How do you resurrect a boutique that is going down fast? A common mistake that is made, which leads to the further decline of a boutique, is putting a hold on spending. Managers often do this to show their owner a smaller loss, but it is a lethal mistake! As the old adage goes, “you have to spend money to make money!” In retail, the problem is that you can’t survive if you don’t have stock. When you allow this to happen, you are left with old, stale and unwanted product. A store with empty shelves and walls looks like it’s going out of business.
Worse yet, when sales decline, morale often drops to an all-time low. The team’s desire to be a team and keep the store afloat diminishes. It’s very challenging to bounce back and obviously very costly to do so. The problem is only amplified if it’s a “mom and pop” shop that doesn’t necessarily have the spare cash to keep the store afloat while it’s rebuilt. Eventually, you will have to make the decision to restock and make your shelves and walls plentiful again. By this time, you are running very thin with good staff and sellable product. Again, “it takes money to make money!”
The best advice I can give is to begin your search for support within the vendors and manufacturers you support. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you do ask for a little help from time to time, you will more than likely receive support from the brands to which you have been loyal. Some vendors are willing to give you product to fill space with the agreement of maintaining that space with their product. Others may be willing to offer deeper discounts or longer terms. The main objective, however, is to build that morale and unity back up so that when you do get your store back to the “full” appearance it needs to be successful, you have a sales team that is ready to contribute to that success!
Refresher courses and seminars from your top vendors often result in better product knowledge for your sales force and even sample product for them to try out at home. The best part is that these seminars are free! We all know it’s easier to help speak to the quality of product when we have tried it ourselves, or at the very least, when we know how to explain it thoroughly to the customer. This also allows you to demonstrate to your staff that there are people out there that are willing to help. It is obviously a win for all. It’s important to know the difference between taking advantage of others and working with others to benefit both parties. Your vendors are often your key allies when trying to conquer any problem in a store. Leverage their strength, knowledge and training ability as much as you can.
A great start is working with what you have and exhausting your resources once you have a good, clean platform with which you can work. I mean this literally! Get your establishment clean and orderly and get yourself some systems in place to maintain that order. If this means scrubbing floors or bathrooms, then that’s what it means. When your staff sees YOU doing the hard work, they won’t hesitate to do the same when it’s their turn. Once that’s complete, you are ready to reach out for help. Let others know that you are first willing to help yourself. I find that you will receive the most out of people when you demonstrate the fact that they will receive the most out of you in return.
Lastly, carefully analyze your sales team to see which members have strengths that can be utilized. For example, is Sally good at selling high-end toys, but has little to no lingerie sales? Profile each of your employees to target areas for improvement. We often do not know what our team is capable of until we allow them to teach us as well! Be open to the possibility of learning from the people that are on the front lines dealing directly with guests. Promote those that are willing to bring new ideas to the table and put in the required work. There will be people that have moved up the ladder solely because of friendship, while others might be a better fit for the position. Give everyone the opportunity of growth and do not let nepotism plague your operation. If you overlook these talented people, they will likely seek opportunities elsewhere. Don’t be afraid to make these necessary changes. This is, after all, your business, and at the end of the day, YOU are the responsible one. Those that do not agree or understand this growth are only contributing to the failure of your business.
I am fortunate enough to have had several opportunities to travel to other Deja Vu boutiques to help out however I can. While the goal is to help others seek out new ideas and better ways of operating, it is always a huge learning experience for myself and the team that travels with me. I always leave inspired. I always find something to take with me and implement when I get home. These experiences have definitely given me an advantage when it comes to operating a business. Traveling to other adult boutiques may not be something within your reach but you can always check out your local competition. This research can begin right in the comfort of your office by simply checking these places out through social media or seeing what they are doing differently in the consumer’s eye to receive five-star Yelp reviews. There is no shame in imitating ideas that have proven themselves successful in similar businesses. Change is scary but it always pays off!