The difference between success and failure as a retailer

As you may have realised, I like proposing a contrarian view on many sacred cows – not always because I firmly hold that opinion, but because I like to encourage people to question their own beliefs.

I sit here pondering what I can share with the audience that will be worthwhile, and I think about merchandising, margins, and multi-channel retailing and the like.  Or maybe I can debunk some social media myths. These are all worthy topics that should be thought about, and are easy to write about. (And fun to poke a stick at.)

But somehow I thought of the ONE thing we rarely discuss, but that I see all the time in retail. I am in the fortunate position to get a real helicopter perspective on the performance of many retailers in every category.

If you had to ask me to pick just one thing that I can have, or the one thing that makes tie difference between a successful and an unsuccessful retailer. Can you guess what that would be?

I can tell you that I don’t have it. At least not naturally. I can recognise it, and I value it, but I have to work at it consciously because it is not innate – yet it is the one thing that discriminates between the average and the excellent performer.

In retail specifically, I like to talk about this one ingredient as a ‘Merchant Mentality’.

I am involved with a couple who are buying a restaurant. They have the work ethic. They have the desire. They have the money. There is only one reason why they shouldn’t do it – and that is because they don’t have the ‘hospitality mentality’. I fear for their success.

Someone with a merchant mentality instinctively moves the merchandise in a way that will sell more. They naturally pick adjacencies that will sell better for both products. They seem to have a sixth sense for what will make the customer buy. And above all, they are obsessed with making the sale.

A true MERCHANT understands that sales cure all ills.

It really isn’t about stats. Nor displays. Nor location. Of course all these are important, but in many ways these are just proxies for having people with a merchant mentality.

If I was heading up a chain right now, I would make that my singular priority: get managers who are MERCHANTS in my stores.

Easier said than done and all that, but the critical performance factor nevertheless.