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Tired of Saying No?

Everyone wants a discount. Everyone wants a deal. They bombard you daily. Can you match this price? Can you give us this break?

You’re tired of saying no. Me, too.

What if instead you started saying Yes?

Yes, I can do that. Yes, I can offer that. Yes, I can do something.

What would it take to say yes? Higher prices and margins? Support from your vendors? Lower expenses? Guts?

There are certain aspects of retail that lend themselves perfectly to saying yes. Food service is one. If you sell food, whether a sit-down restaurant in a fancy part of downtown or an ice cream stand on the boardwalk, you should set your prices high enough that you can say yes all day long to whatever gets asked.

Don’t advertise that you say Yes. Just do it. Say Yes out of the generosity of your heart. You’ll feel better (Yes always feels better than No). Your customers will feel better. They’ll start telling everyone else about your generosity. New customers will flock to see you because of that generosity.

When you say Yes more than you say No you’ll get more customers. Period.

Those of you selling non-consumable goods are tuning out. Stay with me. There is something you can do, too.

Generosity is contagious. You will be surprised what you can give when you start looking to give. Can you give free delivery? Free giftwrapping? Free extended warranty? Free balloons with your logo on it? Free assembly? Free tune-ups? Free shoe laces? Free yard stick? Free gift with purchase? Free information? Free instructions? Free tips? All of that should be built into your business from day one.

When someone asks for something, rather than tell them No, tell them what you can do. Say Yes. It feels better.

(Once again, though, don’t advertise it. Just do it. Give, give, give, and let your customers advertise your generosity for you.)

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Yeah, you might be thinking that you can’t raise your prices enough to cover any generosity. I’m telling you that you can. The formula is in my first Freebie, the one that launched Phil’s Forum Publishing LLC, and it is still as relevant and effective today as it was the day I wrote it. If you aren’t using my Pricing for Profit tips, you’re leaving money on the table and not giving yourself enough room to say Yes.

PPS Notice I did not say “match prices”. You don’t have to match prices to give generously. There are other valuable services you can offer. In fact, you don’t have to give away anything. But if your current strategy isn’t working or you are feeling beat up by the requests, this is another way to go. If you’re in food service, this is one of the best ways to go.

I’ve Been Slimed

We all remember that scene in Ghostbusters where Bill Murray’s character comes in contact with a ghost in a hotel. A nasty little creature that leaves his character covered in icky goo.

I had that feeling last week. 
It started out harmless. A photo shoot for our church for the new directory. The photographer was good. Put the family into great poses and took some amazing shots. Then the sales pitch began.
Don’t get me wrong. I knew there would be a sales pitch. I just didn’t know it would be this greasy. It even started with a grease board. Rather than give us a sheet of options, packages and prices, the photographer started right in on the hard sell – the large framed photo with the retouching, UV-protected paper, matted design. He had a grease board where he wrote down what we thought we might like.
When we asked for a price, he kept stating he would figure that at the end. We couldn’t get to the end fast enough as he kept pushing product after product on us. 
We finally got to the end and he started to do his magic. He took another grease board and started making check marks and writing things we couldn’t see. Finally, he presented us a price starting with what we “might have paid” had we done a photo shoot somewhere else. There was a total price with little explanation. We had to keep digging to find out what each item was actually going to cost us. (Remember my Value Equation? Perceived Worth versus Actual Price)
Only after much digging did he show us the calculations on his grease board. The problem was that it was designed to make sense to him and not to us. All we were really left to do was divide the total price by the number of pictures we were getting and decide if we wanted to pay that much.
All in all, it left me feeling slimier than his grease board and not too thrilled with the company. I wouldn’t ever want to hire them or recommend them to anyone else. The pictures were great! The experience was horribly uncomfortable.
Here are three things they could have done differently that would have changed the experience for me completely.
First, be upfront about the sales pitch. Before I even scheduled my photo shoot, there should have been something telling me that this was an opportunity to get more than just a church directory photo. Even though I had gone through this before and knew there was that opportunity, it still needed to be spelled out in advance.
Second, be upfront and transparent about the pricing. Tell me the price of everything, especially when I ask. Heck, tell me the pricing before I even show up. Then I can plan for it, budget for it, and not be sitting there getting anxious about how much this might cost. Yeah, I know he is supposed to sell me. But remember that part of the transaction is earning the trust for another transaction.
Third, be honest. Don’t start your talk about costs with some mythical figure about how much it might have costed elsewhere. I don’t care about that. All I care about is if the price you are charging me is worth the value you are giving me. Most customers are savvy enough to know that the dining room set that is marked Original Price $16,500, Your Price $2499 was never worth $16,500. The only signal you are sending me is that you think I’m gullible. Not the best way to earn my trust.
Be upfront and transparent and honest. You’ll get the sale and the recommendation.
-Phil Wrzesinski
PS The obvious question is, would I have bought more or less had I known the pricing up front? I’m not sure. The only thing I know is that I probably will buy less the next time – if there even is a next time. And therein lies the problem.

How Much Are You Investing in Your Business?

The Jackson County Chamber and I are teaming up to offer the best segments from the Jackson Retail Success Academy for all Jackson area businesses (and anyone willing to make the drive).

Three classes. Three four-hour days. $250 investment in your business (or $99 per class if you cannot make all three or are not a retailer.)

Inventory Management and Financial Health for Retailers
Thursday, June 27 (9am to 1pm) 

Every retailer knows that Cash is King. But do you know how to get more cash in your business to grow your kingdom?

This Business Boot Camp is designed strictly to help retailers understand how to manage inventory and expenses and, most importantly, your cash. You will learn simple formulas that the smart retailers use to keep the checkbook fat and happy. You will learn the Do’s and Don’t’s for keeping your inventory fresh and moving. You will find out where your cash is hiding and how to get more of it.

We will discuss things like Open-To-Buy programs, financial statements, the proper numbers to measure, how to price your products for profit, and the simplest way to get the most out of the inventory you sell.

Yes, there will be math. The important math. The kind of math you have to do if you want to be successful. What will surprise you is how quickly and easily you will learn the math and see the results.

(Note: to get the most out of this Business Boot Camp bring your previous fiscal year’s Balance Sheet and Profit & Loss statement. You will not be asked to share, but it will help you do your own math.)

Shareworthy Customer Service for Small Businesses
Thursday, July 11 (9am to 1pm)

We all know Word-of-Mouth is the best form of advertising. But do you know how to get people to talk about your company?

This Business Boot Camp will teach you the fundamentals behind generating Word-of-Mouth from your customer base. You will learn how to exceed customer expectations in such a way that they have to tell someone else. You will learn how to create a culture in your business that wants to delight your customers at every turn and raise the bar of Customer Service so high that you turn clients into evangelists.

Whether you are a retailer, a service provider, or any type of business, you will walk away with four ways to generate word-of-mouth, a new approach to hiring and training, at least one planned staff training, and a better understanding of what it takes to offer Customer Service that makes people want to talk.

Word-of-Mouth is still the most powerful form of advertising. This Business Boot Camp will be one you will be talking about for a long time.

Branding and Advertising: Reaching New Customers in Today’s Market
Thursday, August 8 (9am to 1pm)

The advertising that got you results yesterday isn’t working today. Today’s market just can’t be reached. Or can it?

This Business Boot Camp will teach you the fundamentals of marketing that work in any day and age and how to apply those to this day and age. You will learn what moves the needle in advertising and how to craft a message that gets your potential clients to take action. You will learn the biggest myths of advertising and how even the largest companies throw good money away every single day. You will learn how to get the most out of your advertising budget (even if it close to zero).

Advertising cannot fix your business, but if you have a good business model, you will learn techniques that will grow your business the right way and keep it growing for years, no matter what kind of business you run.

Contact the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce to sign up. It will be the best twelve hours you spend on your business this summer!

Phil Wrzesinski

PS If you are struggling in any one of these areas, you should sign up for that one class Ninety-nine dollars for four hours of top-level, hands-on instruction is the kind of no-brainer investment you know you should make for your business.

PPS If you don’t think you need any of these classes then you should definitely sign up for all three. Last night as I did a presentation for the Quincy Chamber of Commerce, one of the organizers lamented that it was only the businesses who were already doing well that showed up. I reminded her that was why they were doing well. They kept showing up.

The Five Drivers of Traffic – Price

I posted that JC Penney was struggling because it was losing in all five of the main drivers of traffic… Price, Product, Convenience, Trust and Delight.  Let’s look at each one of them separately.


There are two pricing schemes that can work to own Price as a driver of traffic – Sales & Discounts and Everyday Low Pricing.

Sales & Discounts is when you constantly have some type of sale or coupon or promotion going on. The tricky part of this is actually making your sales and discounts be worth something. Before the Internet, the simple perception of a sale or discount was enough to draw traffic. But today’s smartphone-savvy shoppers will call you out if all you do is jack up your prices and then offer a discount off that inflated and unrealistic price.

The other downside to Sales & Discounts is that you have to constantly be ramping up the hype machine in your advertising and marketing. Or you have to be sending out coupons and mailers enticing people to stop in.

Everyday Low Pricing is quite different. Instead of the gimmicks, sales and coupons, you simply lower your prices below everyone else and keep them there. It is certainly more trustworthy. It is also easier for customers to check to see if you truly are low price. The hype is gone, but if you do have the best prices, you will get the traffic and sales.

The Internet makes this driver quite difficult for most independents to compete. Pretty much almost everything you sell can be found online, and most often for less.  Unless you only sell items that are strictly protected with Minimum Ad Price (MAP) policies, it is almost impossible to own this driver.

Also remember that you will be competing directly with major chains like Wal-Mart and Target who have three distinct advantages over you.

  • Lower overhead through amazing operating efficiencies
  • Bullying power to get better prices and rebates from vendors
  • Billions of dollars in advertising

Of all the drivers, this one is the least favorable for indie retailers and I wouldn’t recommend it as a strategy.

You still have to have prices that are attractive, however. Price may only be one of five factors that drives traffic, but it is still one of the biggest factors in driving actual purchases.

Check out this free download – Pricing for Profit – that will show you how to make your prices attractive in a price-sensitive retail climate.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS If you do have a price advantage, you have two choices. Shout it to the world, or raise your prices and start pocketing the difference. My dad always said we should never be below our competitors’ prices. No one thinks of us as low price, so if we’re below them, we’re just leaving money on the table.

Why JC Penney’s is Struggling

We all know about JC Penney’s decision last year to change their pricing strategy from one of Coupons, Discounts and Sales to one of Everyday Low Prices.  Ron Johnson, the CEO they hired away from Apple, warned everyone it would take some time for the transformation to take hold.

Unfortunately, the train wreck seems to be getting worse as JCP just announced a plummet of 32% in sales! I know that is a number none of us indie’s could probably withstand. Many in the world of retail are wondering if JCP will be able to withstand it.

But before everyone rushes off to blame the pricing strategy and see this as an indictment of the Everyday Low Prices scheme as being unable to work in today’s retail market, there were some other forces at work.

At the end of the day there are five primary drivers of traffic into retail stores.

  • Price
  • Product
  • Convenience
  • Trust
  • Delight

No, they do not all have equal weight. And for every customer, different factors play out in different categories. But you have to be winning in the minds of customers in at least one of those categories if you want to see traffic.

JCP was losing in all five.

Price – Their Everyday Low Prices scheme might have worked… if they had done it. They really didn’t. Their prices seemed to be changing almost as rapidly as they had before, and in ways far more confusing despite the millions they spent in advertising. No one really knew if their prices were low or not.

Product – Some say their offerings were getting worse, not better. Even if their product stayed the same, no one was going to JCP for high-quality goods or exclusive-can’t-find-anything-like-it-anywhere-else merchandise. They had given up that ground years ago.

Convenience – If JCP had any leg to stand on, this could have been it. But they did nothing to beef up or significantly increase the convenience factor. In my own experience, their checkout lines got longer (even with fewer sales – now that’s a real trick).

Trust – this is supposed to be the hallmark of the Everyday Low Prices scheme. You can trust us because we aren’t jacking you around with yo-yo pricing. Except they didn’t do that. They still yo-yo’d their prices. They made things more confusing and less trustworthy. They didn’t re-train their staff to develop trust either. They spent money on advertising their new scheme but doesn’t look like they spent a dime on training the staff.

Delight – Once again, very little done here, before, during or after. When was the last time you were actually delighted in a JCP store? Yeah, I thought so.

The cool thing is that we can all learn a lesson from this. Pick one of those five and own it. Own it with every ounce of your existence. Own it in your category so strongly that when that topic is mentioned, everyone immediately thinks of you.

The cooler thing is that you probably noticed that it wouldn’t be all that hard to own two or three of those criteria. Do that and you won’t suffer the same fate as JCP.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS We’ll talk about all five and how to own them in upcoming posts. Stay tuned.

Are You Open To Buy?

I’ve written about Open-to-Buy programs for Independent Retailers and how difficult they are to manage.

For those of you who have also struggled with the OTB’s and want a simpler, more intuitive way to manage inventory and cash, here is a plan you can follow…

First, understand that the ultimate goal is to have the right products at the right time at the right price. There are three simple rules that apply no matter what…

  1. Don’t out-buy your terms. If you get Net 30 (30 days to pay the bill), try not to buy more than 30 days worth of products.
  2. Don’t buy anything you don’t want. Padding an order just to reach a new discount level rarely works. You usually end up marking down those extra items that you were never fully convinced of carrying and lose any discount in the process.
  3. With the exception of December Dating (for businesses that do most of their sales during the holidays), smaller orders done more frequently is always better than one or two really big orders per year, regardless of the specials.

Post those rules at the top of any OTB plan you decide to use. With those rules in mind, here is my plan…


Rank Your Vendors

The first thing you need to do is rank your vendors. Split them into three tiers.

  • Tier #1 – your top-selling vendors that help define your store, have the most of your ‘must-have’ products, sell through the fastest.
  • Tier #2 – your second level of vendors who have great products that you love to carry and sell, who are profitable and have generous terms, and who have a few of your ‘must haves’.
  • Tier #3 – all of the other vendors who are left including seasonal customers.

By knowing this information, you have a better idea of which vendors deserve more of your attention so that you do not spend your limited resources in the wrong places.

Break it Into Quarters

The next thing you should do is break up your buying schedule into the four quarters. Plot them out on a calendar. You can use the standard calendar quarters (Jan-March, April-June, etc) or break it up whichever way makes sense for your business. Some summer-based businesses consider June-August to be their “4th quarter”.  Label each quarter with what is most important for that quarter. For instance, you might label 1st quarter “Prepping for Easter”, 2nd quarter might be “Outdoor and Summer”, 3rd quarter might be “New Releases” and 4th quarter could be “Christmas!!!”

Just by labeling each quarter you get a clearer picture in your mind of where you need to focus your dollars. The mental aspect of this simple activity will alone make a huge difference.

Schedule Your Vendors Each Quarter

Here is the meat. After you have done the first two steps, take your tiered vendor list and write into the first month of each quarter all of your Tier #1 vendors. Write Tier #2 vendors into the second month. Write Tier #3 vendors into the the third month.

You’re almost done.

Now look at each quarter a little more closely. If there is a Tier #2 vendor that is more important to that quarter, move it to the first month. But be sure to move a Tier #1 vendor to the second month to compensate. Do the same with any Tier #3 vendors, especially the seasonal vendors.

Now you have a comprehensive buying schedule to follow for your year that will help you manage your inventory and cash flow a whole lot better.  Each month simply look at your list of vendors and write your orders accordingly – being sure to follow the rules at the top.

Adjust, Adjust, Adjust

Sure, you will have to adjust regularly. You might get to a new quarter and find you don’t need to order a line, or you might run out before the quarter is up. All OTB’s require constant juggling and tweaking. Just remember that for each time you add a vendor onto that month’s buying list, you should move a different vendor out to compensate. By having a list, you are now making those choices consciously.

Sure, sometimes you cannot buy within the terms, or sometimes you need to over-buy just to make sure you have enough product for the busy season because you know the company will run out. Those issues will usually be offset by the line that moves so fast you find yourself writing eight to ten orders per year.

Sure, sometimes your cash will be tight. you might spend it all up in that first month of the quarter. But at least you spent it on the most important lines for your business.

If you follow the guidelines as much as possible, you will see the payoff in the long run.


If you are placing at least four orders per year for all of your vendors, your Turn Ratio will likely outpace your industry (most hard-goods retailers like clothing, toys, hardware, furniture, etc expect about a 2.5 to 3.5 turn ratio – perishable goods like florists and grocery have much higher terms and much different OTB’s – and  four orders per vendor per year typically yields a 3.6 turn ratio or higher). 

This will increase your cash flow, while also keeping your store well-stocked.

Remember, Cash is King (and you are the adviser!)

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS For more on how to manage your inventory better including an understanding of how to calculate Turn Ratios and Gross Margin Return on Inventory, download my free eBook Inventory Management.

PPS For a list of Turn Ratios by industry go to this article on Rick Segel’s blog.

Is This the Right Price?

I just published my third book.

Welcome to the Club, Daddy is a book for expectant fathers based on the class I have been teaching twice a month at our local hospital for the last ten years. It is a funny, yet practical guide for new dads that helps them learn how to change a diaper, deal with a crying baby, understand what their wives are going through and how to support them, and addresses the top concerns most new dads are feeling.

The book is a hardcover that sells for $17.99.

My wife asked me why $17.99. Why not $19.99 or $14.99 or even $9.99?  Good question…

I chose $17.99 for a number of reasons based on my Pricing for Profit eBook.


When the perceived worth of an object meets the actual price, the item has value. This book, based on its size and being a hardcover, fits in the $12.99 to $19.99 price range. Most other books this size fall into that price range.  Fiction tends to range a little lower, business books a little higher. The better known the author, the higher yet.  Self-help falls somewhere in the middle.

So just on size/style alone, we can narrow down the price to the $14.99 to $17.99 range.

Two factors raise the perceived worth of this book. First, it will primarily be bought by women for their husbands/sons. They perceive a greater need for this information which raises the perceived worth.  Second, this will primarily be bought as a gift, which also increases the perceived worth. We will spend a little more on a gift for others than we will on ourselves.

5-10-20 RULE

People also make calculations based on the actual bill they have to pull out of their wallet.  Believe it or not, but $14.99 and $17.99 are both basically the same price to a customer. Both are a “twenty dollar item”. Since there is little distinction between the two, take the highest number that fits into the Value Equation.


Numbers themselves have stigma and perception. We generally do not like the numbers 0, 3, or 6.  Zero is lonely. Three conjures up unlucky thirteen. Six six six is the sign of the devil. Prices like $13.99 and $16.99 just don’t look as attractive as $14.99 and $17.99 for subconscious reasons.  Numbers like 5 and 7 are okay. Thanks to Las Vegas, sevens are considered lucky.

So to recap…

  • The Value Equation says the price range is $12.99 to $19.99.
  • Being a Self-Help book narrows that to $14.99 to $17.99.
  • Being a gift in a category with high perceived worth suggests the upper limit.
  • The 5-10-20 Rule says that there is little perceived difference between the lower and upper prices so it also suggests the upper limit.
  • The BOGG Rule says that sevens are okay numbers, definitely better than fives or sixes.

Therefore, the suggested retail price is $17.99.

See how that works?

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS For more on rules that govern pricing to help you pick the most attractive price for the items you sell, download the free eBook Pricing for Profit.

PPS Those who have read Welcome to the Club, Daddy all agree – that price is way too low for the amount of information given.

PPPS If you would like to sell this book in your store, contact me for wholesale prices. Margins are great, terms are generous, and this book is not sold on Amazon.

Convenience Trumps Price

I’ve been telling you all this for years. Price is not the only thing. Convenience trumps price both in the store and more importantly online, too!

Here’s the proof.

Quoting the article…

Continuum’s 2012 Service Design Report looked at data from more than 1,000 consumers across the country and uncovered the top reasons they choose whether to shop in-stores or online.

The top reasons respondents say they shop in stores are:
• For convenience (40%);
• They don’t trust the quality online (22%);
• They don’t want to pay for shipping/returns (17 %);
• For better prices (17%); and
• For personal interaction (4%).

The top reasons respondents say they shop online are:
• For convenience (43%);
• It is easier to find what they are looking for (29%);
• For better prices (25%); and
• To avoid interaction with employees (3%).

(Doing a tiny little happy dance.)

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS That begs the question… How do you become more convenient? Come to Austin, TX January 29-30 and I’ll show you.

Top Viewed Blog Posts 2012

Everyone loves Top Ten Lists.

Here is my list of my Top Ten Most Viewed Blog Posts from 2012

1. Two Thing You Can Correct Right Now – Two simple things you can do that won’t cost you an arm and a leg, but will make the next year better than the previous year.

2. Lessons From MLK Quotes – Five of my favorite quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr. and how they apply to independent retailers.

3. Two Days to Take Your Customer Service to Shareworthy Levels – Announcing a class I am teaching alongside Tim Miles at Wizard Academy on January 29-30. (You really should go!)

4. What to Do About Showrooming – We all face the problem of customers walking in with smart phones, checking out our product, asking our advice, getting our knowledge, scanning the UPC codes and buying it online. You might be surprised at my answer to this ever-growing problem.

5. This Will Be a Successful Year If… – A different, better approach to the dreaded New Year’s Resolution (Appropriate that this would make today’s list. By the way – I accomplished three out of four!)

6. Is JC Penney Making a Mistake? – They announced their new pricing policy at the beginning of last year. I had my opinions on whether it could work or not. Go see if I was right.

7. The Goldilocks Effect – I was egged on by a friend in another online group to discuss this inventory management topic about how to stock and merchandise your store to fit the needs of your customer base better. Apparently other people liked the topic, too.

8. Tell Me About a Time When… – The absolute best interview questions you should be asking!

9. Shopping Local Benefit Salt Lake City – Mostly a link to a great article about a study done in Salt Lake City. Either I have a lot of fans in Salt Lake City or people love to read more articles about the positive impact of shopping local. (You should forward the article to everyone you know in your local and county government economic development positions.)

10. Fair and Square – Another post about the JC Penney pricing fiasco. Their idea was right. Their implementation was wrong, wrong, wrong. Don’t look at their failure as a policy problem, only an implementation problem.

Definitely an interesting mix of posts, don’t you think? Covers a wide gamut from Hiring to Customer Service to Inventory Management to Shop Local to Pricing to Leadership.

Thank you to all who are following publicly, lurking quietly, or just plain stumbling onto this blog by accident. If there are topics you would like me to write about more in 2013, please let me know. I get the feeling the indie retail movement is on the cusp of some serious positive growth over the next few years.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS One of the reasons I believe we’ll see more people Shop Local, Shop Independent is because of a sense of community that they feel at your stores. If you have not yet read the book Pendulum, you need to go get it today. “Sense of Community” will be a driving force for the next decade at least. You should be playing up that aspect of your business.

Fair and Square

My wife is frustrated (and thankfully, it is not my fault). She used to love going to JC Penney. Well, love might be a strong word for someone who finds shopping a chore. But now she finds that JCP rarely makes it on her list. And she is not alone. JC Penney just reported that same-store sales fell a whopping 26.1%!

Many are blaming their new Fair and Square pricing policy.

My wife is one of them.

She says it is neither Fair nor Square. As she pointed out to me last night, our prices are Fair and Square. They are clearly marked on every package. There are no misleading header cards on the racks. There are no surprises at the register. There are no gimmicks, exclusions, mark-it-up-to-mark-it-down contrived sales. There are no hidden fees, add-ons, hoops or loopholes. The price you see is the price you pay.

That is what JC Penney promised us when they launched this new pricing policy at the beginning of the year. The problem isn’t in the policy. The problem is they failed to deliver what they promised.

Many pundits will wrongly claim that customers want sales and deals and JCP’s failure is because they aren’t offering enough deals. I will argue that their failure is because they didn’t actually make their prices Fair and Square. Every time my wife went in, the prices were not clearly marked, some items had no price at all!  The header cards rarely matched the price on the product and even less the price at the register. The prices seemed to fluctuate faster than the stock market.

Before you listen to the pundits try to tell you that customers only want sales and discounts, understand that many retailers are quite successful offering pricing that is fair, clearly marked, and not jumping all over the place. JC Penney promised us that back in January. Empty promises lead to empty stores.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS There is a Fair and Square pricing policy that keeps your customers happy and your margins strong enough to be profitable. Download the free eBook Pricing for Profit here.