Retail Truths: The Unconventional Wisdom of Retailing by Chip Averwater. ABB Press, 2012
Countless books and articles have been written to help entrepreneurs launch start-up ventures. However, established retailers who have built up thriving small businesses face a completely different set of challenges.
"Retail Truths" by Chip Averwater (a fourth generation member of a family-owned musical instrument business) is a compilation of 427 street-smart insights from both his own experiences and the collective wisdom of other veteran retailers. It's the closest thing to having a team of experienced advisers on call 24 hours a day.
Most shoppers are very price-conscious and will go to great lengths and great distances to save a few dollars. How can a retailer entice people to shop at his or her store instead of one that is significantly less expensive?
Consider this advice: If the store is neat, the merchandise tastefully displayed and the service is impeccable, customers will come back because they'll want to repeat the pleasant experiences they've had there in the past.
There also is no reason to be intimidated by retailers who have more space. Operating within a limited space forces a retailer to be more creative when ordering inventory.
No store can remain successful without talented employees, but how can a retailer predict if a prospective candidate will be an asset to the business? The author strongly recommends conducting background and credit checks, even personality tests, and offers a list of productive interview questions to help select the individual who is best suited for the available opening.
There are many suggestions for handling good customers as well as those who are unhappy with the merchandise or the service they received.
There is advice on pricing, dealing with vendor reps and evaluating balance sheets for strategic planning.
Although readers may not agree with all of the ideas offered in "Retail Truths," the people sharing their experiences are speaking honestly about what worked, or didn't work for them, and mistakes they've made that others can learn from.
Natalie Lustig works for The Carnegie Business Library, Downtown.