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Susan Dickenson

Retail ideas that work

1.Rescue, restore, redecorate. If it's not moving, paint it. Or change out the hardware. Or try a new finish. Furniture designer and interior designer Amy Howard is taking furniture re-dos and restorations to the masses with her branded line of furniture paints, "high-performance" lacquers, surface strippers, finishes, pigments, powders, waxes, brushes andAmy Howard gilding supplies. The products are offered at a growing number of retailers as well as on her website, amyhowardathome.com, which hosts DIY videos covering everything from cracked patinas to working with zinc solutions.
     While there, check out Howard's blog where merchandise displays and finished projects created by retailers and devotees of her "Rescue Restore Redecorate" mindset are showcased. If you're ready to do some customization but need a little inspiration and guidance, Howard's website and market seminars are a good place to start. If you're looking to make a stronger connection with the people who come into your store, use Howard's program to conduct your own in-store seminars, as she instructed retailers in a recent market seminar for retailers, so that you can compete against internet retailers by providing a service that "gets people to want to do business with you."

2.Make sure your employees are on the bus, and in the right seat. Here's another piece of advice Howard shared in her market seminar last month, based on lessons she's learned and put into practice as the Amy Howard Home brand has taken off. It's her catchphrase for making sure you hire and keep good people, and that they're in the right position. She suggests using DISC assessment, a personality test of sorts that can help employers determine which employees would work best in certain jobs or positions.

Amy HowardAmy Howard

     DISC is based on the research of psychologist William Marston, who published his findings in 1928 in a book titled Emotions of Normal People. Marston said people use four behavior types (Dominance, Inducement, Submission and Compliance) to communicate their emotions, all of which result from a person's sense of self and his or her reaction with the environment. Howard says DISC helps ensure everyone is spending their days in "the right seat" - in a position where they're comfortable and most capable.

  

Along the same lines, she advises retailers to create, on paper, their imaginary ideal organization chart. Include everyone - marketing people, social media, manager, purchasing, accounting functions - then write out each person's job description and note how much time you, as the business owner, are spending in each of those roles. The position or role that most zaps your energy or represents your greatest weakness, is the first person you should hire. A few more words of advice from Howard: "Don't ever hire friends, family or somebody's daughter... nor anyone who walks slow."

3.Strategize and streamline your social media. Shelly Brown, a social media consultant to small business owners, has some suggestions for retailers who may feel overwhelmed by the pressure to maintain customer contact across a growing number of social media platforms.
   

Shelly Brown, SocialBugMedia.comShelly Brown, SocialBugMedia.com
Brown, through her company Social Bug Media, spoke to a group of buyers on the subject at Americasmart in January. Some serious pre-planning is necessary, she says, starting with identifying your "ideal" customers and clients, and making sure you know where (on which social media platform) to find them. How does one do that? Give yourself two minutes to write down the names of your favorite customers, then look for similar traits and demographics within the group. Big-volume buyers, one of Brown's clients found, tend to limit online social contact to LinkedIn - he hit the jackpot when he got off Facebook and began developing new leads there.
     Gather content in one place, for use later - products and project photos, staff photos, articles, video links, etc. Start small. Master one social media platform before moving on to another. Eliminate the possibility for distractions from online chats, survey requests, unscheduled calls, news feeds, etc. This means no Candy Crush during this time. And consider using a software tool like Sprout social, Hootsuite or Socialoomph to direct your social media activities, including advance scheduling, from one place. Look for more of Brown's tips and advice at socialbugmedia.com.

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