As I write this, I almost feel our economy, and our industry, are in the eye of a hurricane. As you know, the early stages of a hurricane are usually followed by a calm period in the eye of the storm and then the inevitable slap of the backside of the storm.
Everyone knew in the fall and early days of the year our economy was headed for serious trouble. Now, as a new administration and many new brains try to figure out what to do, there appears to be a bit of calm while everyone waits to see what’s coming. Regardless of what happens, some people will believe in the plan and some won’t. The backside of our storm will simply be the time it takes for things to improve.
So, what do we do as all this sorts out?
I’m seeing lots of cost-cutting in all sectors. That is smart, but don’t overdo it. Some companies go too far and hurt their brand.
Don’t cut costs so much that you harm customer service. Customers will remember companies who continued to take good care of them even in troubled times.
Whatever money you do spend, spend it wisely. I see many vendors giving discounts to retailers to gain business. By doing so, you – and the retailer that accepts it – are implying the only problem right now in business is a pricing issue.
The biggest problem in our industry is a lack of traffic in the stores. Consider helping to fund a retailer’s store event instead of price cuts. Cheaper pricing will not help our retailers if the traffic is not there.
Keep product offerings fresh. Focus on giving discounted pricing to your consumers on slow-moving products you already have instead of asking vendors for additional discounts on fresh new items.
Use this downturn to court new customers. This is an excellent time, while things are slow, to identify and go after potential new customers. If you’re a retailer, find a way to identify all new people moving into your area, and send them a card or possibly even a small housewarming gift.
Bottom line – When times are good and business is great, lots of sins get overlooked and businesses become complacent. When times are tough, there is no better opportunity for you to challenge everything you do and create new opportunities.
Businesses that are in trouble and only focus on surviving usually don’t. Don’t stop improving your products, your service and your customer’s experience. When we have fewer customers, it’s that much more important to impress them and keep them for life.
One last hurricane though – The days after a hurricane has passed are usually very beautiful days – clear skies, calm waters, not much headwind. I’ve always believed this is God’s way of letting us know that along with the damage that’s been done, there are better days ahead and we will survive and prosper again. Be strong and we’ll see you on the other side.
A veteran of the home accents industry, Randy Eller is a consultant headquartered in Tennessee. www.ellerent.com. This article was first published in Home Accents Today and is reprinted with permission.