The Ultimate Guide to Successful Retail
In Retail Truths, Chip Averwater distills 40 years of hard-won experience into 380 highly readable pages
...instead of banal generalities, he offers specific and detailed suggestions that will resonate with anyone who has spent time in the industry.
Averwater acknowledges that all retail businesses are inherently fragile; modest profit margins leave a "frighteningly small" margin for error. Success comes to those who master a host of details. He explains, "Competition assures that differences between stores are small. Products are similar, sometimes identical; pricing is close; policies, methods, and hours are indistinguishable. Yet the shopper must choose. But on what criteria? With so much the same, little is left but details: location, decor, displays, signage, organization, cleanliness, knowledge and politeness of salespeople, speed of check-out, ease of return, and a thousand other mundane—but critical—details."
In the subsequent 380 pages, he provides an exhaustive list of the critical details that separate stellar performers from the casualties, and his insights are invariably on the mark. On the need for fiscal prudence, he writes, "A store needs profits, not so the owners or investors can winter in the Caribbean but to grow inventories, expand locations, add personnel, or upgrade systems." Are bigger stores better? He observes, "An abundance of space indulges our tendencies to disorganization. What we usually need isn't more space, but purchase planning and inventory management. Efficiency is seldom fun but always rewarding."
Based on long personal experience, Averwater concludes that a good salesperson can easily be five times as productive as a laggard, and says high-priced salespeople "are an expense we want." In a lengthy segment devoted to personnel, he offers a blueprint for hiring and retaining those top performers—from how to screen out undesirables in the hiring process ("Less than one in 20 job applicants is a suitable candidate") to maintaining high morale ("A manager's words resonate for a while then fade. Incentives speak with every paycheck.") Experience is valuable, he says, but he cautions against running a business on "gut feel." "The difference between profit and loss is almost always too narrow to sense without exact numbers. Trends become clear only when we make them numeric."
Averwater modestly suggests to readers that "As I pass my lessons on to you, you will have to test each one for yourself—truths ring true only with experience." We suspect that Retail Truths will ring true to any thoughtful practitioner of store management.
—The Music Trades, April 2012