“We always like to reveal the fact that the emperor has no clothes. And children are best at that. They teach us how to see the world in that sense. They are without artifice; they see it for what it is. I am drawn to that ruthless honesty.” – Mira Nair 

The merging of digital and retail has spawned a new industry of retailing experts, new roles in retailer organisations and has revitalised the sector.

What does this all mean to being a retailer? Well it means that to talk retail we need to intimately understand all the moving parts of retail – from backend to in-store, from online to bricks-and-mortar.

After all, whilst the majority of us are migrating towards online for our research, customers are still principally purchasing from the physical shop environment.

This blog concerns itself with what it takes to be an ageless and successful retailer. Whilst the process may change, the core fundamentals really do not.

We know that the interrelationships of a “fit” retail business are tightly interconnected, and the effect of change in one component, such as the supply chain efficiency, can have dramatic effects on areas such as merchandise assortment and stock turn. This varies with the depth of the range and market positioning.

Allow me to elaborate on this point. We know that being Fit for Business™ is even more crucial in today’s marketplace than in an environment in which there is plenty of confidence and cash.

As case in point, I recently visited the business of a well-known retailer. This was a well-established business with a strong brand name, good growth over the last few years and a pretty sound balance sheet.

Upon visiting the stores I observed the following, amongst many other elements:

  • Very high stock levels
  • Mixed ranges of product
  • High staffing ratios
  • Staff not interested in engaging their customers
  • Low level of merchandise category management
  • Lack of compelling windows and “call to action” merchandise assortment
  • Customers walking in and walking out just as quickly

This business is currently experiencing a drop in sales and transactions, increased inventory levels as well as tightening cash flow. This is an unfit business and needs help.

All the digital technology in the world doesn’t mask the very simple premise that getting the essentials of retail consistently right matters most of all.

Here are 10 business resilience fitness tips:

1. Understand your point of difference and then keep a laser-like focus on it within the marketplace.

2. A sense of purpose that is driven by the business owners and leaders understood by the team and implemented by everyone. This is the underpinning of a motivated team.

3. Powerful, compelling, energetic and contemporary store design, format, merchandise assortment, well categorised and complemented with lighting and in-store customer navigation.

4. Get passionate and hungry for success. Your people need to know that they are on a crusade every day they work for you.

5. A highly effective “omni channel” offer emphasising your point of difference, good business information systems.

6. Smart analytics around your retail performance, growing customer analytics and data base, and sales and margin performance.

7. Growing profitable sales – engaging customers through a great in-store experience tied together with a relevant and compelling loyalty program and online offer.

8. Ensuring that retailers buying, inventory forecasts, open-to-buys and ratios all reflect increased inventory productivity.

9. Cash rather than credit are king and managing cash flow is even more important than ever.

10. Equip your people with product and selling skills knowledge. Nothing sells like the right bundle of products delivered with personality, knowledge and enthusiasm.

Happy fit retailing.

Brian Walker is founder and CEO of retail consulting company, Retail Doctor Group. He specialises in the development and implementation of retail and franchise strategies.

First published on the 16th of June 2015 in SmartCompany