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How to Survive the Peak Seasons as a Retailer

By: Marc Joseph-- 2014-07-18 8:00 am --
by Marc Joseph, President and CEO of DollarDays

Running a retail business is like getting your report card every single day. It is a business of “thanks for what you did for me yesterday, but what can you do for me today?” It has to be one of the most stressful occupations in this country, yet if you do well, it can be the most exhilarating and fun businesses to live and breathe every day. What causes this stress versus reward cycle in retailing?

Good retailers balance looking into the future and planning for the next season with what is happening in my business today. The future plays to the heart of retailers because you analyze what went well last year and where there are opportunities to improve. Optimism abounds about the future because retailers are a confident and hopeful bunch…otherwise they would be in a profession that looks to the past rather than looking ahead. So planning ahead is the enjoyable part of retailing, because no mistakes have been made, yet.

Living in your business today is a different story. Most businesses measure themselves against what happened last year in sales. Sure there are mitigating circumstances that could alter the numbers you are up against, like more or less competition, change in customers’ taste preferences or suppliers of your key products going in or out of business. But every retailer has last year’s numbers recorded by day and look at these numbers three or four times a day during their peak seasons to see if they are going to beat them. Take my business as an example. Our two peak seasons are Back to School and Christmas. Currently we are in our Back to School season. Our staff meets quickly throughout the day to gauge where we are against last year each day. When we had the biggest day in our company’s history last week, it was the greatest feeling I have had since the day my son was born. When we only did half of what we did last year three days later, I felt like an old man who was on his way to retirement… so living each day in business to its fullest during peak seasons is like riding a roller coaster all day long. You are exhausted at the end of the day on bad days and exhilarated and can’t wait to wake up and start again on the good days.

We will get through the Back to School season, so now I am worried about the Christmas season. Do we have enough products to offer our customers and as important, are they the right products? Have we been watching the trends of the last few months to help give us an indication of what will be successful this fall? Do we have the most sophisticated methods to market to our customers efficiently and effectively during the holiday season? Do I have the right sales staff in place that will be able to relate to our customers? All of these are questions that will keep my staff and me up at night, because they are the unknowns…and then November hits and we are right back into the cycle of living day to day with our numbers much like we are in today for Back to School.

But I would not have it any other way. The ebb and flow of providing customers what they need when they need it at the right price is part of a true retailer’s heart and soul. The highs and lows that go with it are just part of the game of life.