In a retail business, the potential for product comes with wise inventory purchases. The most astute pricing strategies won’t help if your inventory is wrong. Creatively shop, but don’t be distracted by all of the wonderful merchandise out there that doesn’t fill your customer’s cup, or your investment will most likely be unrecovered.
Buying inventory is easy; selecting the right things to fill your store’s shelves poses more of a challenge. You know what kind of retail operation you have and who your customers will be. Now how do you put together your merchandise portfolio?
Choose products that enhance your reputation. Your prices should reflect your image and your target market. This means that you should establish your price lines and price points before you buy. You must get the highest possible markup consistent with competition and customer price satisfaction. The better the buy, the higher the markup you can make.
Establishing your inventory
Here’s a simple procedure to follow to help you decide which merchandise you should offer and which you should not. If you’re dealing with electronics or clothing, you may wish to do your breakdown on the basis of brand names. If you’re organising a food business, simply list the food supplies you would have on hand the day you open.
Let’s use a motorcycle dealer to explain how this model would work:
- Divide your inventory into broad classifications, such as R300,000 for motorcycle hard parts.
- Divide each broad classification into sub-classifications—for example, engine parts, wheel parts, frame parts, transmission parts, dress-up parts, drive-line parts, and tune-up parts.
- Allocate a certain percentage of your capital to each sub-classification—for example, 20 percent engine parts, 5 percent wheel parts, 5 percent frame parts, 5 percent transmission parts, 30 percent dress-up parts, 10 percent drive-line parts, and 25 percent tune-up parts.
- Locate resources that will sell you the products you want to stock. For instance, read Hot Bike magazine, the Cycle World Buyer’s Guide, and Thunder Press newspaper. Get catalogs from online sources such as Custom Chrome, Motorcycle Superstore, and Drag Specialties.
- Make sure each item purchased gives you the best possible markup and that the retail prices will fit the price lines you have set for your operation. The motorcycle store’s target markup is 50 percent on services, 40 percent on accessories and clothing, and 35 percent on hard parts.
You only have so much money to allocate for merchandise. The challenge is to achieve maximum sales from what you buy. By first determining how much of what you’re going to buy, you discipline yourself to be discriminating and to keep your buys in balance with your overall inventory needs.
Faced with an enthusiastic salesperson, an attractive deal, and a hunger to buy, you need all the will you can muster to remember your priorities. Keep your buying plan with you and stick to it.
One way to find the products you want to sell is to work with a buying office. A resident buying office is composed of buyers in national or international market centers who shop the market daily to offer their member stores information and to choose and purchase items for them. Resident buying offices primarily provide advice and counsel. Their staffs also do actual buying for their members on a contract basis.
A buying office can be your eyes and ears and can help you evaluate resources, identify price fluctuations, and keep up with trends. A buying office has its own staff of domestic and foreign buyers and can invite your buyer to information clinics.
Most professional buyers are located in or around merchandise markets. Search online using business industry terms to see what merchandising services are available in your area for your type of business.
Independent resident buyers usually deal with small retailers, providing few services other than the procurement of merchandise. The buyer can represent many manufacturers and gives the retailer the advantage of choosing from a large assortment of items without paying a fee. The commissioned buyers are considered merchandise brokers.
Many manufacturers sell their goods directly to retailers. When there’s no middleman or supplier involved, you can negotiate terms more easily. Most retailers buy from wholesalers. Some advantages of dealing with a warehouse include access to a wide assortment of items close to your business, reducing the number of sources you have to deal with, and the ability to purchase in smaller quantities rather than going directly to the manufacturer.
Some importers are excellent resources and connect you with manufacturers in foreign countries. However, buying inventory from suppliers is the cornerstone of many a successful retail business, so you need to know how to establish good supplier relationships.
As soon as you file your business name or take out a business license, suppliers will start approaching you for business. Ask for catalogs, brochures, business addresses, and who they bank with to avoid scams. Established suppliers cannot only be a great source of necessities but can also offer you insight into the market. They can help you interpret consumer demand, guide you in the operation of your business, and assist in solving problems.
Most buying is done on a seasonal basis. There are certain items that sell throughout the year, and there are those that drive consumers into your store during a specific period of time.
For instance, winter means long sleeves, boots, coats, snow shovels, cold remedies, hot food, heaters, and cross-country skis, while summer sells bathing suits, air conditioners, sunscreen, cold drinks, barbecues, and pool supplies.
Factor these realities into your analysis of your store’s sales activity. How hot is a “hot” item? Is the interest a passing fad or a sustainable trend? Make sure you can obtain new items and promote them in time to profit, or the risk may be too great for being left with excessive stock you’ll have to mark down.
How do you decide how much is enough? A common ratio during normal demand periods is 3 to 1. That is, to reach a certain sales figure, you must have three times that amount in inventory. For example, it might take a R900,000 inventory in snowboards to generate R300,000 in sales in that category during a given month.
Other merchandise classifications have different ratios. In a furniture store, it might take R500,000 in inventory to generate R100,000 in sales—a 5:1 ratio. In fine jewelry, it could take R300,000 to generate R50,000—a 6:1 ratio.
A major retailing goal is to generate as much as possible in sales from the smallest possible inventory, but it’s dangerous to run out of merchandise customers want. Thus, keeping tabs on sales-to-stock ratios helps you know how much merchandise you should have on hand. Trade associations usually maintain the most up-to-date ratios to assist retailers with buying.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Should Entrepreneurs Lie? It’s A Tricky Question
In the hustle of the startup world, entrepreneurs often drop little white lies – and don’t even consider them to be lies. Where’s the ethical line?
Gary Hirshberg knew the exact amount of money he needed to save his company: $592,500. It was 1988, and his fledgling yogurt brand, Stonyfield Farm, was near collapse – rocked by the closing of its third-party manufacturer, hemorrhaging money as it struggled to fulfill orders and unable to find new investors. But with that exact amount of cash, Hirshberg and his co-founder, Samuel Kaymen, calculated, they could open their own facility and regain their footing.
So Hirshberg drove down to his local SBA office with an informal proposal. “We’ve got a bank willing to provide the loan,” he told an officer, and he said his shareholders agreed to put up $100,000. All he needed from the SBA was its 85 percent loan guarantee, which would make the bank comfortable executing the financing.
The SBA liked what it heard, and that positive response set in motion the funding that would save Stonyfield Farm and enable it to grow into one of today’s most recognisable yoghurt brands. But in truth, the SBA didn’t know the whole story. Hirshberg didn’t have a bank lined up. His investors hadn’t committed the money. All he had was a vision for his company, a plan to save it…and, ugly as it may sound, a lie that would pull it all together.
Let’s put it bluntly: This is common. Entrepreneurs lie. It’s not like they regularly drop Theranos-level falsehoods to defraud customers and investors, but the scrappiness of entrepreneurship inevitably leads to some kind of deception. People say their company is bigger than it is, that they’re more prepared than they are, that they know how to do something they don’t. They spot an opportunity and they lie to get it, and that becomes part of their story – an origin that may one day even be celebrated, like how Steve Jobs famously faked his way through the first iPhone demo at Macworld even though the device itself was a buggy mess.
But here’s a question the entrepreneurship community has been struggling with for centuries: Is it OK to lie? And when does a lie go too far?
It’s tricky, because most entrepreneurs don’t see their deceptions as lies at all. Hirshberg doesn’t. “I mean, look – you beg, borrow, steal, stretch. You do what’s necessary,” he says today. In truth, the editors of Entrepreneur can get drawn into this logic. Just recently, this magazine ran a series of articles on bootstrapping, which featured a number of stories about entrepreneurs stretching the truth. One of them, for example, was about Anthony Byrne, the CEO of a Dublin-based company called Product2Market.
In the start-up’s early days, Microsoft considered hiring it but first wanted to conduct a site visit to make sure Product2Market had the necessary manpower. In reality, it didn’t. So in advance of Microsoft’s site visit, Byrne brought friends, family and neighbours into his office, having them pose as employees to make his startup seem twice its size. It worked. Microsoft signed on.
After that story ran, an Entrepreneur reader emailed an objection. “I don’t think the magazine should be promoting people who got ahead by lying as an example for others to follow,” he wrote. But Byrne doesn’t think of his action as lying; he sees it as a simple act of survival. In a crowded industry dominated by big players, he needed to look larger and capable.
“As soon as we got our first big deal, I did in fact hire the right number of people to fulfill the contract,” he says.
This is also how Hirshberg of Stonyfield Farm sees his own circumstance. Rather than lying, he was creating an opportunity he knew he could fulfill. True, he didn’t have a bank or his investors on board with his plan. But he knew a banker that was interested in his brand and figured that if the SBA seemed on board, the bank and investors would follow. And that’s what happened. “It’s OK as long as you ultimately do deliver,” Hirshberg says.
But context is also important, he thinks. If entrepreneurs lie for the sake of lying, or for their own personal gain, that’s a problem. But what if it’s for a common good? Consider his plight, he says: Stonyfield Farm may have been small at the time, but it was employing people and supporting their families. Hirshberg’s wife was pregnant, and his mother-in-law and other family and friends had put significant money into the company. He’d tried repeatedly to save it by more direct means. He even found a potential manufacturer that promised to step in and help – but at the last second, the manufacturer tried changing the contract to steal the brand away.
Hirshberg and his co-founder nearly gave up. Then they made one last-ditch effort — going to the SBA. “I believe that determination is the most undervalued and essential ingredient for success,” he says. “More than a great product. More than financial acumen. More than great marketing. It’s just absolute determination, and as a corollary, believing in yourself when no one else does.” If they went out of business, lots of people would lose. He was determined for that to not happen. The lie was worth it, he says. It was just an entrepreneur doing what was necessary.
Not everyone is going to accept this. Purists will surely say Hirshberg and Byrne and others are just liars justifying their actions. But Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a professor of business psychology at University College London and Columbia University, who has written about lying in entrepreneurship, thinks they’re onto something.
“If you can somehow measure harm to others, that is the limit,” Chamorro-Premuzic says. He believes most entrepreneurs tell lies when they think the falsehoods will do no harm. Had Hirshberg failed to get bank financing, the SBA simply wouldn’t have offered the loan guarantee. Had Byrne been caught, his deal with Microsoft would have fallen through. They were largely victimless crimes, wasting little more than someone’s time.
The way Chamorro-Premuzic sees it, the greatest lie we all tell is that we don’t lie. “There’s a reason why we have to all pretend the world is more honest than it actually is,” he says, “and that’s because we’re part of the same world that thrives with at least a certain level of getting away with some deception.” And he says creative people — the kind of fast-thinking, big-dreaming people who often become entrepreneurs – tend to lie more than others. The truth, he says, is that people in business expect some kind of transactional lie – whether it’s from a job applicant, a potential partner, or someone else.
“The system is encouraging at least some form of fact distortion, and rewards it,” he says. “If you ask an interviewee if they enjoy working with others and they say, ‘Most of the time I don’t,’ they won’t get brownie points for being honest. You’ll say, ‘This guy is antisocial.’”
So what’s an entrepreneur to do? Simple, says Chamorro-Premuzic: Treat lying as a tool to be used in very particular moments. It cannot result in harm to individuals. It must lead to an opportunity you can genuinely succeed in. And very critically, it cannot become a foundation you build on with other lies. “The brands that people trust, the products that people trust, clearly are created and run and owned by cultures that respect the customer,” he says. “Long-term focus requires honesty.”
Seen this way, a lie is a gamble – a slight tilting of the odds in a critical moment. But what follows must be truthful, because, as our liars say, that’s the only way to build an honest company.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
The ‘Anything’ Entrepreneur
Most entrepreneurs are told to ‘stick to their niche’ but what happens when you make diversification your key to success?
Traditionally, entrepreneurs are told to stay focused and stick to their niche. But what if this advice isn’t always the right thing to do? What if this isn’t the perfect plan for your business, especially when you are facing a mercurial economy and a complex market? The instructions to build a thriving business aren’t set in stone, they’re as fluid as the customers and markets that inspired their creation in the first place. So, instead of hugging that niche rut, here are seven steps to intelligent diversification that could make a huge difference to your business…
1. The price tag
Having a niche business can become expensive, especially if you purchase stock from a specialised or niche supplier. They tend to charge a premium as they have the expertise and market position that allows them to do so. If you instead look to selling a variety of products and solutions, you can reduce the prices for your own bottom line as well as that of the customer.
Often, you are paying for a brand and not the deliverables so ensure that you’re investing into solutions that add value to your business not weight to your bottom line.
2. Variety is key
To survive in this economy, small business owners can no longer afford to only offer single product lines. By adapting and diversifying, you ensure your business isn’t the one left behind. Your competitors may very well be planning on introducing complementary products and services that boost existing offerings or add value. Don’t be the business that hasn’t been paying attention to the customer’s need for more bang for their buck.
3. Bolt on is bolting in
Offer your customers bolt-on extras where you can. This furthers the value you can add to your service and the value that the customer perceives you are offering to them. Extended warranties and value-added services not only add value, but they add longevity to your customer relationships. This means that you build depth with your customers as opposed to a hit and run sale.
4. Build a fence
When you diversify into a variety of solutions and services, you are giving yourself the opportunity to ring fence client spend. They won’t need to go to a multitude of suppliers as you will become their trusted one-stop-shop. You can then use this as an opportunity to showcase other products and services and to use your relationships to pitch clients into new areas of your business.
5. Client retention
When you have a rich pool of resources and strong client relationships, then you build trust and you prove to your clients that you have what it takes to get them what they need. When you’re trapped into single product lines you can’t offer this level of depth to your clients and they will simply go elsewhere.
6. Communication and collaboration
Diversification also offers you the opportunity to communicate more regularly with your clients. Instead of only selling to your customers seven or eight times a year, you can talk to them several times a week. Instead of just supplying products, you are helping them to deal with their day-to-day challenges and requirements. This allows for richer upselling and even more opportunities to engage.
Read next: 21 Steps To Start-Up Success
How To Forge Your Own Path In Business
Finding your own way doesn’t require reinventing the wheel.
You don’t need to be a visionary to forge your own path in business.
Honestly, you don’t even need to be a business owner to forge your own path. It’s more about a state of mind where you’re able to think for yourself professionally. To clarify, that doesn’t mean you’ve got to be a lone wolf: ideally, you want to be able to to work with and even for others, but without being a follower.
The ability to balance being an independent thinker yet simultaneously remaining accountable for your actions will make you a much more valuable worker, no matter what field you’ve chosen. The good news is that with targeted effort, anyone can adopt this mindset. Here are some of my tips for how to forge your own path in business, and why it matters.
Learn the rules first
This might sound out of place in a post about how to forge your own path in business. After all, aren’t we talking about independence?
Here’s the thing. Before you want to break the rules, you have to actually learn what they are. Take the time to learn the “rules” of your trade before you start trying to reinvent the wheel. You’re likely to pick up wisdom that will serve you, even if you intend on using the rules to inspire new and creative ways of breaking them.
Once again, you might find yourself thinking: Why should I seek out guidance if I want to forge my own path? Picture a cliche movie scene of a parent teaching their kid how to ride a bike. There’s that magical moment where the parent lets go of the back of the bike, and the kid is doing it on his own.
In business, you often need that initial helping hand before you can ride smoothly on your own. Before you can think for yourself, it can be helpful to absorb all of the wisdom you can from others.
One powerful way to do this is to find a mentor, or someone established in your field or a similar field who can give you words of advice and help you avoid making mistakes. Another is to make sure to take part in networking groups and to engage with other entrepreneurs. The more people you connect with and the more knowledge you gain, the better!
Set realistic and specific goals
If you want to gain confidence, become an independent thinker, and a better problem solver, do this one thing: Set realistic and specific goals.
Say that you want to increase sales for your business. It may not be realistic to say that you want to double your sales, but to simply have a goal to “increase sales” isn’t specific enough. However, setting a goal of increasing sales by 20% this year might be more realistic and is definitely more specific.
A goal like this is motivating, as it gives you something specific to work toward. It also allows you to break it down into actionable steps. You can begin to problem-solve, making specific plans for ways in which you could make your goal a reality. As you reach these milestones, you’ll gain more confidence in your abilities, which can help you move forward more confidently in your career.
Observe, but don’t copy
It can be very helpful to look at what your competitors and other entrepreneurs are doing. It keeps you relevant, gives you ideas, and can help keep you nimble in your chosen field.
However – this is important – you should never copy what others are doing. For one thing, it doesn’t work. Say you see someone killing it with a brand new hummus restaurant start-up. You can’t just start crushing chickpeas and expect success. There are lots of inner workings to the business that you’re not privy to, so even if you were to try, you couldn’t quite replicate someone else’s success.
Further, by the the time you copy, you’re already a follower and behind the curve. It’s better to use the information you observe as data, so that you can gain insight on things like effective marketing techniques and aesthetics, and apply these things to your own original ideas.
Think for yourself
You probably already guessed this one, but to forge your own path in business, you need to learn to think for yourself. So…how do you do that? Education is key. You need to absorb all of the knowledge you can, talk to as many people as you can, and observe as much as you can.
It’s almost like you’re forming your own personal library of data and resources. As time goes on, you’ll become better able to use this knowledge that you’ve gained to put your own unique ideas out in the world. You’ll be better able to generate ideas and to come up with intelligent solutions.
Let yourself grow over time
Ultimately, if you want to forge your own path in business, you need to be patient. Expertise, independent thinking, and autonomy won’t all happen overnight, so take the pressure off of yourself.
Remember: Patience is a trait of some of the most successful people. Focus on progress, not perfection. If you want to be successful for the long haul, allow yourself to learn and grow and continue to improve over time. Slow but steady, right?
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
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