“Black Friday”

Personally, I hate the term "black Friday".  It seems like such a somber name for the day that, unofficially at least, begins the brightest, happiest, and busiest time of the year.  While it is the day that's supposed to mark the change from red ink to black ink on your P & L, it's really much more than that.

Hopefully this day finds you too busy to read a lengthy post so I'll just say that, as busy as it may get, take care of yourself and your staff over the next few weeks.  Consider little things like catering lunch on Saturdays, having a supply of Tums, Advil or Tylenol, Band-Aids, and other things that will make the season a little less stressful.

And, for crying out loud, have fun.  While it's an important time for your bottom line, don't lose sight of the reason for the season, and don't stress yourself to the point that you can't enjoy everything it has to offer.

Take a deep breath.  Do a couple of deep knee bends.  And, get back to work!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving

from your friends at Tacony Corporation.


Flickr photo by Gracie

What Are You Thankful For?

Today's post is short and to the point.  Tomorrow is the day we Americans set aside to count our blessings, to be thankful for all the good things we have in our lives.  Today, I'd like to ask you a question:

What are you thankful for?

Write your own blog post, if only in your mind.  We're surrounded by challenges, but we're also surrounded by blessings, and I firmly believe that the latter outnumber the former by many magnitudes.

So, make a list.  Write it down and keep it someplace where you'll see it every day.  You can share it with others, or not.  That's up to you.  It's your list.

And from all of here at Tacony Corporation, may you have a safe, happy and peaceful Thanksgiving Day and that the rest of 2008 may be the best it can be.

Adapting to Current Conditions

Thanks to our friend Doug Fleener ("Retail Expert – Speaker – Consultant – All around good guy" according to his twitter profile) for pointing out an article from Reuters, "Small U.S. stores adopt personal touch to survive).  Aparantly written for a British audience (a dollar figure is converted to pounds), the article point out some of the things that retailers are doing to increase business.  It's worth noting that all the retailers interviewed are from higher-income areas in the Chicago metro, but the advice still holds.

For example, Sue Opeka, owner of The Present Moment in Libertyville, sells "affirmational and motivational" gifts.  Her sales are up 15% for the past four months.  When she began her customer appreciation program last year, she was hoping for 200 members in the first three months.  She got 1,000.   Opeka adds that "our goal has always been  to go beyond retail and make this a place where women can feel good about themselves."  That includes a "Gathering Place" in the back of the store where she holds workships and serves tea. 

Dana Fisher, a retailer from the Chicago suberb of Oak Park says, "It's not that people aren't spending, they're just spending on different things."

TNS Retail Forward, a research firm, predicts that holiday sales will be up just 1.5 percent, the weakest since 1991.  With the dynamics of today's marketplace and economy, any increase should be appreciated. 

Remember that some heavy hitters are either in bankrupcy or on the verge.  The big guys are hurting. I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that many independent retailers will blow that 1.5 percent figure away. 

Doug is also quoted in the article.  He says, "To get through this season as an independent retailer, you have to adapt."  But that's your strong suit, isn't it.  Smaller businesses are much more flexible, much better able to adapt than your larger competitors.  While Wally World and other BBs have warehouses full of merchandise that they ordered well before the current economic situation became aparent, hopefully you still have open-to-buy for the holidays and can adjust your buying to fit the market.

Where it takes three committees and a half dozen meetings to put together an ad for a few thousand stores, you can pick up the phone and call the local radio station and have something on the air in a few hours.  Better yet, you can send an email blast, or communicate with your customers on Facebook or MySpace in a matter of minutes.

No, you're all about adapting and providing personal service.  It may mean you'll have to work a little harder for the next few weeks, but come January 1 it will all be worthwhile.

Keep an Eye on Your Stuff

One consequence of the weak economy and high unemployment numbers is that we can expect an increase in shoplifting, especially during the upcoming holiday season.  Unemployed people, desperate to give their families a decent Christmas may resort to giving themselves a "five-finger discount" rather than show up empty handed on December 25.

While we certainly can empathize with unemployed or underemployed husbands, wives, moms, and dads, (been there!), we can't condone thievery, either by customers, or worse, by trusted employees.  It's always important to be aware of what's happening in your store, but extra vigilance is always necessary during the holidays, especially this year.

Here are links to some excellent articles on the subject of theft prevention.









http://www.crimedoctor.com/employee_theft.htm  This one contains some additional links.  

There one more thing and that's customer service.  A customer who's receiving excellent service doesn't have a chance to steal from you.

Prepare for 2009

 Regular readers know that I keep three books on my desk:

I also have a Bible close by and I've lost my copy of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, but I pretty much have it memorized.

I also subscribe to the matching blogs for these books.  A post earlier this week on the E-Myth blog caught mPlanningy attention called 10 Ways to Prepare for the New Year.  There are for ten positive things that you can do to jump start your business for 2009.  I'm not going to repeat them here because you can get them by clicking here.  But, I did want to comment on the whole idea of planning for next year.

Face it, we're being bombarded with bad news every day.  There's a banking crisis.  The stock market has gone completely crazy, down 500 points one day, up 500 points the next.  The big three automakers are all flying to Washing DC in their private jets to beg for loans.  Pirates are plying the seven seas and gas has gotten "cheap" at less than  $2.00 per gallon.  It's tempting to curl up under the desk in a fetal position and wait for things to settle down.

But even though the "pundits" are warning of Armageddon, our economy has gone through tough times before and it will again.  The point is that it always comes back.  During the election, and even now, some so-called "experts" are talking depression.  But the conditions today are much different than they were in the 1930s.  For one thing, bank deposits are guaranteed.  Unless you have all your money at the Bailey Building and Loan, your money is safe.  For another thing, the people who understand economics (and I'm not one of them) have tools today that didn't even exist when the last big one hit. 

Here's the thing when it comes to your business.  Big box stores are in a mess.  They placed orders for fall and Christmas merchandise months ago, not knowing that money would be tight in the fourth quarter (even though they should have seen the signs).  They're desperate to turn that inventory into cash.  The only way for them to do that is spend more money on advertising and lower prices, not a good combination.

That's where you have the advantage.  Hopefully your inventory is in line.  You're flexible.  You're fast.  You're like a speed boat racing a barge.  You can zip back and forth while they plod along.  You can adapt.  Take a look at the "10 Ways" article.  Take it to heart.  The constants are measure,plan, budget, and plan some more.

The end of the year is the perfect time to stop, take a deep breath, and begin anew.  As the article says, "Make a commitment to yourself to make 2009 your best yet." 

Ya Wanna Trade?

Trading goes back to ancient times.  Before there was money, merchandise and services were exchanged for other merchandise and services.  In fact the earliest merchants were called "traders."  Even here in America in the early 20th century, it was fairly common for the local family doctor to take care of a patient in exchange for food or other items.

Trading is enjoying a resurgence as money gets tight and credit gets tighter.  "Barter exchanges" are clearing houses for trades between businesses.  For a small fee, they convert your excess merchandise or services for " barter dollars" which can be used to get things from other members of the exchange.

Writer Jorina Fontelera points out in a post from "Thomas Net" that some barter exchanges are enjoying double digit increases in business. 

In addition to being a way to obtain merchandise and services without a cash investment, barter exchanges can be an ideal way to turn obsolete merchandise into something you need.  Since barter transactions take place at "fair market value" (retail), in effect you're buying goods and services at a wholesale value.  For example, if you trade a $100.00 retail value item that you bought for $60.00, you're going to get $100.00 retail value in return.

Since members know that they're enjoying substantial savings, they're not likely to be too concerned if the item they're getting is a 2009 model or a 2007.    Of course you can avoid the barter fees by just asking your neighbor if he wants to trade a copy machine for a vacuum cleaner.  Simple.  Direct.  No paperwork.  It's a win/win.

Fontelera points out that you should be careful who you're dealing with.  Make sure the exchange is reputable or you might end up with a worthless pile of "barter dollars".  You should also make sure that there are members in the exchange who have things to offer that you want.  Having bartered in the past, I can tell you that there's nothing more frustrating than having a big balance in your account and nothing to spend it for.  Until you get the hang of this barter stuff, don't run up too big a credit balance.  $5,000.00 worth of hockey pucks might not be your cup of tea.  $5,000.00 worth of tea might not be your cup of tea.  As with any new business venture, be careful.

Check out International Reciprocal Trade Association (IRTA) before you hand over merchandise.

Episode 14

Episode 14-New Beginnings
Welcome to Mining the Store, the podcast for small business owners who want to mine more gold from their businesses. This is Episode 14.  This episode’s contents:
Insert Link
00:00  “Carol of the Bells” by Doug Astrop from the Podsafe Music Network.
01:17  Changes coming to Mine Your Own Business.  Tacony Corporation and the Mine Your Own Business blog.
05:08  My rules for life planning:  Do what you enjoy.  Do what you’re good at.  Set up multiple streams of income so you’re never dependent on any one person or company.
07:34  Google Docs is a great application even if it is AWOL tonight.
09:18  Antitrust laws.  The feds are serious.  There’s a good ebook on the subject from the Federal Trade Commission.  There’s a link to the free book at Mine Your Own Business.
11:28  If you’re in business, you need to be on LinkedIn.
10:45  Changes are coming to Mining the Store
17:20  Mining the Store is a member of the Blubrry Podcast Network.
Direct download: Episode_14.mp3
Category: podcasts — posted at: 10:40 PM

Avoiding Problems with the FTC

[Disclaimer:  I am not a lawyer.  I don't play one on television.  The following should not be considered legal advice.  When in doubt, consult with your attorney.]

This post was inspired by a conversation on another forum about pricing.  To make a long story short, Dealer A was selling an item at a fair markup.  Dealer B was selling the same item barely above cost.  The question was, how could dealer A convince Dealer B to charge a more reasonable price?

The answer to the question is "He can't."  The Federal Trade Commission doesn't look kindly on two or more competitors agreeing on retail pricing.  In fact, it's a felony.  I don't know about you, but the last place I want to be is in federal prison, surrounded by murderers and thieves, when they found out I got busted for "acting together (with a competitor) in ways that can limit competition, lead to higher prices, or hinder other businesses from entering the market."  It could be a very long twenty years.

Seriously, the FTC defines "Price Fixing" as "companies getting together to set prices."  So, what's Dealer A to do?  First, contact the manufacturer.  US courts have established that manufacturers do have some rights when it comes to setting retail pricing.  Let them handle it.  Worst case–your rep might go to jail, but you won't.  (Be sure to send him/her a card at Christmas.)

If that doesn't work, stop carrying the offending line or product.  If you  can't make money on it, why carry it?  If it's a traffic-building brand, then you have to carry a profit line where you can make money.  [Hint:  Contact your Tacony Corporation representative.  He/she can help.]

Or, if you absolutely must sell the item in question, find ways to add value to justify your price.  Free delivery, free service, and free accessories are just a few things you might add.

Finally, the FTC has a booklet called "Competition Counts" that sheds some light on this whole "anti-trust" thing.  It's short and to the point, and you should have a copy of it on hand.  It's free.

The Top 10 Reasons Why Working Longer Hours is a Good Thing

Anita Bruzzese is a published author, blogger, and all-around great lady who writes the 45 Things blog.  (Check this out!)  Last week she pointed out that with the number of people being laid off, there's a lot more work for the rest of us.  As the holidays approach, if you've cut back on hiring, chances are you're picking up a lot of the slack yourself.  Here's Anita's list of the top 10 good things about working all those extra hours.  Some may not apply directly to your situation, but most of them are probably right on.

1. Your mom feels so bad for you she's started doing your laundry.

2. Your neighbors are dropping off meals at your house, thinking you died. (The tuna casserole was excellent.)

3. The dog has quit shredding the drapes. It's no fun when you're not around to yell about it.

4. The overnight security guard at work has been letting you in on some really good deals. It's amazing the stuff that falls off the back of a truck!

5. You won $5 from the cleaning lady who said no way would a sleeping bag fit under the desk. Way!

6. No standing in line for coffee at Starbucks. You're first in line when the doors open.

7. Living in the same suit for five days straight has really cut down on your dry cleaning bill.

For Halloween, you didn't have to buy a costume. You went as one of the
"undead" and won first prize in the scariest costume category.

9. Your stalker finally gave up and went away, saying your schedule was just too exhausting.

10. You don't have far to go for your weekly groceries — the vending machine is just down the hall!