Talking Politics in Your Retail Store

As we approach the end of the never-ending political campaigns, it’s hard not to get involved in conversations about the merits and defects of the various candidates.  Fortunately, I have no opinions, so I’m not tempted. 

Seriously, thanks to Doug Fleener and his Daily Retail Experience Newsletter (Check out Doug’s blog here.) for pointing out that your store is no place to carry on political discussions.  For one thing, most Americans are really tired of this campaign season and will enjoy visiting a politics-free-zone, e.g. your store. 

You probably have strong opinions, especially since the outcome of this election could have a dramatic impact on small business.  Chances are that about half of your customers share your views.  The other half don’t.   Even if you find a kindred spirit who wants to discuss what a lousy so-and-so a particular candidate is, even though you may be solidly on the same side of the red/blue divide, other customers within earshot may not agree.  You might drive a customer away and never even know it. 

As Doug says, "If you own your own store or company you can do what you want–but why risk alienating potential customers?"  I agree.  Here’s my suggestion.  If a customer wants to talk politics, very politely change the subject saying something like, "You know, all of this political stuff is really getting old.  It’s all so negative.  Let’s talk about something positive.  Take a look at this….." and show them your newest, most exciting item. 

No one gets offended and you’ve opened what could be a very profitable discussion.

Prepare for an Emergency BEFORE it Happens, NOT After

Here at MYOB, we keep the radio on during the day, more as background noise than anything else.  So, the news reports yesterday of an explosion in a parking garage in Clayton (the government center of St. Louis County) didn’t really ring any bells.  It was just another news story, almost lost among the stories of the stock market’s ups and downs and the latest "who said what" of the election campaigns.

So, it came as a shock to find out last night when I got home that the site of the blast was the building where my son works.  As of this morning, there really isn’t much information on the incident other than the fact that there was a small bomb that exploded about 11:00 am when a resident of one of the condos in the building connected to the garage picked it up.  Fortunately he was the only one injured and authorities say his injuries aren’t life-threatening.  The condos, my son’s building, and the near-by Ritz Carlton Hotel were evacuated for the day.

Two things came to mind when I heard what had happened.  First, if whoever had planted this bomb had opted for a bigger device, my first-born son, my namesake, my grand children’s dad, might not be here today.  None of us thinks when we leave home in the morning that we might not return in the evening. When we hear of an disaster on the news, most of us don’t immediately wonder if someone we love might be involved.  Thankfully my son was inconvenienced but not hurt.  He had to take a cab home because the police wouldn’t let anyone into the garage, but a cab is definitely preferable to an ambulance or worse.

Almost all of us have some kind of connection, either direct or indirect to at least one of the victims of 9/11.  That September morning is one of those few times when we will always remember where we were when we heard the news.  But, time heals all wounds.  Memories fade.  The idea of being killed or maimed by some mad man (or woman) in an act of terror is usually the farthest thing from our minds unless we’re waiting in the security line at the airport.  Even then, I suspect that most travelers consider the security screening as more of an annoyance than an process that might save our lives.  (I don’t travel that often anymore, but when I do, I always thank the TSA agents for doing a good job.)  Most of us are optimists by nature, at least when it comes to our own, or our loved ones’ mortality.

My second thought was that, according to news reports, the evacuation of the buildings involved was very orderly.  There didn’t seem to be any panic.  News media reported that the employees in the affected buildings were advised to evacuate the building by a recorded announcement over the PA system.  Obviously someone had anticipated the need to clear the buildings quickly and had prepared a disaster plan.

Which made me wonder how I, or you, would respond in an emergency.  We’ve posted on this topic before, but it bears repeating.  Every business should have a disaster plan in place.  When bad things happen (and we pray that they don’t) is not the time to figure out what to do. If you’re reading this and you don’t have a plan, including emergency supplies, do it now!  Not later today.  Not tomorrow.  Not next week.  Do it now!  There’s nothing you can do today that’s more important than protecting yourself, your employees, and your loved ones.  There should be emergency supplies on hand and up-to-date.  Everyone in your store should know where they are and how to use them.  And don’t forget to do the same thing at home. Make sure everyone you care about knows to never pick up a strange package, especially kids.

While you’re at it, how’s your business’ security?  Obviously a retail store has a lot of traffic coming and going every day (we hope) so security may be a little difficult.  But make sure back doors are secure.  Don’t let strangers into the back room, even delivery personnel, unless they’re accompanied by a store employee.  Your store is full of boxes, but you should know what belongs there so you can recognize something that doesn’t.  If you find anything suspicious, leave it alone and call 911.  Let the experts handle it.

The victim of the bombing here yesterday may have been a target or he may have been an innocent bystander who just happened to pick up a box sitting by his car in a parking garage.  Terrorists (and anyone who plants a bomb is a terrorist) aren’t usually the sharpest knives in the drawer.  The bomb might have been meant for the guy parked two spaces over.   We don’t want to be paranoid or live in constant fear, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be vigilant.

Joe the Plumber

MYOB’s not a political blog, it’s a business blog.  It’s up to you to decide which presidential candidate (if any) has your best interests at heart.  But it seems that we Americans have a tendency to miss the core message while we argue about minor details.

On talk radio today, and on the Internet, the big question is whether or not Joe the Plumber is really a small business owner.  The tax ramifications on your business pale in comparison to the pundits’ desire to put poor Joe into the right box.  "How can a plumber make more than $250,000 per year?"  (Obviously asked by those who’ve never had a major plumbing breakdown.)  "Is the $250,000 net or gross or is it Joe’s take-home pay?"  "If Joe’s taking home a quarter of a million dollars a year, is he really a small businessman?"

Who cares!!!  The point is that Joe represents the millions of Americans who make their living operating their own business.  Yes, according to the government he is a small business owner as long as he has fewer than 500 employees.  That’s it.  Sales volume or gross or net profit have no bearing on a business’ "smallness".  It’s all in your perspective.  Compared to Wal-Mart or General Motors, a company with 450 employees is small.  Personally I know a lot of small business people who exceed the $250,000 threshhold.

But the discussion should be focused on taxes, not on definitions.  We live in an age of fifteen second sound bites and 140 character
twitter posts, and our communication skills are the worse for it. As the prison guard said in "Cool Hand Luke", "What we have here is a failure to communicate." 

How many times have you made what you thought was a brilliant sales presentation only to find out that the prospect has keyed on some inconsequential detail that you didn’t even realize you said?  By focusing on the minor issue, he’s missed the entire point.  For that matter, how many times has your spouse, or one of your kids, or one of your employees done the same thing?  It’s enough to make you tear your hair out (if you have any). 

Most of us will never run for a political office.  It’s unlikely that we’ll ever be involved in a presidential campaign or debate.  But every day we’re asking someone to vote with their pocketbook.  We’ll be much more likely to win if we make sure our listener understands exactly what we’re saying. 

Saving Money on Expenses

There’s an interesting article on yesterday’s INSIDECRM web site called 78 Ways for Your Small Business to Save Money in this Economy.  People love lists, and this one is pretty good.  While we don’t necessarily agree with all 78, some of them are very creative and could save you some money.  Some highlights:

1.  Go green, an overworked term if there ever was one, but as we’ve discussed here before, there are definitely a lot of ways for you to save energy which means saving money.

There are a number of computer-related ways listed for you to save money but MYOB advises caution on number 9.  Buy recycled printer cartridges.  We’ve personally never had any luck with recycled cartridges.  They often don’t work and could void the warranty on your printer.  Use caution on this one.

Number 12, points out that you can save 50% by turning off your computer at night.  Of course number 7 suggests that you set up your computer to answer faxes, so I guess you have to choose one or the other.  One thing that we weren’t aware of, according to number 15, laptop computers consume 90% less energy than desktops.  Not bad.

We’ve posted on number 25 in the past.  Hire college students or interns for credit.  You can land some pretty good people for not much money this way.  For example, I know of a young man, thirty years old with a Master’s Degree in counselling who’s working in retail during the day to pay the bills while he teaches at a university in the evenings.  Not only does he work cheap, but his background in psychology is very helpful in a retail environment.

Another tip that we take exception to is number 28, "Don’t pay retail."  If you want your neighbors to buy from you, you’d better buy from them.  Nothing says you can’t cut them a deal to get a deal in return or that you might even be able to barter for some of the things you need.  But buying on Craigslist as the writer suggests could end up costing you in the long run.  On the other hand, number 32, "buy used equipment" isn’t a bad idea, especially in a down economy.  You can always come back later and buy new.

This won’t save you a ton of money, but it’s still a good idea.  Make your bank deposit early in the day (Number 55).  Your money doesn’t earn interest sitting in your safe.  By the same token you may be able to get a cash discount from some of your suppliers (Number 64).  It doesn’t hurt to ask.

Check out the article to see the complete list.

If you have any suggestions on how to save money, why not share them by commenting below? 

Oh, and don’t forget to turn off the computer and the lights when you’re done.

What Makes You So Special?

Continuing yesterday’s discussion about wineries, there’s a valuable lesson that every retailer can learn from them.  While wine may not be exactly a commodity, it’s close enough for this discussion.  What makes customer choose one winery over the other?  For that matter, what makes him choose a winery at all?

The answer is that each one is different.  They’ve all been either smart enough or lucky enough to come up with their own unique selling points.  One has the best view.  One has the best food.  One has the best music.  Another advertises itself as being the most like Napa Valley.  While all of them have good wine, almost all of them excel in one particular variety.  Instead of being a string of cookie-cutter operations, they’re each different enough to draw their own particular loyal fans.  They each sell an experience.

You could go to the local grocery store and buy a bottle of wine.  You could take it home and drink it on your deck with some great music on the CD player and have a nice, relaxing afternoon.  But you wouldn’t have the experience.  That’s what would be missing.

Face it, things are very uncertain right now.  Shoppers are going to be more cautious about their money for a while.  To get them into your store, and to get them to buy something after they get there means offering them something they can’t get anywhere else.  And it has to be something that they want.  Black lights and Led Zeppelin blasting out of a high-powered stereo system might bring them into certain types of stores, but chances are that wouldn’t work for you. 

What would work?  I don’t know.  That’s something you’re going to have to work out for yourself.  Starbucks created a revolution in the coffee business by giving their customers a place to gather.  They created snob appeal about their coffee.  They gave it goofy namesThey created a unique experience, at least until other merchants copied them.

One of the secrets of McDonald’s success is that early on they realized that it’s often the kids who decide where the family goes to eat.  Simple things like putting condiments, straws, and napkins out where the kids could reach them really endeared them to their smallest customers.  Having a clown for a spokesman didn’t hurt either.

One way you can find out what makes you unique is to ask.  You could ask the
customers who do come into your store on a regular basis what it is
about your store that they like.  More important, you can ask them what
they don’t like.  They probably know something you don’t know.  You may be surprised at their answers.

Remember that your competition comes in a lot of different forms.  You know your direct competitors.  You know who the big boxes are.  But any time your customer has to make a decision between buying what you sell and buying anything else, that "anything else" is your competition.  Think about those other places where your customer can spend her money and decide what it is that that customer is looking for.  Then position yourself to fill that need. 

For example, maybe she’s deciding between a new couch and a new sewing machine.  What’s attractive about a couch?  Obviously it’s a comfortable place to sit.  But it’s also an expression of her good taste.  (See where I’m going with this?)  Obviously a sewing machine is a tool she can use to express her good taste, and her creativity.  That should trump a sofa any day, but are you appealing to her creativity and good taste in your store?  Is it part of your displays?  Do your people address it in their demos? 

That could be the basis for your uniqueness.  Obviously there are a lot of others.  But, I digress.  The point is this.  If you’re going to exchange your merchandise for the customer’s money, you’re going to have to be more creative, more helpful, and entirely different from any of your competitors, no matter what they sell.

Dow Sets Another Record–This Time It’s Good

Well, I don’t know what you did over the weekend, but it was obviously the right thing. Wall Street rebounded today in a big way.  Posting the biggest single day increase in history, the Dow ended the day up 936 points, nearly doubling the previous one day record.  Way to go!

Speaking of the weekend, this past Saturday was a glorious day here in the midwest.  We had clear skies and summer-like temperatures.  It was such a nice day that the lovely and talented Mrs. B and I decided to pack up a picnic lunch and head to "Missouri Wine Country", an area that begins about a half hour west of here.  There are a number of wineries that offer tasting and wine for sale along with outdoor areas and usually live music.  Of course, you pay a premium for the wine. 

Now, I think you’ll agree that wine is not a necessity.  Most of us may enjoy a glass now and again, but in a tough economy, you might think that vino would be one of the first things to go.  If your investment portfolio had gone in the tank last week, you might be expected to be drinking cheap wine right out of the bottle, rather than dining al fresco with a $25.00 bottle of Norton.  Wrong!

Traffic was backed up along Highway 94 waiting to get into the more popular wineries.  One had a sign posted, "No Parking, We’re Full".  Another, open just two months, was running a shuttle from a remote parking lot to their tasting/sales room and had set up a card table as an additional selling station.  Every single winery was filled to overflowing with customers enjoying the nice day.

How can this be?  Didn’t we have the biggest single-week loss ever in the market last week?  Didn’t the government have to step in, not just in the United States, but in a number of countries, to bail out their banking systems?  Isn’t everyone waiting for the other shoe to drop?  Aren’t we supposed to be cutting back?

Here’s the thing.  The middle class, the ones that are supposed to be having such a hard time, may not believe the hype.  They have a job.  They have money.  They may not have gotten the message that they shouldn’t be using their charge cards.  Or, if they have, maybe they think there’s value in spending the day in the sun, enjoying some food and wine with their friends, not thinking about what may be coming down the economic road.

Today’s big gain in the market may be a continuation of the roller-coaster ride we’ve been on, or it may mark a turning point in the world economy.  After all, other markets which are open while we Americans sleep, had big gains overnight.  World leaders have shown that they can work together to get things done.  In twenty-four hours we’ll know what tomorrow holds, but not before.

Meanwhile, as someone (besides Sean Hannity) once said, "Let not your heart be troubled."  Should we all be cautious?  Absolutely!  But life (and business) goes on.  I’d say cautious optimism is the way to go.  Another cliche is "Expect the best but plan for the worst."  It’s hard to argue with that one.

How about a glass of wine?

I’m as Mad as Hell, and I’m Not Going to Take it Anymore

First, apologies for the long absence.  After being gone for two weeks (more on that later) the work was seriously piled up and I’m still in the process of getting caught up.  Second, the podcast that I had planned for last week was scuttled by some kind of Irish bug I picked up that gave me laryngitis.  Third, MTS isn’t normally a political blog/podcast.  But the following article, while political, doesn’t favor any particular candidate, so I decided to pass it along.

Besides, don’t small business owners have a HUGE stake in the upcoming election?  Unlike the fat cats on Wall Street and elsewhere, you can’t run your operation into the ground and then walk away with a multi-million dollar windfall.  You ARE the business and your future and it’s future are inseparable.

I agree with the writer that our entire system is out of whack and the only way to fix it is fire everybody and start over.  This isn’t a new idea.  It’s actually been around for quite a while.  The problem is that most people think that the Senate and Congress are made up of thieving bastards, but that their particular Senators and Congressman/woman are ok.  So, “throw the bums out!” is something that everyone else should do, but not me.

Here’s a news flash: Your Senators and your congress persons are just like all the rest of them.  Just read Towery’s article and keep it in mind as you enter the voting booth (Does anyone still use voting booths?) next month.  If you agree with Towery’s sentiments, pass this along to everyone you know.

Watch for a new MTS podcast later this week.

I’m as Mad as Hell, and I’m Not Going to Take it Anymore
By Matt Towery

Does anyone remember the movie “Network”? The protagonist, Howard Beale, is a TV newscaster whose career is falling apart. So during one of his last newscasts, he suddenly blurts out, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” Then he urges viewers to raise their window ceils and scream out the same thing.

He also told his viewers that they were now stuck in a depression, with wars and rampant crime to boot. He said that he didn’t want them to write their congressmen because there would be little of worth to tell them in such worthless times.

For years I have watched as pandering politicians and other slick and shameless hucksters have manipulated public opinion and dodged reality. Over the past three years, I have written repeatedly that the housing boom was a fraud and that if something weren’t done, it would lead to economic meltdown.

My column is offered through one of the nation’s finest and largest syndicators of opinion in America, Creators Syndicate. But to be completely honest, too few major newspapers have ever carried my columns, mostly because too many editors saw me as a middle-aged former Republican official who had nothing new to say. Many of them opted instead for various commentaries on silly and irrelevant issues.

So I’m not the most-read columnist, but I guarantee you I have something new to say.

This is a crooked nation. The collusion on Wall Street and the footsy games being played among huge financial titans and the international leadership community is obvious.

We’ve all been played for suckers. Our so-called Republican leaders, including President Bush, have allowed government spending to spiral out of control. All the while, they worked to ensure that every sector of the economy in which they had friends was allowed to shunt money to the same.

There was the big pharmaceutical industry giveaway; the lack of regulation over financial lending practices; and other policies that helped spike the cost of everything from corn to milk.

The Democratic leadership provided a morally bankrupt congressional majority whose only interest was to protect their own corrupt leaders, plus lobbying allies like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Then, when the house of cards collapsed, they piously rebuked those same institutions with crocodile tears and false admonishments.

All of this is taking place, of course, in the middle of a presidential campaign in which the Democratic nominee was basically handpicked by the Democrats’ Eastern elite leadership. And the Republicans? Their nominee has been mortally wounded by pathetic advice from GOP “experts” who really don’t even want him to win.

Well this is one middle-ager who isn’t going to take it anymore. I have a job to do: poll political campaigns. And you can be certain that I’ll do it without bias, because I despise every last one of these politicians, be they officeholders, office-seekers or office evacuees. I think they are all vapid and vain and slippery as snakes. But at least it helps to make one an unbiased pollster when one doesn’t care who wins.

But just because I don’t have a hidden agenda doesn’t mean I don’t have an opinion. And here it is: It’s time for you, dear reader, to phone your banker, who won’t make any loans; and your landlord, who ups your rent as soon as the moving van clears the driveway; your TV cable company, which features 500 channels and 600 excuses for upping your bill; the insurance company that is shocked that you’d dare make a claim; the doctor’s office that won’t return your phone calls; and, most of all, the damn politicians, who care more about titles, perks and perpetual re-election than about public service — and tell them that you are mad as hell and you’re not going to take it anymore.
And while you’re at it, stop forking out a second mortgage to watch coddled film and pro sports stars perform; stop buying overpriced, underwritten books by self-proclaimed celebrities; and tell TV networks that trot out biased, filtered news that you’re done buying from their advertisers.
Get off your duff, and come out swinging!

We are slowly — maybe not even slowly now — losing our economy and our nation while a handful of billionaires and slick bureaucrats profiteer off our misfortune and complacency at every turn.

Don’t believe me? Then just ask yourself why the government didn’t extend the ban on the “short selling” of financial institutions. Anyone with half a brain would have known that as soon as the ban ended, the market would tank. You don’t think some folks made huge money on that little deal?
I wish I were a newscaster, like the fictional Howard Beale in “Network.” I would have you all running to the windows shouting along with me.
On second thought, I now recall that Beale ended up getting shot for his troubles. I’m starting to know how he felt.

Business Cards–an Important Business Tool

A little more than a year ago, we published a post on the importance of your business card.  Following up on yesterday’s post, a business card is about as low-tech as you can get when it comes to promoting your business.  But it can also be the most cost-effective weapon in your marketing arsenal when it comes to getting customers (back) into your store.

On my recent trip to Ireland, one thing I noticed is that Irish businesses don’t scrimp on their cards.  There’s a British company called that seems to be a favorite supplier.  Several people at Podcamp Ireland were handing out Moo cards.  Moo’s claim to fame is their cards with custom artwork on the back. 

While they do ship to the United States, this isn’t an add for Moo.  I’m fairly sure that there must be an American company or two who produces similar cards.  The point is that each card is a mini work of art and worth saving regardless of who’s contact information is on the front.

The company also offers a "mini card.  At less than 1/2 the sizeMoo_mini_cards_2
of traditional cards, the minis unique size more than makes up for the small print area.  They’re quite a conversation starter, especially when they come out of the little one-hand dispenser that Moo sells.

You may not want to go to the trouble and expense of ordering your business cards from England, but there are companies on this side of the ocean that sell colorful and unique card styles. Check them out.  After all, your card does no one any good if it ends up in the trash.

Using the Right Tool for the Job

On September 27 I led a discussion at an "unconference" Pci5
called "Podcamp Ireland, in the town of Kilkenny, a short drive from Dublin.  [An "unconference" is sort of a free-form get together of people interested in a common topic, in this case blogging, podcasting, and other social media.]  You might expect a geeky gathering like that to be very high tech and in many ways it was.  There were more blackberries and iPhones at the Hotel Kilkenny than you might find at your local Best Buy. 

On the other hand, the idea of people with a common interest getting together in one place to talk to each other is as old as communication itself.  If we hadn’t met online before Podcamp, most of the attendees have hooked up electronically since the event.

My session was on social media and Baby Boomers and one point I made was that it’s not productive to force people to use a tool just because it’s new when another, older tool would work just as well, maybe better.  I recalled the early days of the microwave oven.  I had worked for a local distributor when microwaves were fairly new and then came to Tacony Corporation where the ovens were part of what we called "Special Products."  In those days, in the late ’70s and early ’80s, every microwave manufacturer had a team of "experts" working on recipes and techniques that would help convince the housewife that she needed one of the $1,000 cooking appliances.

One particularly bizarre application was boiling eggs.  You couldn’t boil an egg in a microwave because the egg would cook before the water boiled, producing a sort of egg-shaped yellow and white brick.  But someone came up with the idea of wrapping the egg in foil before you put it into a bowl and putting the whole thing in the microwave.  The foil would keep the waves away from the egg while the water boiled.  Then the boiling water would cook the foil-wrapped egg.

It did work, but it was a lot more trouble than just boiling the egg in a pan of water on the gas stove, the way God intended.

Some of us have a tendency to do the same thing with the Internet.  If you’ve been reading MYOB for any length of time, you know that your favorite blogger is a big fan of social media tools when they’re used properly.  Proper use doesn’t mean twittering the person on the other side of the room.  It doesn’t mean sending an email when a phone call would be quicker and more straight forward.

Merriam-Webster Online says that a tool is "a means to an end".  And so it is. 

Here’s a good example of the principal at work. Pci2
There were three meeting rooms at Podcamp Ireland.  The nature of an unconference is that some speakers might not show up and attendees may decide on the spur of the moment that it would be good to have an unscheduled session on a new topic.  The format is very flexible but there has to be some organization of time and space.  The organizers of PCI used this high-tech easel/sticky note system to keep things moving.

A conference on the latest Internet tools managed using an very simple, very low tech tool. 

Face it, sometimes a hand-lettered sign on poster board can convey a sense of urgency to your customers that a professionally printed sign just can’t.  Sometimes it’s easier to clean up a mess with a broom than with the latest and greatest vacuum cleaner.  Sometimes it makes more sense to walk to the mailbox than it does to get the car out of the garage.

We’ll continue to keep you up-to-date on the newest and best tools, but sometimes the old way is still the best way.

Turning Obsolete Inventory

This post is inspired by an ongoing thread on another forum.  The question is, "What do you do with obsolete inventory?"  We’re not talking about junk, trade-ins, or floor models.  We’re looking at perfectly good items that may be last year’s models, or the last one of a formerly popular item.  You know the drill.  New merchandise comes in with new bells and whistles and the older items just get lost in the shuffle.  It’s after midnight and the coach has turned into a pumpkin.

Before we look at some of the excellent suggestions from forum members, let’s do some math.  For the sake of argument, we’ll assume that your normal margin is 50%, only because it’s a number that makes the math simpler.  We’re also going to ignore freight, interest, etc., because they can be greatly different from store to store and item to item.

OK, in our very simple scenario you have a brand-new 2007 model Super Sucker Vacuum that’s been in your inventory for a long time.  You paid $250.00 for it and you have it marked at $500.00 retail.  The 2008 model has a couple of extra features and the design is a little niftier.  It costs $275.00 and sells for $550.00.  It’s an easy sale and you’re moving a lot of them, let’s say an average of three per week.

Would your people sell the lone 2007 model if you reduced the price to $350.00 and paid them a $100.00 spiff?  That’s $150.00 less than the new model and a decent reward for the person who moves it.  But wait, you can’t make any money selling something for cost, especially if it’s been in your store for several months.  That’s just silly.

But think about it.  Right now you have $250.00 tied up in a piece of merchandise that’s not selling.  If you use this strategy, you’ll soon have $250.00 in cash.  If you take that $250.00 and add another $25.00 you can buy a new 2008 Super Sucker.  We’ve already established that you’re selling three of the new ones per week, so in a matter of days your $275.00 turns into $550.00 which you can use to buy TWO new Super Suckers and a potential $1,100.00 in the register, and so on and so on, etc.

No one is in business to sell merchandise at cost, but it’s important to look at the big picture.  At the end of the day, it’s your total return on investment, not the return on any single item, that makes the difference between a nice profit and a loss.  This may be the single most difficult concept for us to wrap our minds around, especially if we’re talking about our own money.  But it may also be the most important thing we can ever learn about retail.

Now, what are some of the suggestions from the people on the front line?  Read on:

  • Barter.  Trade the merchandise for radio time, newspaper space, or join a barter group.
  • Have a parking lot sale.  Put up a pop-up awning with some brightly colored poster board signs saying "Parking Lot Sale."  Put signs at parking lot entrances.  Hire a high-school kid to put flyers on people’s windshields if you share a busy parking lot with other stores.
  • A similar idea would be to put just one item on the sidewalk with a BIG markdown price tag.
  • Put a vac outside and charge $5.00 to whack it with a hammer.
  • Take the obsolete item, make sure it’s squeeky clean with fresh tags and signage.  In other words, try to restore the passion you had for the item when it was new.
  • Donate the items to charity and take a tax write off.  Depending on the type of business you have, this may or may not be a good idea.  The last thing you want to do is get in trouble with the IRS.  Another way to do this is to donate items to the local schools, churches, and clubs who come into your store looking for a donation.  Make sure you get proper recognition when you donate to a raffle or auction.  Consider the cost of the item as word-of-mouth advertising.

How about you?  Do you have any good ideas that you’d like to share?  Comment below.