* Retailers: It's Time to Take Control! *

With no lack of challenges this holiday season, it's essential that you control what you can control. Don't be distracted by everything else.

All of you are busy, so no long intro here. In today’s issue I will cover 3 topics:

  • Controlling your Destiny

  • Buy Now, Pay Later

  • Swiss Cheese (yes, you read that right)

Let’s get going!


Control What You Can Control!

Today is September 28th, and Christmas is less than 3 months away. As retailers, we are “in the holiday season” from a planning and early-stage execution perspective.

But, as you all know, this year is quite different from what we are used to. After 2020, my guess is we all thought 2021 would be a return to near normalcy. Wrong! Challenges are everywhere, from staffing our stores and support centers to securing products to fill our shelves. Throw in the Delta Variant, new masking and vaccine regulations, evolving consumer expectations, iOS 14 impact on digital marketing, new tech-stack requirements for online ordering, BOPIS, Buy Now - Pay Later, well…you get the idea. What is a retailer to do?

Take Control of Your Holiday Season!

But….how???

Focus on What You Can Control and Forget the Rest!

There is an old saying in retail: “Focus on what’s inside the 4 walls of your store”. In other words, don’t worry about things you can’t impact, like the weather, road construction near your store, shopping center vacancies, etc.

This year, perhaps more than ever, staying focused may be difficult. There are times that all of these challenges seem overwhelming.

If you feel this way, force yourself to take a step back. Take a holistic look at your business, your holiday plans, and the core deliverables you must address to make the season successful. Revise your prior “to-do” list, eliminate everything you can no longer control (some things you may never have had control of, while others need to come off your list simply because of the late date), and attack the remaining priorities.

It’s likely your updated list contains staffing issues as well as inventory needs.

Staffing

In terms of staffing, major retailers have put out press releases over the past 10 days shouting how they will be hiring what seems like millions of employees for the holiday season. This sounds very positive if it can be accomplished. But then you read like articles like “Despite record pay and perks, few people want to work in retail this holiday season”. Jeez!

While staffing your store(s) will not be easy, it is controllable. A few thoughts:

Product

In terms of product availability, read our Retailers Beware! issue. While it contains a bunch of meaningful actions that made sense in July, it may be too late to enact some of them. Carve out the ideas that are still controllable.

As you identify inventory that will not make it to your shelves for the holiday season, you may want to chase domestic product to make up some or all of the shortfall. If you do, here are some wholesale sources that may be worth checking out. These come from recommendations of peers, but full disclosure, I have not used them directly nor do I have a business relationship with any of them.

Final thought. Your team will follow your lead in terms of how you approach the holiday season. Despite the challenges we all face, remain positive, focus on on controllable tasks, communicate that success is achievable, be calm and even- tempered, and even ask your team for ideas and support. To quote Neil Young, “Don’t Let it Bring You Down”. You are in control!


The Rapid Ascent of Buy Now, Pay Later

The term “Buy Now, Pay Later” began bubbling up many months ago. But it seemingly took a back seat to BOPIS, delivery, and other customer services. Well, those days are over. BNPL is at or near the forefront of retail services, and if it isn’t on your radar, it should be. You may hear them referred to as “Point of Sale Loans” as well.

The buy now, pay later concept isn’t complicated (many old-school retailers will fondly remember layaway). While making a purchase at a physical or online retail store, consumers can split their “amount due” into multiple up payments (typically up to 4). These loans (yes, the delayed payments are in fact loans) may be interest-free based on the BNPL provider. That alone is pretty compelling. The other important advantage of BNPL for the consumer is they receive the purchased product immediately. With layaway, the customer would have to wait until all open payments were made before they could take possession of the purchased product.

We are in the second inning here. BNPL will continue to grow and evolve, and it’s essential that all retailers understand the program and how it might benefit them.


Career Lessons:

I learned this technique back in the early 1980’s, when I was training to become a district manager at Kay-Bee Toys. It worked so well, I have continued to both use it and teach it ever since.

Swiss Cheese is a method of approaching typically large, somewhat overwhelming tasks. Think of the chunk of cheese as the task. To consider the task complete, the cheese needs to be gone.


Retail News You Can Use:

Target to spend $75 million on hiring fewer holiday workers, offering current employees more hours

This is the first public pivot for a retailer from hiring 1000’s (not easy in this environment) to trying to best leverage their existing teams.

Report: More than half of workers believe they’re underpaid. Here’s why

This speaks to why we cannot rely solely on cash compensation to keep team members happy and engaged. See 10 Ways to Stop the Retail Employee Exodus.

Cool Pics:


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Quotes of the Week:

“It's OK to have your eggs in one basket as long as you control what happens to that basket.” - Elon Musk

“Why worry about things you can't control when you can keep yourself busy controlling the things that depend on you?” - John C. Maxwell