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50 Easy Ways To Improve Your Retail Store, Salon, Spa, etc.

Pick a couple of ways to upgrade your business

When they work, come back and pick a couple more!

retail store

It looks so lovely and inviting

Bob Nelson, President of POWER Retailing and a LinkedIn connection, sent me his list of practical ideas to share with you to give your company a lift this year. They’re all easy to understand. Some of them may not be quick….but all of them are worth the time.  I’ve added my comments and suggestions, too, so here goes:


1) Find out who your customers are — profile your customers by age, income, occupation, etc. (Read more about how to do this HERE, and use our free Customer Demographic Survey — I’ll send it to you when you subscribe.)

2) Ask your customers what products and services they are seeking and what they want to see more of.

3) Know the reasons why customers shop at your store: Is it service, convenience, dependability, quality, promptness, competence, special sizes, lower prices, better service, wider selection, convenient hours or something else? (called competitive advantages) Emphasize these competitive advantages on your web and all your ads.

See what your customers see

See what your customers see

4) Understand the market forces affecting the consumer’s attitude when it comes to price and value. (Recession, unemployment, optimism, so much money it doesn’t matter?)

5) Offer unique products and services at prices customers can well afford. (Always have a couple of low-costs “finds” and a couple of outrageously wonderful “splurges.” Even if they don’t buy your splurges, they’ll give you something fun to talk about.)

6) Use a system to track the number of customers who shop in your store. (Keep track by hour and day of the week – it will help you staff efficiently as well as track your success when you make changes.)

7) Seek suggestions on ways you can improve business. (Sometimes the truth is painful, but you need to hear it, so try not to be too defensive – like, don’t hit them or anything.)

8) Try to re-establish lost or inactive customers. (Reactivate them with a personal letter and a very special coupon with a not-too-distant expiration date.)

9) Use a store questionnaire for determining customers’ needs. (This gives you a good excuse to start a fun conversation.)

10) To satisfy value-conscious consumers, be able to discuss the benefits of your products and any research or details. (When you can “tell a story” about a product, you’ll sell it.)


11) Improve your return policies. (The value of a return customer is a lot higher than the value of one returned item.)

12) Make it a policy to give cash refunds when requested.

13) Offer customers a “no hassle” satisfaction guarantee.

14) Use a suggestion box and customer want slips.

Square on phone

You can use Square on your phone or iPad

15) Extend your store hours.

16) Accept Visa, Mastercard, Discover, and American Express and debit cards. (If you are small and don’t want the hassle, use Square.)

17) Analyze complaints and take action to prevent recurrence.

18) Train employees to serve and work in a friendly but professional manner.

19) Call customers when new items have arrived.

20) Have lots of convenient parking for customers to use. (If there is metered parking, have plenty of quarters handy. You could even feed their meter if they’re shopping – can you imagine how nice that would be?)

21) Have a clean bathroom available for customers to use. (OH YES!  SO important! So what if they just come in to use the bathroom?  For the cost of a flush, you got them to walk through your shop.)

22) Grade your location every year in regards to accessibility. (Why cling to a low-rent location when it means a low income? Go where your best customers are.  If business is going down, move. If you still have time on your lease, try to renegotiate it.)

23) Let customers know you appreciate their business.


24) Test different marketing for new offers, new items, new prices, special announcements, stronger ads and better headlines. (People get tired of the same old stuff — shake it up!)

Text message marketing works!

25) Know what type of advertising methods work the best to attract your best customers: Internet, direct mail, newspaper, television, radio, etc. (See my articles on how to gather and use customer demographics. I have written several articles on age groups and how to market to them, too.)

26) Use innovative and/or memorable advertising that sets your business apart from the competition. ((These could include web games, groupons, special holiday parties, using a ipad to order on line when you don’t have a product on hand, etc. Use a mobile app! Use text message marketing!)

27) Create new opportunities for customers to purchase more frequently from your store. (Groundhog’s Day? Mardi Gras?)

28) Implement the proven business formulas of other successful retail firms. (Take a class or talk to an expert. SCORE has free business counseling in almost all cities.)

29) Replace outdated recordkeeping with a new software system. (A good Point of Sales – POS – system can save you time and give you great data. Yes, it takes time to get it up and running, but it will save you enormous time later.  CLICK HERE for a site with reviews on 10 of the top systems. Your POS system will help you with the following items:

Home Screenshot of POS System

30) Set up an inventory control system for shrinkage, mark-up, profit and turnover. Use the system for tracking slow-moving merchandise and those products that are your best-sellers.

31) Know your average sales transaction. (Your POS can easily give you this, and you can track the increases as you use new methods and products.)

32) Evaluate the amount of inventory you carry, and fine tune your operating expense ratios on a regular basis. (POS, again)

33) Use different ways to arrange and display merchandise that will make it easier for customers to buy. (Put wine openers with the wine, put napkins or olives with the appetizer plates, etc.)

34) Increase your sales transactions by offering better prices, more value, sales incentives, or add-ons. (Keep a basket of little intriguing stuff by the register. It can be totally different than anything else in your store — just something you thought was fun.)

35) Know which products are price-sensitive to your customers, that is, when a slight increase in price will lead to a drop-off in demand. Also know the maximum price customers are willing to pay for certain items. (Many customers use one or two “key” products to tell them whether your prices are better than the competition. Find out what those are and be sure they are as low or lower than anyone else.)

36) Buy distinctive merchandise that fits into a niche your competitors don’t have. (You really need to study your marketplace and your competition to do this.)


37) Hire people who can SELL, not just mind the store. (This is one that I added. “Cheap” labor can end up costing you more in the long run.)


Shopping center locations can band together for better marketing as well as for landlord improvements

38) Attend trade shows that provide the latest technology, inventory systems, educational seminars, and other related resources.

39) Use newsletters as a way to remind customers of the products or services you provide.

40) Create a budget for both regular and off-price merchandise.

41) Establish dependable resources where you can buy name-brand and designer merchandise below wholesale prices, and make an effort to buy promotional and off-price merchandise to improve your profit margin.

42) Buy private-label merchandise to avoid the same line prices as your direct competition.

43) Join other stores like yours in area-wide buying programs to receive better prices or trade discounts.

44) Do cross-marketing by working with restaurants, clubs and others to jointly develop special promotions.

45) Belong to trade associations and subscribe to newsletters and trade publications to keep you informed.

46) Involve employees in making suggestions for improving business and cutting costs.

47) Implement a program to reward your employees for their extra efforts and innovative ideas.

48) Empower employees to make decisions, even if it means losing a small amount of money to make customers happy.

49) Don’t let emotions get in the way of making sound business decisions.

50) Have some FUN in your store! It’s contagious!                                                    © 2012 POWER Retailing, Inc.

Bob Nelson, President of POWER Retailing knows the dilemma of operating a retail business — because he has been there. In the course of running his own retail store, he discovered combined marketing and advertising techniques that improved sales dramatically. They worked so well that he decided to share his experiences with others. During the process of teaching merchants how to conduct strategic exit strategies and major customer-winning events, he realized the need to create a company that would help retailers increase sales and maximize the value of their assets.   Call Bob at 480-460-1980.

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  1. Bryan Flake says:

    I am opening my own hardware store this year. Almost everything I need is on order or received and ready to go. However, I am still torn with deciding on the best point of sale system to use. I wonder what cash register system people use these days. Are the electronic card swipe ones vastly more expensive?

    • Have you checked out http://www.buyerzone.com/retail/pos-systems to get some comparative quotes? It might give you more info than I can. The most important thing is for you to have an inventory system as part of your POS or you’re going to go crazy keeping track of all your thousands of parts. There are systems that will automatically enter all your parts purchases into the inventory and de-increment when someone buys something. This will save you hundreds of hours over the course of a year.

      Next, have you shopped your competition to see what they’re using? If you are a franchise, your franchisor will tell you what to buy, but if you are an independent owner, join your retail association and start asking questions! Other independent owners in OTHER cities might be glad to help you, but probably not the ones who are in direct competition with you. So ask another owner out to lunch if he’s willing to help you. OR you can find other types of retail stores in your city and ask them for help — picks stores that have hundreds of items so that their inventorying will be like yours.

      Best of luck to you! Cheri

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