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From Home Furnishing Business

Coach's Corner: Setting Up Your Retail Resolutions for 2018

By Tom Zollar

The goal of this magazine is to help our readers improve the performance of their business by providing critical information, so they can develop successful strategies for their company. To assist you with that process each year, the January Coach’s Corner article reviews the columns from the last 12 months to give you some ideas about potential retail resolutions you can make to help your business prosper in the coming year.

Most big-time sports teams have an offseason to reflect on what happened last year. Owners evaluate their players, coaches and management based on the results they achieved. They study their game planning and personnel moves to determine how it helped deal with the challenges of the last season. Upon completion they create a plan and set goals within the organization that will help drive positive change and performance improvement! Year-in, year-out, the winningest teams are the ones that do the best job performing this process.

In our business we do not have the luxury of an “offseason” for reflection and planning, but that does not mean we do not need to go through the process as much as a sports team does! It is every bit as important for us as it is for them, since historically the most successful businesses are also the best ones at reflecting, correcting and planning! They are always the most prepared for whatever the economy, the consumers and their competitors can throw at them.

Therefore, sometime in the first few months of each year, after we have gone through the hustle, bustle and distractions of the holiday season, owners, managers and staff need to take time to look back at how they did last year and analyze what caused it to happen. Obviously, you want to replicate or repeat those things that gave you a positive result and replace or rethink those that did not.

Most of you probably take the time to review your sales performance and set goals for performance improvement in that critical area. But do we do enough? A goal is not a plan; it is the result you want the proper execution of your plan to deliver. Many times, we want growth and set targets for it without charting a new path to get to them. Einstein is credited with saying: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Therefore, in order to get the desired improvement in results, we need to make changes. Selecting what changes to make is a very critical activity, so many just avoid it.

My hope is to help you with that process. Each month for the past year we have presented you with an opportunity for positive change that will impact the sales side of your business. Each column targeted an area or process that many stores can improve and provided a brief overview of what could be done to make it happen. Looking back at this year’s issues will give you many ideas that could help you grow your business. Therefore, they present a great starting point for your planning process.

I recommend you review those that look interesting to you and select at least three to include in your sales improvement plan for 2018. They are presented in the order they were published, but that might not be how you need to approach them. Best to select those that are most important, then prioritize them based on urgency.

  • January 2017 – “Retail Resolutions” – Just like this column, last year’s initial issue listed the previous 12 Coach’s Corner topics. If you have not already gone back and reviewed the 2016 offerings to create your Retail Resolutions for last year, you now have twice as many potential game changing ideas you can look at for this year’s planning process!
  • February 2017 – “Average Ticket Delivers Sales and Profit Growth, How to Drive It in 2017” – As managers you can do a fantastic job of bringing in the right customers and having the right product for them, but in the end, it is the sales person that controls your average sale! Ultimately, only they are responsible for this result - it is their skillset and desire to maximize the sale that deliver higher tickets. It is their attitude that influences what they do with each customer and when they stop trying to build the sale. Therefore, you must do all you can to hire, train and coach your staff on how to increase their tickets with each and every customer.
  • March 2017 – “Building a Client Base with After the Sale Follow Up” - We feel strongly that creating and managing a professional clientele development process is easily the weakest aspect of most home furnishings retailers selling efforts. I am not talking only about follow-up or sending thank you notes -- many stores do that -- but about a more fundamental paradigm of building long-term relationships with customers through truly caring about them and their needs - then making this a fundamental part of the company culture.
  • April 2017 – “Making Friends in Your Market - Who are You and What Do You Stand For?” - Your ability to provide an exciting and helpful in-store shopping experience is certainly an advantage over the internet only retailers. But not every consumer realizes that they need or even want to have that face-to-face interaction. This column touches on some of the other areas of consideration you have that may help you define your store to the potential customers in your market and perhaps attract some of those that are on the fence about visiting a brick and mortar store.
  • May 2017 – “Is Your Sales Management Effort Leading Performance Growth or Merely Providing Adult Day-Care?” - The question the title of this article presents is based on what is meant to be a humorous commentary about what a sales manager ends up doing much of the time in most retail stores. Unfortunately, it is often a more accurate depiction of the situation than any business owner would want it to be! The reason is that many managers get so wrapped up in solving the daily issues of their staff that they lose sight of their real role, which is to provide performance leadership that consistently improves the team’s results and actually makes all of their lives better.
  • June 2017 – “Using Retail Sales Metrics – Drilling for Dollars” - The ultimate sales performance metric is total sales, everything else rolls up into it. If life was simple, this would be all we need, since it is the main end result we all want to maximize. However, as with any result, in order to understand how we got it, we have to look at its main ingredients and analyze them. Only when the right things are being done in the right order and at the right time, do we generate the consistent, high-performance results we desire.
  • July/August 2017 – “Our Mission Represents a Higher Calling Than We Think” - We all know that a successful sales person on our floors can make a very good income. In most cases better than they can in other industries after spending more time and money on additional education. However, even when we show today’s younger applicants what they can earn, many of the ones we really want, turn up their noses and go elsewhere. Why is that? Perhaps it is centered on the fact that they are more interested in “making a great living” than just a good income.
  • September 2017 – “Is it Time for an Upgrade?” - Unlike much of the last century, it is not the manufacturers and suppliers pushing retailers to change. Today it is the need to better serve the customer that drives innovation and thus change for all consumer products industries. Why has this happened, what does it mean for us as business people? Let’s take a big picture look at the marketplace dynamics that have caused this to happen and perhaps gain some insight into how we might improve our planning process for the changes we face.
  • October 2017 - “Our Competitive Battlefield - the Enemies Are at Our Gate” - The very nature of who we are and what distribution channel we belong to can make our job either easier or harder! This column takes a look at the historic share data from a sales performance trend standpoint, so we can have a better understanding of who the players really are and how our market has evolved in the last couple of decades.
  • November 2017 – “Why Many Customers Leave Our Stores Without Buying” - Recent research indicates that as many as 50% of those consumers who shopped a store and left without buying, stated that it was because the store: “Did not have what I was looking for.” Wow, that is an awfully big number. Isn’t it our sales peoples’ job to help our customers find what they are looking for? Let’s take a look at what could be causing this to happen.
  • December 2017 – “So Why Else Do Customers Leave Without Buying?” - Once we get the consumer talking to us about why they came in, we need to properly analyze their needs and wants, then develop a solution that fulfills their dream for the room within whatever physical or financial limitations they may have or they will walk out. This column presents the essence of the needs analysis and development process we train our clients to provide for their customers.

If you need any further advice or help with your plan or these “projects”, please feel free to contact me at:

You can find the Home Furnishing Business digital archive of past issues at:

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