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The advent of sites like Yelp, Angie's ListHundredX, Facebook, Google Reviews, and scores of others has absolutely changed the game in retail, especially for the food service industry. This means Customers will be drawn to— or driven from— your business before they even leave the house...

How To Upsell Without Alienating Customers

As business owners, upselling is crucial. You already have a customer that's ready to buy something—why not convince them to buy something else too? As customers, however, it is the worst... unless you don't know it's happening, which brings us to this week's post. Upselling doesn't have to be smarmy, sleazy or the worst. It can be helpful, friendly and and successful when it's done right. In his book To Sell Is Human, Daniel H. Pink notes,“Anytime you're tempted to upsell someone else, stop what you're doing and upserve instead.” We've rounded up five important upselling tips (or rather, upserving tips) to avoid alienating your customers.

via JoJakeman

  1. Get a dialogue going. Say hello, but give your customers breathing room to explore your shop before you engage them. Ask them questions without being overbearing. If they are buying a new pair of sunglasses, ask them if they have any upcoming vacations planned or if they have as much trouble losing sunglasses as you do. Get to know them naturally and it'll help you make smart suggestions for other products they may need.
  2. Make genuine suggestions. That sunglasses customer might need a new case to go with her shades—or maybe a hat to take on vacation with her! Or perhaps you just got a new line of higher-end sunglasses that you're legitimately excited and want to suggest. Be sure not to just recite your regular sales pitches. As a customer, there's nothing worse than listening a retail employee spouting the same disingenuous line over and over.
  3. Vocalize your discounts and sales. Some customers might not have seen your awesome 20% off signs, so let them know about discounts if you think they might bite. No need to be pushy, just helpful.
  4. Ask if they are shopping for anything else before you ring them up. Don't wait until they get to the register to ask if they need anything else, when their purchasing decisions have already been made. Make your suggestions before they are finished wandering the sales floor.
  5. Walk them to the register. If you have a large store especially, you can walk them through a particular aisle that might tempt them.
  6. Be patient as they investigate merchandise near your register. Sometimes, it does pay to move through your checkout process a little slower to give people a chance to look at the merchandise you've stocked near the register.
  7. Leave them with a smile. No matter what they bought (or didn't), customers are more likely to share a positive experience with their friends and online if they connected with you as a person.

How do you upsell without upsetting your customers? Let us know in the comments!

Why Size Matters In Retail

In retail, size matters in an extra-large way. If you're a small apparel business, playing a guessing game when it comes to sized merchandise can be very dangerous to your inventory eco-system.via Littlelittlecorner

It's important to look at the current and historical insights to determine your best-selling sizes, sales trends and seasonal patterns that will help you order your the right clothing sizes in a balanced, efficient way, and this great infographic illustrates some best practices on that front.

Here are a few interesting points from Stitch Labs' research that might surprise you—and some tips you can put into practice today!

-XS sizes return almost double the revenue in comparison to XL and XXL. Unfortunately, I think we just found a clue as to why plus size women have such a hard time finding cute clothes.

-This one's not a surprise, but we can't stress enough that up to 90% of expenses for small businesses are inventory-related costs. That means it's all the more important to manage your inventory in the best way you can, or 90% of your business might fail.

-Forget the traditional 1-2-2-1 ordering ratio (one small, two mediums, two larges, one extra-large). Their research uncovered a more successful ratio that could mean less unsold merchandise and maximized revenue. The original ratio never gave insight to XS and XXL sizes either, so theirs gives a complete picture. Check out the distribution below—it's quite helpful!

-Spelling out your sizes on price tags and labels? Stop that noise right now. Research shows that customers overwhelmingly prefer abbreviated letters (S, M, L) versus words. Letters-only tags generate 38% more sales. That's a small change that can make an extra-large difference.


What are your biggest challenges when it comes to sized apparel? Let us know in the comments!


How To Store Inventory At Home

We know that many of you run your businesses from your homes. However, as square foot after square foot of the garage/basement/dining room becomes cluttered with inventory and business necessities, your personal space shrinks.Here are a few tips to effectively store your small business inventory at home—and out of your family's way!

inventory storage

1. Keep your inventory safe. Get proper insurance and permits. Store inventory in a cool, dry location free that isn't heavily trafficked by kids, pets, leaky faucets, unattended candles and whatnot.

2. Keep your inventory secure. Install a security system and use heavy duty locks for merchandise, especially for inventory kept in a garage or shed. Keep significantly valuable items in a safe.

3. Separate inventory from your office and your personal space. Keep inventory in its proper place. Maintain boundaries rather than letting business clutter take over your home office and living space. When tax time comes, you also want to be able to take advantage of small business deductions and that means your storage and office space should be fully separate from your personal space.

4. Consider off-site storage options for certain items. Off-site storage units are great for seasonal products, slow-moving inventory and other items and paperwork that you don't need to access very often. As your business grows, you may need to free up valuable space in your home, but can't quite make the transition to a warehouse yet. Look for nearby self-storage units with easy load-in and load-out capabilities. One that can accept deliveries on your behalf is even better!

How do you manage your inventory storage at home? 

5 Tips To Prevent Employee Theft

According to the National Retail Security Survey, employee theft costs U.S. retailers $16 billion every year. The New York Times spoke with Richard C. Hollinger, the University of Florida professor that put together the survey. He notes, "Once an employee is hired, they have keys and access codes. They're very hard to deter and very hard to catch."  Last week, we delved into inventory shrinkage and some ways small businesses can prevent shoplifting. Employee theft actually accounts for 42.7% of inventory shrinkage vs. shoplifting's 35.6% (Source), so we thought we'd share a couple of tactics to prevent and combat those pilferers within as well. Here are five quick tips to keeping your employees honest and your small business safe.6 TIPS

1. Hire the right people. We all want to think we're hiring the most trustworthy souls to help grow our businesses, but 75% of employees admit to stealing at least once from their employers... so chances are, it will happen eventually. Put obstacles in place during the hiring process to weed out potential problem people. Always check references. Consider drug tests (or simply mention drug testing) to avoid hiring someone who might be prone to stealing in order to support their habit. In addition to hiring the right people, provide some sort of ethics training and do your best to keep your best employees happy.

2. Never work alone. We fully support giving your employees the autonomy and confidence to rock and roll in their respective roles, but it's important to set up checks and balances to ensure they are consistently working within your business' standards. If you can afford to do so, pair up your employee shifts so that no one person is 100% responsible for cash, inventory or bookkeeping.

3. Set up cameras (or at least pretend cameras). Video surveillance in a warehouse or shop can be a deterrent, but can be expensive for a small business. If real video isn't possible, invest in a high-quality fake camera, but take that secret with you to the grave. Not even your store manager should know it's phony.

4. Ring up employee purchases yourself. Don't allow employees to ring up purchases for themselves, friends or family members. 

5. Drop by unannounced. You don't want to make your wonderful employees feel as if you don't trust them, but you do want them to know that you can drop in on them at any moment. Even if your surprise visits are to do something nice like bring your assistant some coffee, it's a simple way to check up.

Have you had to deal with employee theft in the past? Tell us your stories in the comments!

6 Simple Tips To Prevent Shoplifting

Inventory shrinkage breaks down to this: something that should be there isn't there anymore. Shrinkage cost the global retail industry more than $112 billion last year, which amounts to almost 1.4% of annual sales. This can happen for many reasons, including expirations, human error, damage and misplacement, but the biggest threat of all is theft (both employee theft and shoplifting). Shoplifting happens to small businesses just as easily as the big guys, but the difference is that 2% loss makes a much more serious impact on a small business.

Prevention is best, so we rounded up a few ways to fight those bad apples, prevent shoplifting and keep your inventory safe.


1. Design your shop with shoplifters in mind. Don't display pricey items near the door. Utilize mirrors to see around corners. Avoid creating "blind spots" with shelving and layout. Keep the shop organized so that you will recognize right away when something is missing.

2. Walk around. Engage. Make eye contact. This applies for customer service too, but simply be attentive. Don't be afraid to leave your assistant manager behind the register while you help a customer find what they need.

3. Recognize the signs. Thanks to Winona Ryder, we know that profiling a shoplifter is not going to work. Anybody (even a famous celebrity) has the potential to shoplift. And the majority of shoplifters are not so brazen that they just grab a big screen TV and run off. It's best to look for subtle things like anxious movements, big and baggy clothing (or unseasonable jackets), dressing room heists, customers who make frequent returns without a receipt, strollers without a baby, shopping bags that look old or aren't from nearby stores, umbrellas on sunny days, hangers and price tags on the floor, etc.

4. Understand how shoplifters will steal from your store. Basically, take note of the chinks in your armor when it comes to your layout and your inventory and take extra care in those areas. If you sell shoes, for example, make sure you confirm that the shoes in the box are the shoes on the box (and that there are no little surprises in the box or the shoes themselves). Or if you have only one shopkeeper working at a time, a shoplifter may ask for you to check if something is in stock and then walk out with something while you're in the back room digging around. Do you sell any of the most commonly stolen items like cigarettes, small electronics or designer clothing? You might need to shore up your defenses even more than the average retail business owner.

5. Have a plan in place for when you catch someone red-handed. Nothing is worse than spotting a shoplifter and then doing nothing out of fear or intimidation. Do you have a zero tolerance policy? What will you do if the shoplifter is under 18? How will your employees discreetly notify you of the situation in the moment? Create a protocol for you and your employees based on the laws and policies in your area.

6. Don't let suspicion rule you. Yes, shoplifting is a real problem, but treating your customers like criminals isn't going to do anyone any favors either.

Have any crime-fighting tips for dealing with shoplifters? Let us know in the comments!

How To Get Reporters To Notice Your Small Business

Between keeping the lights on and managing your staff and doing the accounting and all the other roles that come with the territory, you've got plenty on your plate as an entrepreneur. We're going to add one more thing—small business press.Small Business Media Outreach Why bother investing time into media outreach? Well, quite frankly, it's free publicity just hanging out there—ripe for the taking—that will otherwise spoil when opportunities are missed.

Drawing from my own experience, I appeared on a Minneapolis lifestyle news program a couple of years ago to highlight locally made holiday gifts. Within one day, each of the three businesses in the feature reported that several people had called or stopped in specifically because they saw something they liked on TV. Those are real customers through the door who had no idea these businesses existed the day before.

These opportunities might seem hard to come by, but connecting with media outlets can be easier than you think. Here are a few tips to get started.

1. Tell stories. Reporters are not interested in giving you a free commercial to tell the world about why they should buy your stuff, but they are interested in stories that fit their audience. If you can tell a new, informed, colorful story, reporters will want to talk to you. What kinds of stories?

-How you started your own natural health business after 10 years as a successful pharmacist. -Why you are organizing a benefit for the fire-damaged shop across the street. -How you are crowdfunding and crowdsourcing ideas for your second location.

2. Be the expert that you are. Or introduce reporters to experts you know, using your business as the backdrop. Reporters remember community connectors.

-How you are the only person in the world who makes jewelry cast from a tiny octopus. -How you navigated the state's new brewery regulations. -How two of your gym's best customers are a husband and wife duo training for Olympic ski jumping.

3. Use your inventory. Let your products be the story. Get personal with it. Get generous with it. Get weird with it.

-Drop off a Pinterest-worthy picnic basket filled with your signature maple syrups to all the local television stations with a handwritten note before National Pancake Day. -Ask a local artist to build a diorama made out of noodles (using some of the 2,000 types of you have at your Asian grocery store) and invite food journalists over for a bite to eat. -Those tiny octopus earrings? Bring 'em back out and invite a major fashion blogger to style them into one of her outfits and see invite her for a tour of your studio.

Do you have any other media tricks up your sleeve? Let us know in the comments or say hi on Twitter!

4 Retail Staff Incentives That Actually Work

bookstore catNow that the holidays are over, 'tis the season to keep up your sales numbers and move inventory in creative ways. Motivate your people with these four retail staff incentives they'll actually care about.

1. Discounts. Giving your staff a merchandise discount is a classic way to show appreciation and it's typically easy for business owners to implement. If you already have a staff discount program in place, try setting an extra special discount day for them if they reach a particular goal together or extend a one-day friends and family discount.

2. Friendly competition. And then there's the opposite of teamwork, which can work just as well too. Whether it's a day-long blitz or a monthly contest, make the competition fun and give it personality. A major grand prize never hurts, but don't let the reward be the focus. Bob Marsh, the CEO of LevelEleven, notes, "While it can help incentivize employees to participate by offering a high-end product (e.g., a nice watch) or experience (e.g., a trip to Hawaii), we’ve seen employees become just as invested in sales competitions with prizes as basic as a Starbucks gift card. That’s because competition itself is a strong motivator."

3. Free food. In the spirit of National Pie Day (which really is today), cut your staff a piece of the pie... literally. Doesn't matter if it's blueberry or pizza pie, but sponsoring a bite together at the end of a long sales push can be a simple, sweet (or cheesy) reward. As any sixth grade teacher knows, pizza parties get things done.

4. Personal time. Don't underestimate the power of a day off. Not only will your employees love you for rewarding them with something they can actually use (rather than another water bottle with your shop's logo on it), but studies show that they'll come back more productive and refreshed. The Atlantic reports: "The impact that taking a vacation has on one's mental health is profound," Francine Lederer, a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles told ABC News. "Most people have better life perspective and are more motivated to achieve their goals after a vacation, even if it is a 24-hour time-out."

We're Excited About Next Generation Payments

nextgenpaymentsRetailers large and small are adopting new mobile payments systems all with the goal to make everyone’s lives easier. For both the customer and the business, payment will be faster and the experience customized. A customer becomes more than just a walking wallet and, perhaps one day, he or she won’t need to lug around plastic and cash.

Mobile payment systems have typically been found in small businesses or scattered amongst pop-ups, but you may be surprised when you find the new PayPal in-store payment options in retail giants like Home Depot or JC Penney.

PayPal’s payment tools are moving toward improved customer experience. With PayPal Here, local and mobile businesses can process credit cards easily and from anywhere. Larger stores may gradually be implementing in-store payments, which just require your phone number and PIN. Finally, PayPal is partnering with Vend, Shopkeep, Erply, and Leapset, four POS software companies that suit well to small business needs.

With PayPal’s partnering with these companies, payment is fast and sales are organized. With a check-in app that opens the path for loyalty program options, customers are recognized, connected automatically, and encouraged to visit more often. Additionally, combining PayPal with the POS software consolidates almost everything into one system, making the retailer’s life much less hectic.

But if businesses take it a step further with organization, they can’t track the quantities of their products they sell. Business owners’ lives are still chaotic when they’re stuck keeping tabs on inventory manually. What sells the best? How soon before you run out of this or that? What isn’t selling well enough?

While two elements of the equation are solved, they need one more to optimize their business management. Using a program like Shopventory that integrates with what they already use can make a small or mobile business excel beyond what they originally thought possible. It keeps track of inventory quantities and provides reports on your sales to help with your business strategy, all while integrating with your POS and payment system. A business trifecta, if you will.

Maybe one day all customers can rely on their phones as their preferred method of payment. For now, the mobile payments industry is growing more innovative and more businesses are adopting next generation payments to accommodate their customer and management needs.

Have you experienced any next generation payment methods? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter (@Shopventory)!