I walked through OR Tambo Airport in the early morning on a flight to Cape Town and saw most retail shops were not doing any business. Sales assistants were giving directions to commuters or chatting to their colleagues. Other sales people were sitting around texting messages on their cell phones.
Sure, the restaurants were doing brisk early morning trade. Travellers who had arrived at the airport and hadn’t yet had anything to eat were having breakfast. But the retail outlets might not have even opened because trade was slow or non-existent. Stores selling clothing, computer accessories, music, branded goods (such as Ferrari) and gift stores — not even a trickle of sales.
What would you do if you owned one of these stall or stores? How would you attract customers in the early morning? Would you let things ride and try make up sales later in the day when a different profile of customers streamed through the airport?
The thing is that for small business owners in the economy one can’t stand still and just leave your sales to chance. It’s always easy to come up with new ideas to fire up sales during these “dead spots” during the day. If you are selling products that potential customers can buy anywhere else or can postpone their purchases, then you are stuck in a tricky position.
A small business owner or entrepreneur can’t sit around waiting for things to happen. Wait too long and you could be out of business. The other day in a shopping centre near Morningside I noticed that a shop that had been trading there for some time had shut its doors.
The problem with this business is that the merchandising was unimaginative, the store never communicated its unique selling proposition and, to top it all, the sales staff were unhelpful. A recipe for failure. I never saw more than two potential customers in this store at any one time. They would “browse” and then leave. It appears that the store owner must have realised that the shopper traffic in this centre was not strong enough. The owner of the business just waited for the lease to expire and closed down.
If you are already locked into a retail space, you need to take a hard look at the type of merchandise that you are selling. Review the products that potential customers buy at different times during the day. Come up with ideas on how to charge up sales.
It might be profitable to look at specials that potential customers can’t get anywhere else. Specials not only on price but products more targeted to the foot trade passing through the retail shopping area.
One way that small businesses have dealt with trading in recessionary conditions is the example of a restaurant owner who decided to only open for dinners. The owner shut down his restaurant during the day because the lunchtime traffic was too slow. He moved bookings online which eliminated the need for a receptionist who used to take telephone bookings. He reduced staff from something like 54 down to 14. These changes have made his business much more profitable. Before the owner made the changes, he was about to close his doors.
Firing up your sales takes prethinking and coming up with new ideas. Instead of making radical changes without knowing the response of customers, it makes sense to test ideas and see which ones work. New approaches to igniting sales won’t come to you unless you recognise what’s not working and take action.