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Candace D'Agnolo

Inventory is Both Your Biggest Asset and Greatest Liability

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Which one of these three categories do you fall into? A) Jam-packed store … shelves overflowing, baskets filled on the ground, stockroom shelves stuffed to the ceiling. Maybe your store is the opposite? B) Shelves are sparse, some pegs are missing merchandise; you’re just waiting for your next shipment to arrive … whenever that is. Or perhaps you’re C) A well-stocked store with merchandise that has arrived in the last 30 days, but some goods have been there six months or even years!

I’m not going to lie. I’ve been A, B and C in my career as a pet store retailer. I struggled in every scenario. Why? Because the inventory wasn’t being managed properly.

To be a healthy and profitable retailer, you must understand that turning your inventory is everything. Inventory is your biggest asset and greatest liability. But how do you find that right balance?

Without monitoring your inventory regularly, you can often be left with too much stuff, eating up all your cash (as in A). You could be missing opportunities to make more money if you don’t have enough goods for sale (as in B). Or you could be losing money because you’re sitting on old inventory that’s depreciating, getting older and making you look more like a museum than an exciting place to shop (as in C).

Consider each of these approaches to be the boss of your inventory:

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1

Stock what sells. Keep your best-sellers in stock, always, always, always! Even being one day of out of stock means potentially missing a sale and disappointing customers. Know your 25 best-selling items. Keep them in stock always. Have 1½ months’ worth of inventory in stock to meet the demand and replenish regularly.

2

Get rid of dead stock. Uncover any items older than six months, and put them all on sale. If your customers weren’t interested in buying it within the last six months at full price, they aren’t going to do it anytime soon. What you make by selling it will give you the cash to invest in something new and exciting.

3

Leave impulse shopping for the customer. Before you bring in something new, think about what it’s going to replace. It’s tempting when a manufacturer you love comes out with a new product, but will it be a new solution for your customers, or will it compete with something else on your shelves? Pay attention to your assortment to ensure you don’t have too many similar things.

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4

Consider selling by volume. Look for opportunities to sell in bulk, case quantity or even by the dozen. Whether you provide your own packaging or include a case price on your signage, getting the customer to buy more of something increases sales.

5

Invest in a good POS. A modern point-of-sale system will help you track not just your inventory on hand, but sales and customer reports. Tracking and interpreting this data is critical to helping you manage your inventory and make good decisions when it comes to markdowns, restocking and promotions … all of which relate to inventory.

As an independent retailer you have the luxury to curate a selection of unique merchandise and make a beautiful presentation while doing it. Fresh new merchandise on a regular basis excites customers to come in more frequently.

Candace D’Agnolo owns successful pet business Dogaholics and offers business consulting at Pet Boss Nation. Get her checklist “10 Ways to Boss Your Business” at petbossnation.com/petsplus. Contact her directly at hello@petbossnation.com

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This article originally appeared in the September 2018 edition of PETS+.    

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Candace D'Agnolo

3 Key Mindset Shifts to Prepare For and Buy at Trade Shows

It all starts by looking at your inventory.

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WHETHER YOU’RE GOING to Global Pet Expo this month or another buying show this year, in this article I’m going to help you “work it” on the trade show floor, and it all starts by looking at your inventory.

Your store is not a museum. You must move merchandise before it celebrates a birthday with you. But I know you hate giving discounts and don’t want to train your customers to buy only when you’re running a sale, so let’s untrain that motivator for them by having lots of great merchandise they do want to buy at full price!

Bring in the Independent Brands

So many retailers like to get all or most of their products from distributors because it’s easier … fewer invoices to reconcile, fewer mess-ups to handle, fewer people to have to talk to. However, what happens is you start to look like every other store in town and like the big boxes, too. It’s OK to have some items that are your “eggs, bread and milk”-type best-selling basics, but the majority of your items should make you look and feel unique. You opened a retail store. Part of being in retail is hunting for products that your customers will think are fresh and new. Stop waiting for the next best thing to be pitched to you by a sales rep or an email, and go discover what you know your customers will love. And remember, it’s OK if they don’t have a distributor.

Every Item Has to Pull Its Weight

Will it compete with another product on your shelf? Will it cause you to be over assorted in that category? Will it move out fast or slow? Does it require lots of explanation? All important questions to answer before you invest and place an order of new items. On the flip side, look at your current inventory: If an item or category isn’t selling through every 90-120 days, consider getting rid of it and trying something your customers will like better. Analyze this before you go to the show by paying close attention to what your customers have actually purchased in the past (not just told you they like), and buy more merchandise like that. Maybe you’ll find opportunities for things that flew out the door that could develop into larger or new sections in your shop.

Negotiate with Vendors

While you’re walking the miles of aisles, and looking at some of the show specials — which are definitely not as deep as they used to be — don’t pass up the opportunity to ask for additional discounts. This is the perfect time, when you are face-to-face with your vendors, to ask for better prices on their products — permanently.

So, make sure you’re talking with the right person, the one with the authority to give you improved pricing. Have margin goals for the department or store and negotiate with that goal in mind. Ask everyone. Make asking for discounted pricing part of your conversation with every vendor. Don’t assume some are too big, or too small, to negotiate with. You never know until you ask, and the worst they can do is say, “No.”

I’ve been in your shoes … no matter if you are just buying until your credit cards are maxed out, or if you’ve got your sales figures and vendor data at your fingertips. Both can make a show exciting, but it’s definitely more powerful when you can leverage what you learn, what you do and who you talk to at a show all year round.

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Candace D'Agnolo

10 Questions to Ask Yourself to Ensure Perfect Vision for Your Pet Business

Because authenticity counts.

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IT’S THE BEGINNING of a new year, so you’ve probably been bombarded with media and people talking about your vision and goals. Especially since it’s “2020.” Get it? 20/20. Perfect vision?

I’m not sure that in business a vision can be “perfect” because we never know what roadblocks lay ahead and what pivots we will make. But having a clear vision will motivate your team, inspire you and your customers, and help you make decisions as you scale your business. I’m here to tell you that finding your authenticity is critical to your vision being a success.

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Dictionary.com defines the word “authentic” as:

  • Not false or copied; genuine; real
  • Having an origin supported by unquestionable evidence; authenticated; verified
  • Representing one’s true nature or beliefs; true to oneself or to the person identified

Authenticity has never been more important than it is in today’s hyper-connected world where your customer’s voice is louder and more influential than ever. You’ve likely experienced that to be true with reviews, customer comments in your store and how they act on social media.

There’s something very special at the core of what you do. While many can carry the same products or offer the same services at similar price points in a similar neighborhood with a look and feel that mirrors yours, no one can effectively copycat an authentic business self.

Answer these questions to ensure you’re interweaving authenticity into your business:

  1. Are you always “real”? And honest with your customers, team and vendors?
  2. What makes your company memorable?
  3. What’s one thing you could change/enhance/feature that would make your company more memorable?
  4. How do you make people feel?
  5. What unique traits/skills/talents do you personally contribute to your company?
  6. Are you consistent in your customers experience?
  7. Are you responsive?
  8. Can you back up why you carry what you do? Or back up why you hire who you do? Or why you run your business the way you do?
  9. What are three key words that would describe who you truly are? Can you incorporate them into your business more?
  10. Have you gotten clear on who you serve? Not every pet owner is your customer!

Customer trust is never bought but earned. Their B.S. meter is strong. The more you can convey your company values and beliefs as well as live all of the questions above, your bigger picture vision for your company will come to life! As Maya Angelou said “People may forget what you said, but they will not forget how you made them feel.” Authenticity will carry your vision a long, long way.

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Candace D'Agnolo

Boost Staff Morale with These 3 Holiday Sales Games

It’s important to first identify what your goal is.

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WHEN I WAS running my own pet retail boutique, I found that as the busy days of December rolled on, our team would become more and more run down. Every day gets longer and longer. It becomes harder and harder to keep the team motivated. I needed to find a solution, and I discovered that one of the best ways to perk up everyone was to play games.

Using “gamification” in your business is a really hot trend right now because it creates engagement, connection and results.

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When it comes to using games as a tool in business, it’s important to first identify what your goal is. Perhaps it’s to move out your holiday-specific merchandise. Maybe it’s to ensure that all the new customers coming in are being added to your database. Or you want to get the team to add on one more item over $10 to each sale. Whatever it is, make sure you pick a specific purpose for your game. Play the game only for up to one week. Games that last longer tend to lose their magic. You can play multiple games throughout the month, too. At my store, we had a different four-day game that would run every Thursday through Sunday. Each game’s tactics were different, and each game’s purpose was different.

Here are a few of my favorite games to play to help you sell more stuff, motivate the team and keep that register ringing to make the most of December.

The Dollar Tree

Tape fake dollar bills on a wall in the shape of a Christmas tree. Encourage your team to ask each customer: “Does your pet have a present under the tree this year?” If the customer says, “No” (or even yes) and that question leads them to purchase a toy, then that team member gets to pull a fake dollar from the tree. At the end of your game, they get to turn their fake dollars into you for real dollars.

Staff Santa Sack

Every time you beat your daily sales goal, each person who worked the floor gets to pull a card from the Staff Santa Sack. The sack can be filled with notecards or something similar, each with a reward, gift or surprise written on it. They can turn their cards into you whenever they want during the months of January or February. The rewards could have ideas like, “Skip my turn to clean the bathroom,” “Go to Lunch with the Boss,” “Pick one item from the store under $20,” “Get a 30-minute paid break.”

Staff Bingo

Play Bingo! Make your own bingo board by filling in the boxes with product names, tasks or questions instead of the typical bingo number. Keep them all the same or make a variety of boards. Hand them out to your team and have them try to get bingo in order to move toward your objective. When they have a completed board, they get a prize.

These are just a few examples of games you could play with your team to keep things interesting and to increase your sales at the same time. If you give one a try, make sure to share your results with PETS+.

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