Why can’t I find what I’m looking for? Ever?
I love Target – my place to shop for all of my household staples. But they never have all of the items I’m looking for. With a trip every three weeks, I always leave the store missing at least one item because it’s out of stock, forcing me to make a second stop at a drug store or grocery store to buy the missing product.
And it’s not just Target. My local Ralph’s grocery store (think Kroger, Safeway) just went through a massive remodel to add a pharmacy, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf (think Starbucks) and other amenities to draw in more shoppers. The result? A considerably reduced selection of products (oh Vlassic Zesty Kosher Dill Pickles, where have you gone?).
And it’s not just retailers who are missing inventory or paring product lines (is Safeguard soap no longer made? Ditto for my Glide dental tape). Manufacturers are discontinuing products and creating new ones at an alarming rate.
America is the king of one-stop shop. We invented the grocery store, the mega-general store called Wal-Mart and dozens of knock-offs. So how do we find ourselves reverting to the old days of stopping at the butcher, the baker, the wine store, etc. to get what we need? If I wanted that experience, I’d move to Paris.
THE REAL WORLD RETAILING TAKEAWAY
Customers and clients care about selection and price. Period.
How can a multi-billion company like Target continually have inventory issues? Having worked for a start-up retailer with 65 stores, I certainly understand the difficulty getting the right inventory into the right stores. But Target has been around for decades and no doubt has the most sophisticated systems to ensure inventory is in its warehouse and stores. Somehow that system is working quite right.
As small retailers, it’s even more important that we have the inventory in stock. It’s another one of those customer service elements that can separate us from the big guys.
A bit ago, I wrote about the need for newness. And that’s true. You need to offer new products for your customers. But if you’re going to discontinue a line, make sure it’s for the right reasons as follows:
1. The manufacturer is discontinuing the line
2. The line isn’t selling
3. The line duplicates another line you’re carrying that’s selling better
Secondly, make sure you have the products in the store. Bulk up on your best sellers so you never run out. Do you know how to access your inventory position on your computer system? Do you know how to look at product turns or weeks of demand to determine how much inventory you should be carrying? If not, let me know, and I’ll call in one of my merchandising experts to give the basics of managing inventory.
Get the right products in your store and ensure they are always there. After all, if you don’t have anything to sell, then you don’t have a business.