Small business promotion with retail speaker Tom Shay
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We have to be there when they want to do business

Perhaps your store would like to have some new customers. Not that you have problems with the old customers, but if you want your business to grow you likely need to appeal to more of the residents and businesses in your area. It makes sense that when a store is open Monday thru Saturday from 9 am to 6 pm, the store is offering itself to only 3 groups of people: those being retired, unemployed, or working evening or weekend shifts.

To sell to today's consumer, you have to be open when he or she has completed their work-day as well as be open for their usual weekend shopping excursions. Surely, when the homeowner comes home from work, and has a pressing need for something that you sell, he or she is going to head for your store to find the item. 

And if your store is closed, they will travel to the chain store at the edge of town or any other store where they can obtain the necessary items. Granted, they will experience total self-service, but more importantly, they may find the items they need. And what happens when they see that nice end cap display of items that are also sold in your store?  Well, there goes that add on sale that would have been yours. And now that your customer has had the occasion to experience this chain store, what is there to stop him from going back again?

If your store wants to make that shopper into a loyal customer, then you must be there when he or she needs you. And the people that greet the customer must be able to answer their questions. With that idea in mind, many independent stores have changed their store hours to be open Monday through Saturday evenings, and opening on Sundays as well.  

There are ways to make this transition to the longer hours, as well as promotional ideas that may help you in accepting the thought of being open on a Sunday. To make this change in hours, gradually change your hours instead of having one drastic and sudden change.  By doing this you will have the necessary time to train the additional team members. You will also have the time to experiment with determining the necessary number of team members to give proper sales floor coverage.

One of the problems with this change that you might expect will be the resistance by some of your current team members to work a schedule other than the traditional 9 to 6.  Some stores making this transition have had individuals resign in refusal to work any evenings or weekend shifts.

So, why should you be so insistent on having the team members change their schedule?  The answer is found at the same chain store that we have already mentioned. How many times have you walked in a store during the daytime to find knowledgeable employees, but upon entering the same store during weekend or evening hours, found that everyone was less than helpful?  Perhaps they are all busy putting up stock, or more often they know little of the merchandise they stock, if indeed they speak to you at all.  Obviously, they have not been trained to offer customer service, nor have they been around qualified salespeople to observe these skilled individuals.

Too often retailers give the desirable work schedule to the best employees, and give the less desirable schedule to the part time help. You know, the same part time position you keep filling every other month with new employees. The retailers that we interviewed stated that they had created a much better team by having the entire team work both day and evening hours. They even rotated the Sunday work schedule.

You will find that your team members, as a group, will work better and know each other better. Those that will be the newer team members will be able to gain valuable product knowledge from those that have been with you for a long time.  You will also find that after this initial change, you will experience less turnover in personnel.

The payoff to you?  It will be the customer that walks into your store and says, "you know, whenever I come into your store, I can always find a friendly face to help me. And what about that promotional idea for the Sunday afternoon opening?  One retailer solved his concerns, and found that his best advertising was the churches in his community.

If you were to shop in his store on a Sunday afternoon, and would bring in the bulletin from your church service, he would ask you to leave the bulletin with him. When you made your purchase, he would write the amount of the purchase on the cover of the bulletin. At the end of the month, he would total the purchases from each church and then send a check for 10 percent of the total purchases to that church.

Of course, each church would make a point to publish a note about this unique promotion in their church bulletin and monthly newsletter. Some churches even went so far as to have the lay reader make an announcement during the morning services. Absolutely, this is advertising that you can not buy.

The cost for this promotion is far less than the traditional advertising budget of a retailer, and the Biblical reference shows that the store owner's heart is in the right place.

Tom Shay is a fourth generation small business owner providing proven management and business building ideas through his Profits Plus Seminars, Profits Plus Solutions coaching, books authored, and articles written. Tom can be reached at 727-464-2182 or through his web site:

Profits Plus Solutions, Inc.
PO Box 1577
St. Petersburg, Fl 33731
(727) 464-2182
Fax: (727) 898-3179