Over the span of 17 years in this industry, I have traveled to many of our locations, local and across the country. I’ve seen some locations numerous times to help assess where we can improve and increase sales. One thing I have noticed and would like to emphasize is that most of my time, or our time when I’m able to bring other team members, is spent doing very basic tasks. Some might call these obvious; tasks that go without saying — the tasks and duties that should realistically be common sense.
I should note that the places I have visited and observed are not always under the Deja Vu umbrella, but sometimes they are like-minded businesses in our industry that I have patronized. Side note, I have no shame in trying something that I see another retailer doing that appears to be working well. In addition to that, I follow many adult retailers on social media simply to gather some inspiration for change within my own four walls and I strongly encourage others to do the same. I welcome others to follow our pages and use these platforms to “give back” to the manufacturers that support us by supporting them and offering up ideas to others.
The following will be how I identify these problems and create solutions. These can work for any retailer who wants to spot the areas that are in need of improvement and correct them as well. With that being said, there are no “quick fixes”, and most items will take actual, physical work to correct and maintain. You’ll find that most of the tasks that need to be done do not have to be done by only upper management, assistants, buyers, owners, or decision makers. Most tasks that retailers are struggling with can be delegated to team members and maintained with follow-ups. Usually when I see the basics not being met, I just assume that it speaks to the laziness of the people that are likely the highest paid in the business. Many of these problems stem from complacency and maintaining a status quo, when we should all be constantly working on improving.
These basics that I speak of are often simple and small changes that can be inexpensive or completely free. They can make a huge difference to your business. Before I visit a site, I like to request photos of all areas sent to me via email so I can get a preliminary look from a satellite location, rather than having to wait to be present. Cleanliness, organization, clutter, product/department flow, sales team uniforms, selection, proper lighting, signage, and much more are all things that I can identify from photos. If these are the biggest anchors holding a business down, they are very simple to fix.
Let’s begin with cleanliness. If you can write words in the dust and grime on display shelves and packaging, that is a huge problem. I can only speak for myself but when I see dust, my instinct kicks in and I immediately write “GROSS” on said item or shelf. Sometimes the team members of a dusty store will blame the store, but I promise, you will either come up with excuses or solutions. It is very human to do so. Excuses don’t help. If you decide that today is the day you change from the person that makes excuses at every turn to the person that finds solutions at every turn, you will see a positive effect in your life and in your business. I live and work in a dust bowl in Las Vegas and we can still manage to keep product, shelving and floors free of dust and dirt.
The short-term solution is to grab a rag and some Windex and clean the areas. The long term-solution is to walk your location, write out every display, fixture, shelf, and rack and create a cleaning schedule for your team. This will ensure that all areas remain clean. The larger key to this is the follow-up. In Las Vegas, we have our team check these items off of their daily to-do list and then the team leader will initial that list to verify it. You may feel you are asking too much of associates but their time goes by much faster and their experience at work is much more enjoyable when they have clear tasks to follow and can feel accomplished at the end of their work day.
Now we move on to organization. If you do not have a system in place for exactly how every item you offer is tagged, secured, hung and displayed, this creates what I consider to be a headache for guests that are trying to give you their money. The largest department this seems to cause problems in is clothing/lingerie. If you cram all of your merchandise onto flea market-style clothing racks, specifically the long rolling racks or round racks, expect that your guests are only planning to pay flea market pricing. I find most lingerie available to our industry to be on the pricier end and should be treated and displayed as such to ensure its movement.
The best way I have found to do this is to display these items neatly hung with all ties tied and adjustments at their smallest setting and on four-way waterfall racks. Speaking of lingerie, another huge no-no is to organize your product by color. When you have a rack that is all red, for instance, it is very difficult to shop and differentiate the many items you have placed together. I find the best way to organize our apparel is to do so by company and then by style. We usually do not place similarly colored items in different styles together so that it is easy to see the different items and is also aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
clutter and selection
On to clutter and selection. It is very easy to see how a store may become cluttered with all of the new items and lines that come out quite frequently and the over-abundance of manufacturers that will press you for orders. Unfortunately, you just can’t say yes to everyone. You want to carry items that are the right fit for your store, new and trendy, but also the right number of items so that you are not faced with extreme clutter from over-stocking. If you dial it back just a smidge, your owners will likely appreciate that as well.
This can be tough as most of us have created many relationships and want to support our manufacturer-friends. If you are faced with a situation where someone you have a great, long-standing relationship with has a new item or items they “know will sell” and are pushing hard for you to pick up, offer to take them in exchange for old stock that may not be moving as well. Part of building these relationships is give and take. While not abusing these people you are purchasing from, get whatever help you can from them to make your partnership more profitable on both sides in the long run.
If at any given moment you can line up every person currently on your premises and the employees cannot be easily distinguished from the guests, I consider this to be another problem. Without a designated uniform, how will the guests know who to ask for help? Without nametags, how will they know how to address them or give proper praise to when complimenting your store and your team on Yelp and social media? At the very least, an easy go-to uniform is asking that they wear all black. You can slowly work your way up to a nicer uniform and edge out the sundresses and open-toed shoes, which hopefully are already on the “not-allowed” list. Nothing about that attire says, “I am coming in ready to work hard and get things done.”
Retail is in the detail and for the details to be met accordingly, your team must be working constantly, just as busy bees do. I say go for comfort but upscale. At our location, the uniform is a black dress shirt, branded tie, black slacks, and comfortable black shoes. When manufacturers give us fun T-shirts for promotions, our team is thrilled to get out of the norm and have more fun with their look.
The expectations for us as an industry are very low — which, in itself, is offensive. Simply dressing the part of a professional person, offering great service, and providing a good product can leave your guests saying, “Wow, I did not expect that!” That is what brings them back – A well-lit, easy-to-shop, comfortable environment with a sincere sales team that wants to help them meet their specific desires and needs. We have to operate as judgment-free zones that not only meet, but exceed the business models of all retailers, not just the adult industry. Those memories will make a guest pass the other five stores to select you as the store they will give their hard-earned money to.