For retailers and restaurant chains, improving comp store sales is the life-blood of how they are measured. This metric indicates the health of the individual stores as well as the overall health of the retailer.
For many years, my responsibility was working with and overseeing a multitude of retailers and restaurants. And every year around budgeting and strategic planning time, I used to kid them that it was “un-American” to plan for negative or declining comps. Today however, in this environment, it’s a harsh reality that posting positive comp growth for most brands is more unicorn, less easy get.
EVALUATE THE NEW
During the annual planning process, management teams evaluate all aspects of the business: New products, new emerging trends, new advertising messaging and competitive intrusions. All these action plans are good things to do but in today’s world, it’s not enough. Things go wrong. New products don’t take off. Competitors unleash a surprising new tactic that you have to react to, things change and all of a sudden, your plans are in trouble.
But always, new ideas and new solutions come from being creative and innovative.
One fast casual restaurant chain I was responsible for realized that for some reason the worst performing sales day of the week was Saturday, usually one of the best in the fast casual space. The CEO didn’t want to allocate additional advertising dollars to drive one day of the week. So his team came up with a unique way to activate Saturday revenue. They implemented a bounce-back BOGO coupon that they gave to their Monday-Friday customers, but it was good only for the upcoming Saturday. The execution at store level was excellent; they communicated to their customers what the offer was and how great it was, and Saturday sales soon shot up and drove positive comps for the chain. All they had done was invested some margin, driven by excellent execution at store level. No additional advertising needed.
GET OUTSIDE THE STORE
Early in my career, I worked for a major home improvement retailer that required managers to spend 1 1/2 days per week making sales calls to job sites. Sounds simple, but the simple is often overlooked. Senior executives knew that managers needed to understand the type of jobs that were active in their trading area and what competitive products they were up against. It really helped build strong relationships with the contractors. This company has had positive comps for many years in a row and continues to be the leader in their sector.
MAKE THE STORE MORE THAN A STORE
A mall based, ladies fashion retailer had the usual comp and traffic issues that were consistent with other retailers in the mall. They started to recruit existing customers who worked in large offices to become brand champions. Working with the store manager they would first plan an event at the store. Then the brand champion would invite her co-workers to the special event, sometimes a fashion show, sometimes a presentation about fashion trends, but always with refreshments provided – usually wine and cheese and special discounts for purchases made that night. It was a fun evening for everyone, usually well attended and a great way to engage new customers that are brand right.
Positive store comps are hard to come by. You have to think differently, use all your assets well, and engage all your strategic partners, especially marketing agencies, to help think through growth strategies.
Again, it’s about creativity and innovation. So lean on your marketing partners, not just ops, to find more interesting and easy ways to drive comp. Fundamentals are great, but people are inspired by ideas, not process. Comp growth demands both.