5 innovative ways to grow retail sales

5 innovative ways to grow retail sales

This past weekend, I enjoyed being a part of a Retail Roundtable with several dozen retailers attending the Palko Distribution Services tabletop show in Indiana. The folks at Palko represent the best in our industry and their show, as always, was proof of that. I was there in theory to add some ideas and content to the discussion. I did a bit of that, but in all honesty I came away with great insights and fresh ideas.

This is fairly obvious, but times are tough for many independent retailers. Competition is expanding within the natural products industry and without as retailers from other channels (including online) focus on natural and organic offerings. And there are additional challenges if a store is located in a smaller community.

With this as our backdrop, store owners eagerly shared what they have done to successfully grow their sales. Here four ideas that stuck with me the most:

1. Hook Dr. Oz's viewers

The Dr. Oz Show continues to be a major driver of sales. But just how can you capture the people Dr. Oz influences?

Realize that many of these shoppers are new to natural products and also to healthy living.  Understand that they won't know the "lingo," basic nutrition, or much about who you are and what you sell. This is a great opportunity to welcome them, make them feel at home and let them know that you and your staff are there to help them.

If you don't carry what they are looking for, that's fine. The bottom line is they are not there for a product, but for a solution to a problem. Learn why they are shopping with you and let them know you can meet their needs.

2. Host a dog wash

Do you carry top-quality pet products? Do you know how passionate the modern pet owner is about caring for their four-legged friend?

Dog washes are a great way to provide a service for pet owners. Local scout troops and school groups are always looking for ways to raise funds. They can do the washing and you can provide water, shampoo, etc. along with goodie bags full of samples from your pet products vendors.

Be sure to check with your local health department, landlord and attorney to protect yourself from liability. This is a favorite idea of Jim Palko, owner, founder and president of Palko Services and one of the people that make being in this industry such a great experience.

3. Tell locals about your store

I don't mean online, in a flyer or via social media. Instead, talk to people in your community.  Have you given your business card, an "invitation to shop" or some samples to the people that you meet in your daily life: the barista at the coffee shop, the mechanic that works on your car, the clerk at the dry cleaner or the server at your favorite restaurant?

4. Capitalize on out of stock products

If a product is out of stock, it's not the end of the world. In fact, you can offer world class service that will keep shoppers coming back. Offer to reorder it and call them when it arrives. Or, mail it to them upon its arrival.

5. Consider smart Every Day Low Prices

A strategy of across the board discounts is a bad idea and can seriously hurt or ruin your business. However, there are ways to offer ongoing discounts while protecting your margin. 

What brands are regularly (at least four to six times a year) on sale from our distributor? What brands offer standing case stack discounts? If you buy right, you can always buy these items at a discount and then offer a discounted price to your shoppers. Be aware that 20 percent off at retail is a lot more money than 20 percent off at wholesale. So don’t blindly "pass on" discounts until you do the math.

If you are new to the concept of pricing discounts, check out my seminar "Retail Math."  The session is from Expo East in 2005 so the examples may be a little dated, but the concepts are still current. (The links to the audio and the notes from the session are found about 2/3 of the way down the page.)

What innovative ideas do you have for growing retail sales? Please share what's working for you in the comments.

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