What makes a happy retailer? Some cognac in your coffee in the morning? Would a 10% up tick in sales do it? How about finding a new merchandise line that no one in town has? Would having all of your crew show up on time dressed with style, and eager to greet the customers do it?

There are many things that can bring a smile to your lips each day as you go through that retail minefield and that is surely good. But will the thing that pleased you today still be enough to make you happy tomorrow? And what if that thing just doesn’t happen? Will your joy last or will you plunge back to reality?

There’s really only one thing that can make a retailer happy and that’s a store that is continuously profitable. Now just because you’re profitable doesn’t mean there won’t be constant fires to put out, people that don’t show up, unhappy customers, problems with the merchandise, etc, etc, etc. But when your store is profitable (not on paper, but in the bank), you have the time and inclination to be ready for and to take charge of those daily fires.

And it’s really not that hard to be profitable! Let me explain. Profitability does not depend on sales. While we spend almost all of our time trying to bring customers in and close sales before they go to another store, having an effective sales force is not the key. Don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely in favor of maximizing sales and would encourage every retailer to keep trying new ways to attract, nurture and satisfy the customers.

Being a profitable retailer begins with the buying. So many retailers look at buying as something they need to get out of the way so they can get back to selling. They short cut trade shows and only spend the minimum time, usually just going to see a few favored vendors. How crazy is that? Any retailer that says, “I love to buy!” is going to wind up in trouble. Buying should be the most labor-intensive part of any retailer’s job. Every trade show available should be attended. And worked from opening until the show closes. A buyer should not party at a trade show, but should continue their planning back in their room, get some sleep and be ready for the next day.

Trade shows should be seen from one end to the other before orders are written. Miles of shoe leather must be left on those carpeted cement floors before orders are written. And before going to a show, the successful retailer will have a plan. Not just what sold last year, but a solid open to buy plan based on anticipated sales and desired turn rates. Only when an open to buy plan is developed and updated will a retailer be ready to start looking at merchandise.

My philosophy has always been to “see everything before you buy anything”. How many times has merchandise arrived in your store only to have you think: “Did I buy that?” Seeing everything and then seeing it again will eliminate that problem. Rating merchandise as you view it is a good idea. Then when you see it again, you might want to change your rating, but if it’s still spectacular, then it will look that way when you open the box in the store.

So, you must be a hard working buyer with an open to buy plan. Because if you buy the right quantities in the right departments for delivery at the right times, you’ll not only see your sales on a constant growth curve, but more importantly, instead of seeing your inventory balloon up, you’ll see your bank account constantly growing. And because of your open to buy and hard work buying, everything else in your store will move along smoothly, and that’s how to be a happy retailer.

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