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Several Facets to a Successful Retail Operation


Location is the critical element for almost all retail outlets. A store needs traffic passing by it every day. In a shopping center with other good retail outlets, there is a synergistic effect between them that helps each capture customers. Most centers are anchored by a prominent store, which gets a lot of traffic. This is of prime importance when looking at locations. A new store needs traffic to get off the ground and develop a following.


The next two important factors are the merchandise and the staff that waits on the customers. Both are critical to success of the store after the traffic situation is resolved. Attractive merchandise is needed or little or no sales will be made. If you get the people in the store, you need merchandise that gets attention and will be attractive enough that people want to purchase the items. The store will also need to constantly have new items for sale or the customers will begin to think that there is never anything new to look at or buy. Marketing and merchandising of products is an ongoing challenge to the retail merchant. How they do this and how often depend on what the general store image is to the public. Special times of the year will dictate some of the merchandise on display and offered for sale.

Employee impact

Customers desire well-trained and helpful employees. They want to deal with store employees that know where items are in the store and can answer other questions. A store employee should know the main items the store sells and should be continually brought up to date on new merchandise or specials the store is currently marketing. If you run weekly specials the store people should be versed on the special and it’s pricing. Customers should not have to remind people waiting on them that the merchandise has a special price this week. When a customer has to do that every time they shop at your store, they will begin to believe it is on purpose and not an accident.

Employees that are idle should not keep a customer waiting when they are ready to be helped. There is nothing more irritating to a customer than being ignored by the store help. A store owner would be wise to get a report by a secret shopper of their experience with the store. Being aware of what is happening in the store is part of good management. Never assume all is well as many owners are the last to know what is really going on between the customer and the store employee. Customers will complain by not coming back and you will never know they feel mistreated. Not being helped by a knowledgeable employee is a common complaint by store customers.

Displaying merchandise

The art of displaying merchandise in an attractive manner is an entire course in retail store management. If items are not seen or displayed properly, you will not sell many of them. Merchandise needs to look fresh and crisp at all times. Shop-warn items should not be displayed except in a bargain section. Impulse items should be on display near the cash out area. Items should be displayed in the appropriate sections. Similar items should be collected in the same area of the store.

Attractive displays also may need special devices so the items can be shown to advantage. Stacking or hiding items is not a good way to get the customer’s attention. When thinking of a display try to get into the customer’s mind and imagine what they will see with the display. If it does not draw attention, it is probably not doing the job. Eye level or slightly lower is the optimum position to show specials. Signs and placards are another way to grab the customer’s eye.

Newspaper ads, TV and radio will help to get them in the store, but the displays are what sells the merchandise. It is a terrible waste of money to get customers to come to your store, only to walk out when they cannot find what they came in to see. Putting the customer first in your ideas will help you make the correct display decisions.


Ordering in a timely manner needs to be automated some how. Inventory levels need to be monitored and kept at the right level at all times. Being out of sought after items just sends the customer to another store. The store owner and the store manager should be aware of inventory all the time. This is a prime area of responsibility in running the store correctly.

Other business concerns

A retail business has to operate like any other business as far as sales tax, payroll taxes and quarterly reports to meet state and federal requirements. This part of the business is like many other businesses and is just part of owning a business. Time must be scheduled for these activities or hire it out to an expert on a part time basis. For some owners this is the best way to handle this needed function. There are dates that must be met and these reports must be filed on time. Hiring this out may solve this problem with expert help.

Advertising is another area that needs to be considered in the retail business. What is done in this area is related to the items sold. How often it is needed and the type will depend on the business. This can also be contracted out, but it must be kept under control, as it is easy to buy more than is useful. An experienced ad agency may be needed for a while until the business can become stable. This is a learning situation and what works must be found.


Location, location, and location is the critical factor in every retail business. Walk by traffic or car traffic is needed to be successful in the retail business. Once this factor is covered, the merchandising and employee management can be put in place. If people do not come in the store, then it will not matter what you do as far as employees or merchandise is concerned.

Excellent customer treatment is the result of well-trained employees and does not happen automatically. This has to be part of the planning by the management. Trained employees help to bring back customers and make them the best customers of all. A repeat customer is worth a great deal of money over time. Also repeat customers will refer other people to your store. This is word of mouth advertising that all business want, but have to earn the hard way.

Displays need to be eye catching and help to sell the product. Posters and placards can be used to direct attention. Once the customer is through the door, you have a chance to make a sale. A successful retail store puts all of these factors together.