On the front page of the L.A. Times this week was the headline: “Retail stores flounder as shoppers go online”. Of course, as a retailer, you were well aware of this from your own experience.

Yes, the internet is taking shoppers away from Main Street and the malls. But you have something the internet doesn’t have and never will. Service, expertise, and ambiance. While a book is a book whether it’s online, in a store or at the library, when it comes to fashion items, there’s nothing like being able to try things on, make an outfit and feel how it fits, to say nothing about looking in a mirror.

Your personnel will make the difference if they are welcoming, friendly, helpful and sincere in their contact with your customers. If they are truly happy to see your customers succeed in their quest for merchandise, your business will be fine.

OK, my first point is that when your business seems to sag a little, too many retailers start laying off their help in an attempt to save money. Big mistake! Your help should be a major reason customers shop with you rather than online.

And what about open to buy planning? How will that help? Well, whether your business is booming or hanging on, you absolutely have to control your buying, inventory position and cash flow. Just buying more merchandise is a path to disaster! The trick is to buy the correct quantities to support your sales at the turn rates you want to achieve. Turnover is the key to making money in retail and only open to buy planning will allow you to control your turns so you buy the right amount of inventory. Retailers who struggle, do so because they have too many invoices and too much inventory.

Keep your old customers with service. Bring in new ones with your promotions and word of mouth. Delight them when they come in with your atmosphere, your displays and the friendliness and knowledge of your personnel. And control your buying with open to buy planning. You’ll do just fine.

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