Sometimes simple is stupid, not smart

No doubt you have been told before that it is best to Keep it Simple Stupid (KISS). No doubt it is sexy advice. But what people may not appreciate is that sometimes simplicity comes at the price of effectiveness.

The real world is complex – and sometimes the response to a challenge is complicated.

When it comes to retail metrics, the same thing applies. We know we NEED to know what is happening in a business – and often we lean on very simple metrics to tell us what is happening.


  • Daily takings.
  • Or net profit for the month.

It’s nice to know. And it is simple, but it is not particularly useful. These metrics don’t pass the dennis price ‘so what’ test.

So what if your sales were $5k yesterday? So what if you knew that it was $4k the day before?

What can you DO about that?

Nothing much, because simple metrics simply don’t provide enough information.

Yet, every retailer I know will ALWAYS be able to tell me what yesterday’s takings were.

You could say it indicates that you should increase your daily takings, and I would argue that you don’t need a metric to know that since you must be doing it anyway.

You can also consider compound metrics, which typically measure productivity in retail.


  • Sales per employee.
  • The average sale.

This is better, much better. Compound metrics introduce two variables and if it is a measure of productivity then one variable is an output of the business (sales, profit) expressed relative to the input (time, space, people).

By using these metrics you can drill down better and are able to make more relevant comparisons.

These are good metrics because you can actually take specific actions like firing an employee or increasing the space allocation – and then continue to monitor the metric to assess the impact.


The most useful metric is a complex metric; like GMROII.

If you knew that for one category of merchandise in your store you are achieving GMROII of 200% instead of 300%, what does that mean and what can you do about it?

(Read THIS to understand the calculation if you are interested.)

One metric like this reveals a lot

  1. GM%
  2. Stockturn

And if you know this, you can also establish if:

  1. Pricing too high
  2. Pricing too low
  3. Pricing just right
  4. Net sales quantities too high
  5. Net Sales quantities too low
  6. Net sales quantities just right
  7. Cost of Sales too high
  8. Cost of Sales too low
  9. Cost of Sales just right
  10. Average level of inventory too high
  11. Average inventory too low
  12. Average inventory just right


And of course, any of combination of the above is possible.

One metric like this suggests a range of different actions you can/ should take, for instance:

  1. Changing your pricing strategy
  2. Have a sale (specific category) or develop a non-price marketing strategy
  3. Negotiate with suppliers for better prices
  4. Review inbound costs
  5. Re-assess your returns policy
  6. Buy less/more stock
  7. Business as usual

Of course these options exist anyway, and you may contemplate them from time to time anyway. BUT, the beauty of it all is that IF you monitored the specific metric, you will KNOW which the right strategy is – and you will be able to track definitively what the impact is.

All the retailers who struggle are the ones with non-existent systems (as I revealed here last week).

A decent POS (not a ‘till’) will cost about 2% of your annual sales to get a good system implemented across your business.

Considering that…

it pays off over many years to follow and that the ongoing cost is a fraction of the setup cost, and

it can reveal real actionable insights with direct financial benefits,

why would you NOT have a good system with accurate data?

A ‘system’ will not improve your business. Taking action on the insights will. Whilst a metric (like GMROII) is a complex metric, it is not difficult to calculate and any decent POS will do it for you. All it takes is 5 minutes to understand what it means.

Data that is turned into intelligent actions will save time and money and make time and money for you.

Everyone I know can do with more of both.

Making more money is not always simple. Sexy advice is not always good advice.

Have fun – be Retail$martTM


Dr Dennis Price helps retailers and their retail supply chain to (re-)capture their entrepreneurial mojo with the right skills, strategies and systems to improve business performance.



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