Thursday, January 14, 2016

Adapt or Complain

Who is responsible for the success of your business. Hopefully you know that the answer I am looking for is that you are responsible for your own success. Most people know how to answer that question, but do you know how to live that answer? Day to day, you are responsible for your success.

But, what if the big box stores are offering really awesome sales? You’re still responsible. What if there’s a huge snow storm? Still you. What if you employees are letting you down? You guessed it. Still you.

Black Friday sales: making down merchandise that they
have been marking up since July.
I was speaking to a woman who owned a small consignment shop a few weeks after Christmas. She was not interested in doing any kind of marking because she was very tight on cash. The Christmas season had not been kind to her. Of course such things happen, but she said some things to make me things that there may be more underlying issues.

She said that her December had been bad because the “Black Friday Sales” had been especially good that year, and “Cyber Monday” seemed to stretch on all month. This was not her first year of operation, or even her second. She had been in business over four years, and it all that time, I am fairly confident that the big box stores have been having big holiday sales each of those years. I am also pretty sure that the big online stores had been doing Cyber Monday for all those years as well.

So, I asked her what kind of sales she did during the season. Other than the usual clearing of older items, she did nothing. No special discounts. No special programs. No special marketing. Just a dedicated campaign of grumbling about how awful the market was for the little guys.

What face are you showing your customers?
This meant that she was doing two things wrong. First, she was not responding to the conditions of the market in any way. Second, she was probably making worse by carrying this discouragement around with her. She personally runs her store most of the time, so when customers would come in, it is quite possible that she would express to them how tough it was. She may have thought that she was innocently grumbling, but she was really telling her customers that there were some awesome sales to be had… somewhere else.

There is some light down the tunnel for her. In February, she always runs a big sale to clear out the winter inventory and make room for summer. However, I spoke to her in mid January. I asked her what she was going to do in January to catch up. She said that she would be doing nothing because no one wants to spend any money in January.

I took the liberty of getting this data from the U.S. Census that tracks, among other things, total retail sales in America.
December 2014
$499 Billion
January 2015
$396 Billion
December 2013
$477 Billion
January 2014
$383 Billion
December 2012
$462 Billion
January 2013
$376 Billion
December 2011
$451 Billion
January 2012
$355 Billion

$396,000,000,000 is a whole lot of money to spend at a time when “people aren’t spending money.”

There is a reason that store owners don’t pack up and go on vacation for a month in January. It’s because there is still money to be made. So, if you find yourself in a situation where you are thinking that no one is spending money in a certain month or the competition seems to be stronger or any other situation in which you are ascribing your own poor performance on a global factor, ask yourself this: Is this really something in the market or is it something I am doing. The business owner I spoke to thinks no one is buying in January, but another consignment shop owner two towns over is having a great January.

Is it that no one is buying, or just that no one is buying from you? And if they are buying something somewhere, then what can you do to make sure that your business is getting a piece of it?