Retail Evaluations For Store Improvement

Terrarium shop owner taking inventory with clipboard
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By performing retail store evaluations, retailers examine various aspects of the business to collect information on what needs to be improved.

Every store owner or manager is skilled in certain aspects of retailing. Some are great buyers; some excel at visual merchandising and displays; others are strong salespeople. Retailers tend to focus on their strength as the most important aspect of the business and often ignore other factors that need to be evaluated.

To avoid this mistake, consistently evaluate your store using a set of comprehensive standards that ensure all aspects of the business are assessed:

1. Evaluate visual elements of your store.

How does your store’s aesthetics make customers feel when they enter? Does the store emit professionalism or an aloof vibe? Do visual displays invite customers to buy something?

Evaluate your store visually in two specific areas:

Layout: Does the store layout make sense? Do you use an optimal retail store layout? Are aisles wide enough for customers to walk through? Do shelves contain excessive merchandise that clutters the customer’s view of products?

Displays (including signage): Does the threshold area feature an item or display that best represents what the store is known for? (For example, if you’re a special occasion store, you should have a special occasion dress or item in the threshold area.) Does the display showcase a promotional item at a special price or a brochure of upcoming store events?

Do your displays enhance the merchandise? We’ve seen attractive window displays ruined because of a dirty window.

2. Evaluate your merchandise buying habits.

Most people believe they’re a great driver, and very few people believe they’re a bad driver. Similarly, most retailers think they’re great buyers.

Let’s get real--all retailers should evaluate their buying habits and merchandise lifecycle.

How long has the merchandise been in the store? Every piece of merchandise has an expiration date of 90 days. Why? Each season is roughly 90 days.

How long do you wait to mark down products? Is your store working on higher margins with certain items? In as many departments as possible, do you offer a good, better, and best assortment of a product?

Does the merchandise look fresh, and is new, current merchandise arriving daily? Create a constant, slow flow of high-quality merchandise, which is far more effective than the quantity of merchandise in your store.

3. Evaluate your sales team.

Does the store know how to sell? Can your salespeople complete a sale, or do they act like clerks waiting to ring up merchandise? Do customers ask for salespeople by name? Do your salespeople request buyers’ information so you can contact customers in the future?

Do your salespeople make multiple sales? In our book The Retail Sales Bible, we discuss the skill of the add-on--the ability to add more items to a customer’s purchase. Are your salespeople proficient in this skill?

Understand the power of a great sales team.

We have seen some of the ugliest stores experience large profits because the owner knows how to sell and how to train their salespeople how to sell.

4. Evaluate your ability to make money.

The definition of making money is taking in more money than you spend. From an accounting point of view, your inventory is considered an asset; from a retailer's point of view, inventory is an expense that does not improve over time (unless you're selling fine wine).

Do you use a reliable buying model to accurately understand your profitability? You should know on a monthly basis what percentage of your total sales goes to expenses (utilities, rent, packaging), and what percentage goes to new merchandise. If you know these two percentages, you’re more than halfway to turning a profit.

5. Evaluate the personnel in your store.

How does your personnel affect morale and sales?

Often the evidence of a strong manager is small turnover. Great retailers typically have a staff who has worked with them for a long time.

However, consistently compromising with an employee can be unhealthy, and sometimes retailers need to let difficult personnel go.

Why is the employee being let go? It’s not always the employee’s fault; many times the manager is to blame for failing to communicate well or failing to adequately motivate the employee.

6. Evaluate your use of technology.

Do your metrics prove the technology and social media you’ve chosen to use meet the goals you intended them to accomplish? Every month delivers a new tool with new promises. Retailers can’t use them all. Figure out what tools work best for you, and optimize their impact in your store.

7. Evaluate your website, Facebook page, and blog.

These web components are interrelated and act as an extension of your brick and mortar store. Do they align with the same level of professionalism?

8. Evaluate your alignment.

Are your salespeople in alignment with the type of merchandise you sell? A 68-year-old grandmother can be successful at selling skateboards, but this is the exception, not the rule. If your store claims to be the best at something or several things, are you actually those things? Shop your competition to be sure.

9. Evaluate your signature line.

Your signature line--the few words located below your store name--tells customers, management, and employees who you are and what you represent in the marketplace. Does your signature line accurately define you? If not, replace it with one that does.

10. Shop, shop, shop.

What is your competition doing that you’re not? Every other day, every other week, or (at a minimum) once a month, shop stores like yours. Also, shop stores unlike yours. How are other stores displaying merchandise? What colors do they use on displays? How are they using signage around the store?

How can you fight a battle without intelligence? Shopping provides you the intelligence and the inspiration you need to successfully beat your competition.