nance—if you’re in a shopping center;
and be ready to challenge, or ask for, tax
Make sure your staffing is
right for the time.
Owners will debate whether
more full-time or part-time em-
ployees is better. Part-time em-
ployees mean lower costs for benefits—an
especially volatile issue right now—and
they are more flexible to schedule during
the ebb and flow of peak customer hours.
On the other hand, full-time employees
often command strong customer loyalty,
require less training and are usually more
flexible in the tasks they can do. Either
way, you need to put emotions aside and
do the math.
Balance your inventory.
There is always a fine line be-
tween having items that aren’t
moving versus not giving the
customer enough choices.
“I only buy what I can enthusiastical-
ly sell,” says Linda Collier of Collier’s of
Centreville in Delaware. “I do not take
product given by distributors,” she adds,
because that would create an obligation.
Similarly, Brett Zimmerman of Boul-
der (CO) Wine Merchant likes to work
with distributors who offer small lots of
wines exclusive to his store, permitting
“Maryland now allows distributors
to have quantity discounts, and I like to
take advantage of that,” says John Mur-
ray of State Line Liquors in Elkton, MD.
“My inventory has actually gone up in
recent years—but I keep it moving.” In
some markets, retailers are able to rely
on just-in-time stocking because dis-
tributors will deliver daily.
KPMG’s Eckstein says you need to
keep in mind the rule that “the typi-
cal ratio between sales and inventory
is that 20% of inventory items account
for 80% of your sales. Never be out of
stock on best sellers, and evaluate the
If all else fails, Burhop is unsenti-
mental: “I put my slow sellers on my
discount ‘rack of death’ or give them to
Do an annual review
of your insurance.
In Memphis, Gary Burhop
annually asks for bids and re-
views them with his current
agent to see if he will match what com-
petitors are quoting.
It also makes sense to review
the types of insurance you have and
whether you need all of them and in
what amounts. Your deductibles may
be determined by your cash reserves. “If
the cost is too high, then we’ll assume
a larger part of the risk,” Burhop says.
Ask for an energy audit.
As counterintuitive as it may
sound, most energy compa-
nies will help you find ways
to use less electricity. Strategically-
placed energy-efficient lights alone
can save lots of money. So can adjust-
ing the thermostat.
Also check out the possibility of
rebates. “We benefited when the city
of Boulder and Xcel Energy offered
rebates,” Zimmerman says. “I changed
the lighting in my coolers and could
tell difference in my energy bill the
Consider energy efficiency
when replacing equipment.
Most owners dread the up-front
costs of replacing older equip-
ment with expensive, if ener-
gy-efficient, new equipment. But when
existing equipment fails, you may want to
think twice before buying second-hand,
“We’re building a new cooler with
fabulous insulation,” Murray says, “and
we’re redoing our lighting.” He says he
always expects efficiencies to recoup
outlays in three to five years, and then
he will further depreciate costs.
for some functions.
If someone else can provide
a function or service cheaper
and better than you can, or
will free up your time for something
more critical, then outsource it. Burhop
found that he could save money having
a specialist do his payroll services. Re-
tail stores that also own a healthy in-
ternet business may outsource some of
their shipping functions.
Better utilize e-mail and
social media for marketing.
Newspaper advertising is still
critical to many high-volume
stores, but Burhop echoes a re-
frain of many store owners. “The value
of advertising,” he moans, “is my most
Most stores these days rely heav-
ily on electronic newsletters, Facebook,
Twitter and other social media to get
word out about events, new arrivals and
specials. Murray, who loves quantity
discounts to bring stock in, uses the In-
ternet to move it out. “I got a deal on
Côtes d’Auxerre,” he chuckles, “and
sold 19 cases in five days.”
Review communications costs.
Because of all the opportuni-
ties they afford, communica-
tions these days has become a
huge expense. But do you really need
all those land lines, note pads and apps?
Is your staff spending too much time on
social media? Do a serious communica-