t be salesy just share with your customers like you’re talking to them in your store.  Plan one day a week to sit down and schedule out all your posts at one time using Facebook’s internal scheduling tool or one of the almost-free online tools like Post Planner or Hootsuite.

#6  And finally, one of the most important marketing tools that you have is your email list.  I know you’re probably thinking “I hate getting emails all the time” and maybe you do, but email marketing is still the #1 best way to sell to your customers.  If they don’t want to get your emails, they’ll just simply unsubscribe (and don’t take that personally) but people do, indeed, want to hear from that favorite stores that give them great content, that they feel a real connection with and that makes they feel special with knowing about in-store events, new merchandise and specials.  Build your email list every way you can….it’s your key to marketing success.

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I was a retailer I always wished for a group of other like-minded retailers that I could talk with, ask questions of, brainstorm with and sometimes just commiserate with.  If you feel that same way, come join us in our FREE private Facebook group for Brick and Mortar retailers RETAILER BUZZ.  It’s like having your own group of people who really understand what being a retailer means.

Until next month, happy planning