Home » Phil’s Retail Blog » Phil’s Retail Blog Archive

You’re in the Retail Blog Archives. Here they all are. Everything since I started writing. You’ll find some incredible nuggets of wisdom hiding in here if you’re willing to dig for it. 

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Making Your Ads More Effective

April 21, 2017

Next Thursday I will be doing a seminar for the Marshall Area Economic Development Authority called “Making Your Ads More Effective”. This is one of my favorite presentations because it includes a few lucky (brave?) souls who submit advertisement they have used previously and I give those ads a makeover. It is also one of … Read more

Sign Up for the Spotlight on Managerial Success Workshop

April 20, 2017

If you’re still sitting on the fence about signing up for next Wednesday’s SPOTLIGHT ON MANAGERIAL SUCCESS workshop, here are a few questions to ask yourself. Do you manage a team of three or more people? Do you feel that your team is not working up to their best potential? Do you believe you could … Read more

Is Collaboration Really the Problem?

April 19, 2017

I read an article that caught my eye in Inc. Magazine with the title “Collaboration Creates Mediocrity, Not Excellence, According to Science”. You read that title and you will believe that grand studies have now been done to prove that collaboration is a bad thing. Then you read the article and find out there is no … Read more

Who Would You Blame?

April 18, 2017

Overheard in a shoe store the other day… Customer: “Ma’am, do you have this style shoe in a brown?” Clerk: “I don’t know what we have or don’t have. I just work here.” My first thought when I heard this was, “You won’t be working here for long with that attitude.” Then it dawned on … Read more

The Power of the Smile Story

April 13, 2017

Every staff meeting started with “Smile Stories”, moments since the last meeting when we did what we set out to do and made the customer smile. Some of my staff wrote notes to themselves to remember all the stories. Others wrote notes to each other to remind them of their stories. At some meetings we … Read more

Retail Sales Training (or the Lack Thereof)

April 12, 2017

I took over the hiring of employees at Toy House in the fall of 1995. My dad never really liked the job. I quickly found out why. We would hire 10 or more seasonal employees every fall and try to train them up to our customers’ expectations in just a couple short weeks. Finding good … Read more

Flying the Friendly(?) Skies

April 11, 2017

By now you’ve seen the video of Chicago Aviation Police physically yanking an unwilling passenger off a United Airlines flight, knocking him unconscious, and dragging him down the aisle like they were taking out the trash. Likely you have also read United’s lame apologies. If we want to become experts. we need to see what we can learn … Read more

What is Your Food Name?

April 10, 2017

My father is 100% Polish. My mother is mostly English. For about three straight years, however, I was Italian. Everyone called me Phil Pepperoni. No it wasn’t because of my fondness for a certain doughy, saucy, meaty culinary delight. No it wasn’t because I was extra cheesy (okay maybe a little). It was because of a … Read more

Talent, Practice, and Luck

April 6, 2017

One day I would love to go to The Masters in Augusta, GA. I have watched it on TV so many times that I know every green instantly before the announcers even tell me the hole. I love golf. Love to play it, love to watch it. Especially this tournament. These guys are amazing! I … Read more

The Team, The Team, The Team

April 5, 2017

If you know me well, you know I’m a Wolverine. Been one since the day my grandfather took me to The Big House at seven years old. It was the only university I applied to attend. If you know the University of Michigan and follow their football team, you’ve heard the immortal words of the late, … Read more

Spotlight on Managerial Success – The Class!

March 29, 2017

You’ve hired a manager. Someone to help you run the day-to-day operations of your business. Someone to be in charge when you aren’t there. Someone to handle personnel issues and make sure all the tasks like stocking, straightening, cleaning, and serving the customers gets done. Someone to schedule (and train) the staff. Someone to give … Read more

Training for Store Managers

March 28, 2017

My trip through the malls recently has me wondering… Where is the true breakdown in the staff training? You can start with the store managers since ultimately they are responsible for training the frontline staff, but that begs the question. Are those managers properly trained to be a store manager? In a chain store you could ask … Read more

Only One Out of Fourteen Said Hello

March 27, 2017

Over the last few weeks I’ve visited some big malls. Call it field research. These malls have been busy, packed with customers. These malls are also packed with stores you’ve read about that are struggling and closing locations around the country. I saw a fair amount of Going Out of Business signs. One mall is … Read more

How to Teach a Class in Your Store

March 23, 2017

You know why you need to teach classes in your store. Here are the six steps you take to create a class that draws traffic, builds excitement, gains you followers, sets you up as the expert, and makes people want to buy from you. Determine which product(s) you sell that takes the longest to explain or … Read more

Why You Should Teach What You Know

March 15, 2017

Here’s a myth worth busting… “Thanks to the Internet, the customers know more about the products than the sales people.” If you believe that, you’ve given up. Might as well close up now and avoid further losses. First, not all customers do the research. There is a big group of people who don’t want all that knowledge. … Read more

One Little Problem, One Big Mess

March 14, 2017

I went down to the basement this Sunday to turn on some lights and make sure it was presentable for a house showing in three hours. It wasn’t. At the bottom of the stairs I encountered a huge puddle of water and a steady drip, drip, drip from the floorboards above. There were only two … Read more

My Team Lost (And What We Learned)

March 11, 2017

Today my team lost at the CEO Challenge Junior Achievement event. Each team had six weeks to come up with a viable business idea and then present it to judges in a competition against twelve other teams. I worked with one of the teams from my alma mater, Jackson High School. The students came up … Read more

Hinkley Donuts, Or How to Go Above and Beyond

March 10, 2017

I had a Hinkley Donut this morning. My favorite is chocolate frosted cinnamon, but I could eat any of about a dozen of their different donuts with equal pleasure. Those of you in Jackson know what I mean. In a statewide competition Hinkley’s Bakery won Best Donuts in Michigan (if they hadn’t there might have been … Read more

Hiring People Who Believe

March 8, 2017

I stepped out of my comfort zone tonight. You read this blog because you’re an independent retailer. At least that’s who I normally write and speak to. Tonight I spoke to dentists. I spoke the Jackson District Dental Society about hiring and training. Their issues are interesting. They hire hygienists and assistants who need specialized … Read more

What Your Website Needs

March 6, 2017

You’re not going to do it yourself. You’re too busy. You have ordering and managing your inventory, hiring and training your staff, processing all the paperwork, creating and executing an advertising campaign, and all the other stuff like merchandising, selling, and even cleaning the bathroom on your to-do list. The last thing you want to do … Read more

Before You Start Advertising

March 2, 2017

I am working on my next book (new working title “Most Ads Suck: But Not Yours”). It will help you write copy that gets noticed, remembered, and acted upon, whether for digital, print or broadcast consumption. It is an in-depth take on one of my more popular speaking topics – Making Your Ads More Effective. … Read more

Words of Wisdom From 1969

February 28, 2017

Here is another gem I found buried in a file, long forgotten. My grandfather and founder of Toy House, Mayor Philip H. Conley, penned these words in June 1969, two months before hiring my dad as his new manager. I don’t know if this was penned to put his thoughts on paper for my dad, … Read more

Fascinating Interview with Half of Neiman-Marcus

February 27, 2017

Digging through old files I found a magazine article my dad had buried a few decades ago. It was a gem of an interview with Stanley Marcus of Neiman-Marcus fame. I had to keep checking the date on the article because I swear it could have been written today (other than the fact Stanley Marcus … Read more

The Power of the Network

February 24, 2017

I went to a networking event a couple nights ago. I knew walking in that the likelihood of picking up a high-paying speaking gig from this event was incredibly low. In fact, the idea that I would be able to pick up any speaking gigs from this event never really entered my mind. I went … Read more

Anticipating Your Customers’ Needs

February 19, 2017

I had the slot right after lunch. A lot of speakers hate that slot. People are tired after lunch, or they got an email that morning that required them to spend their lunch hour putting out a fire, or they have so much swirling around their brains from the morning sessions they can’t stay focused. You … Read more

Not My Job

February 16, 2017

The downside to writing a job description for each position on your staff is that you can never remember to list everything that position needs to do. Something will eventually get left off the list. Or if you do remember everything, the list is so long no one reads it, let alone memorizes it. I … Read more

Stories From Toy Fair

February 15, 2017

The big show for the toy industry starts this weekend. It feels weird not gearing up for the trip to NYC. So instead of a trip to New York, I’m going to take a trip down memory lane. Here are some of my favorite stories… This first story goes back to my grandfather, Mayor Phil … Read more

Happy Valentines Day (or Harnessing the Power of the Heart)

February 14, 2017

People don’t buy products. They buy feelings. You aren’t selling toys or pet supplies or carpeting. You’re selling joy, contentment, pride, satisfaction. You’re selling the way someone feels after she makes the purchase. You’re selling the heart. For you, every day is Valentine’s Day. How would your business change if instead of selling products, you decided … Read more

How Do I Make My Emails More Interesting?

February 12, 2017

I said earlier that you should send out an email newsletter only when you have something new and interesting to say. Coming up with something new is easy. As a retailer you have more new products and new events and stories than you could ever find time to write them up – especially since it … Read more

How Often Should You Send Your Email Newsletter?

February 10, 2017

Google the question, “How often should you send your email newsletter?” and you’ll get a plethora of answers. According to my inbox, Lands End seems to think the answer is several times a day. For others it is daily. One report that actually surveyed US adults is suggesting weekly or monthly. In that survey the number … Read more

Get the Simple Things Right

February 7, 2017

I made three trips to a local service provider today. First, I checked their website for their hours. They had a beautiful, informative website. But no hours anywhere I could find. I know of other service providers in their category who open early, so after dropping my son off at school at 7:20am, I headed … Read more

Don’t Build Your Own Obstacles (Part II)

February 5, 2017

If you’re a BBQ lover in the Detroit area, you recognize this door. Behind it is the tantalizing flavors of smoked meats, refreshing liquids from the Great Beer State, and an aroma that pleasantly stays in your nostrils for hours. You know it as Slow’s BBQ. In fact, you take pride in knowing those natural-colored … Read more

What Are You Doing to Grow?

February 2, 2017

I stood on the stage. It was small, in an awkward room with pillars that blocked sight lines. The room was supposed to hold 150 people, but I could see them setting up extra chairs in the back of the room. Even still, there were people sitting on the floor leaning back against those horrible … Read more

Be Confident in Your Prices

January 30, 2017

Have you ever asked, “How much?” and you could tell the person selling you believed the price was too high? They usually start with something like, “Before I tell you the price, let me tell you all you get.” They might as well say, “I’m afraid to tell you how much because you’ll just think it … Read more

Not All Retail Experience is the Same

January 27, 2017

It dawned on me what a hypocrite I was last week. I was doing some talks to retailers at a conference and in my introduction I bragged about getting my start in retail at the age of seven when my grandfather paid my sister and me ten cents an hour to put price tags on … Read more

Don’t Build Your Own Obstacles

January 24, 2017

We’ve all heard the phrase KISS – keep it simple, stupid. We’ve also been exposed to Occam’s Razor – the simpler explanation is most likely the better one. But still, as business owners, we forget that and build our own man-made obstacles to make our lives harder. For example, I went to a restaurant in Phoenix … Read more

You’re Not Perfect

January 24, 2017

You’re not perfect. Far from it. Me, too. You will make mistakes. You will ruin someone’s Christmas. You will cause someone gray hairs. You will make someone miss an appointment because they had to deal with your carelessness. You will have some problems that aren’t even your fault. Maybe your vendor screwed up or the … Read more

Always Be Practicing

January 20, 2017

Besides writing this blog and doing workshops and seminars and presentations, I have a few hobbies. One is singing and playing guitar. Tonight I get to perform in front of tens of people at the Poison Frog Brewery. I’ll be performing songs I’ve played hundreds of times in the last 30 years, including dozens of … Read more

How Will You Measure 2017?

January 19, 2017

The New Year is here. Your New Year’s Resolutions are gone. The inventory has been counted. The mail carrier is complaining about all the catalogs weighing down his bag. You’re trying to make sense of what just happened in 2016. (Or just trying to forget what happened in 2016.) 2017 is here whether you’re ready or … Read more

Issues in the Mid-90’s

January 13, 2017

Here is another treasure I found while cleaning out old folders and files. I can tell since this is in cursive that I wrote this in the mid-90’s. I went back and forth between cursive and Small Caps in my notes for many years until switching to Small Caps almost exclusively in the late 90’s. … Read more

My Staff Training Philosophies

January 11, 2017

One of the fun things about closing up the shop is finding hidden treasures as I empty filing cabinets. This is one of those treasures. I don’t know when I wrote it, but I do remember writing it. I was on a flight home from a conference or workshop and one of the speakers asked … Read more

Our Version of the 1%

January 10, 2017

Lately everyone has been talking about the 1%. In politics that might be the ultra-rich. You either are them, hate them, or on your way to becoming them. In retail the 1% I want to talk about is your unsaleable merchandise. We ended our closing with only 1% of our inventory remaining. Yeah, pretty good when … Read more

When It Is Time to Move

January 8, 2017

Maybe it is declining sales in your current location, or maybe you’ve peaked out your sales and don’t have the room to expand. Maybe the demographics of your location have shifted or maybe your store’s product mix doesn’t fit in with the surrounding stores. Maybe a new development has made you an offer too good … Read more

In Retail it is All About Location

January 3, 2017

Let’s get the elephant out of the room right away. How can I write a blog about being a successful retailer when I closed my retail store? I can sum that up in three words… Location. Location. Location. Yes, we were having a tough time with cash flow. That’s the usual culprit behind any store … Read more

What I Learned in 2016

January 1, 2017

2016 was a learning experience for me. I went through two life-changing events that taught me a lot about myself and about business. I got a divorce and I closed my toy store. Although they weren’t the kind of things one typically wishes for, they were incredible experiences filled with lessons I will share in … Read more

Friends With Benefits

November 7, 2015

Align yourself with charity. Pick one or two local organizations (or more if you’re up to it) that you feel strongly about. Do something special for them. Help them out. Be their friend and ally. You’ll both benefit from the friendship. This is a picture of the Cascades Humane Society doing their annual Santa Paws … Read more

My Big Fat Email Subject Line Mistake

October 29, 2015

Your subject line is the most important part of your email. Period. Get it right and your email is a success. Get it wrong and nothing else matters. I learned that the hard way yesterday. We’re doing a big promotion on Election Day. Something new. The subject line in my email read… “Election Day ONLY … Read more

You Don’t Make it Up in Volume

October 28, 2015

(Warning: this post contains math. Proceed with caution.) “We lose a dollar on each one we sell, but we make it up in volume.” Yeah, we all know that isn’t right, but there is a mistaken belief that if you lower your prices, you can easily make up the lower margins through higher volume. Let … Read more

REI Stands Up for Their Beliefs – You Should Too

October 27, 2015

Your actions speak louder than your words. Put your money where your mouth is. Be true to your values. We’ve had plenty of examples of these platitudes by businesses, such as Chick Fil A and Hobby Lobby being closed on Sundays. But never has there been an example as extreme as what REI just announced. … Read more

Is Customer Service Dead?

October 26, 2015

I just spent several days in Las Vegas for the ABC Expo, the largest trade show for the juvenile product industry. Las Vegas. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas (btw, they mean the money you gamble stays in Vegas). NO BEER FOR PHIL One thing that didn’t happen in Vegas was me drinking beer. … Read more

Dumb Logic – Don’t Fall for It

October 14, 2015

At a recent presentation I was told that more money is being spent on mobile advertising than on PC advertising. No source was given so I cannot verify the truth of that statement. Then again, it doesn’t matter. The presenter was using that info to tell an audience of small businesses that since the big … Read more

How to Make Networking Events Actually Pay Off

October 13, 2015

I was speaking about the power of networking to a group of baby product sellers. One of them pointed out that he had never seen a pregnant person at a networking event. That pretty much sums up what most people get wrong about networking. Raise your hand if you know someone who is pregnant… That’s … Read more

You Aren’t as Well Known as You Think

October 12, 2015

Back in 2005 we hired a Statistics Class at a local university to do a study for us. They determined how to get a random sample size that would accurately reflect Jackson County and then called people to ask them one simple task… “Name all the places you can think of in Jackson County that sell … Read more

Buying Too Much or Buying Too Little for the Holidays

October 9, 2015

Let’s face the truth. Forecasting for your busy season is the single hardest decision you make if you are an independent retailer. As much as we all would like our purchasing to be just right, every year we seem to buy either too much or too little. Since you’re likely to err on one side or … Read more

Changing Your Thinking on Coupons

October 7, 2015

I’m not a fan of coupons. There. I said it. If you’ve downloaded my free eBook Main Street Marketing on a Shoestring Budget, you know I prefer giving away gift certificates with no strings attached – instead of coupons – to attract new customers. I also fear that using coupons too much trains your customers … Read more

Coupons Aren’t Bad (When They are Rare and Special)

October 6, 2015

Back in the 90’s we started a direct mail newsletter for Toy House. We sent out a mailing every other month. Conventional Wisdom at the time said we needed to include a coupon with each mailing to help us “track the effectiveness” of the mailing. So we included a $20 off a $100 purchase coupon in … Read more

The Need to Keep Raising the Bar

October 5, 2015

Bed Bath and Beyond just announced that their coupon strategy is backfiring and that their profits are hurting because everyone is waiting for the coupon to do their shopping. Umm… yeah. When you send the coupon out every week and never enforce the exclusions or expiration date, you pretty much send out the message that … Read more

From Your Customer’s Point of View

October 2, 2015

Legend has it the day before Disney Land opened, Walt and crew arrived to do a walk-through. Upon entering the gates, Walt immediately kneeled down at the front of the park. His entourage was curious as he begged them to kneel with him. Once everyone was kneeling, he explained that this was the height of … Read more

Newly Redesigned PhilsForum.com Website

September 23, 2015

I told you I was working on a new version of my PhilsForum.com website.It just went live a few minutes ago.Everything is up and running except this blog (which should be migrated over by late Thursday).In an effort to make it more search engine friendly, some of the pages you’re used to seeing have new … Read more

Two New Social Media Platforms and How You Could Use Them

September 22, 2015

(Note: this post has been edited)Video is HUGE. Go look at your news feed in Facebook and count what percentage of posts are videos.Pretty high, isn’t it?If you aren’t using videos – Vine, YouTube, iPhone videos loaded to Facebook, etc. – then you might not be reaching all the people you want to reach.There are … Read more

Preparing Your Staff for Life

September 11, 2015

One of my talented regulars on my staff just put in her two-week notice. She is leaving me for a new full-time job teaching art.JUST A JOB (?)As much as I love my job and my business and the difference we make in other peoples’ lives, I know where Retail Sales Clerk sits on the … Read more

Free or Gift With Purchase?

September 2, 2015

You just got some free merchandise from one of your favorite vendors. It was a low cost item that you didn’t sell anyway. You want to give them away to your customers.Do you give them away free, no strings attached, or do you only give them away free with a qualifying purchase?FREE, NO STRINGS ATTACHEDThe … Read more

Mrs. Hinkley Brought Me Doughnuts

August 29, 2015

I was unloading our delivery van when a car pulled up to side of the store. A window rolled down and a familiar face said, “Hey Phil, I brought you a little something.”It wasn’t a “little something”. It was Hinkley Doughnuts!! The number one rated doughnut in Michigan!!! Mrs. Hinkley herself was hand-delivering a few … Read more

Media Versus Network?

August 25, 2015

Social media is where it is at!Social media is DEAD!Social media is FREE!Social media has NO ROI!Businesses are expanding because of social media!Businesses are wasting their money on social media!SOCIAL MEDIA, social media, social media, BLAH blah blah.Everyone has an opinion on whether Social Media is helping businesses grow or is just a waste of … Read more

The Ideal Employee

August 18, 2015

I was digging through some old staff newsletters and came across this article. At one of our staff trainings I asked the staff to create what they called The Ideal Employee…THE IDEAL EMPLOYEE(reprinted from the August 2002 Team News)Here is the composite of what you identified as the “Ideal Employee”…Attitude—The Ideal Employee will have a … Read more

Three Questions That Have All the Answers

August 17, 2015

(Note: I submitted this to Wizard Academy for a project where they asked business leaders what our two to three secrets are that have helped us succeed. My three secrets are these three questions…)I have been told that I have an uncanny knack for taking difficult ideas & concepts and breaking them down so that … Read more

What I’ve Been Working On

August 12, 2015

Here’s what I’ve been working on (and why I haven’t posted in a while)…NEW WEBSITE FOR TOY HOUSEhttps://toyhouseonline.comOur old website wasn’t mobile-friendly and needed a few upgrades to make it responsive to different platforms (computers, phones and tablets). Google is telling people that non-responsive sites are going to get knocked down in the search rankings … Read more

Always Have a Second Pair of Eyes

May 30, 2015

I came across this sign while delivering some baby furniture the other day.Three lessons…Never let your high school drop out make your signs. Always have an educated person proof read your signs before you put them up. Don’t trust spell-check.Enjoy your weekend smile.-Phil Wrzesinskiwww.PhilsForum.comPS Had the flavor been Spinach Souffle, I might have thought they had done … Read more

Teaching Your Staff to Listen

May 21, 2015

“I’ll have a poppy seed salad, half-size, with a baguette and drink for here, please.”“Okay. What salad would you like?”“Poppy seed. Half-sized.”“Okay, what side? You can have chips, baguette or an apple.”“Baguette.”“Would you like a drink?”“Yes.”“Will this be to go?”You can imagine this exchange. Maybe you have had this exchange. This is word for word … Read more

The Chasm Between Early Adopters and Early Majority

May 20, 2015

Back in 1962, Everett Rogers introduced us to the Diffusion of Innovations that shows how people enter the market for any given idea, product or service. There are five groups of people who look at new ideas and products distinctively different. The percentages shown are consistent across the board in study after study. Here is … Read more

A Simple Tip to Change Your Customer’s Lasting Impression

May 16, 2015

I figured this time it would be different. This time I was handing the cashier $33 for a $32.53 bill. This time I was only going to get change back. This time they wouldn’t place those bills in my hand first, then dump the change on top of those bills so that it could slide … Read more

I Want Your Business in My New Book

May 13, 2015

Have you downloaded the free eBook Making Your Ads Memorable? Getting people to listen/read/see and remember you is the first step in advertising. Getting them to take action is the second step. Most people fail on the first step and then wonder why the second step never happened.The guide is fairly straightforward and simple with a couple … Read more

How to Get Customers to Fall in Love With Your Products

May 11, 2015

Dr. Ross Honeywill says there are two types of customers – NEO’s and Traditionals. Traditionals are all about the Price. NEO’s, however, care more about Design, Authenticity, and Provenance than Price. Get the NEO to fall in love with the product and you’ll make the sale.Roy H. Williams says there are two types of customers … Read more

Avoiding the Discount Mentality

May 8, 2015

Everyone wants a discount. Everyone wants a deal. Everyone wants a coupon. Or so you might be led to believe.One of my employees went to a fast food restaurant and said, “I’d like a three-piece strips, a biscuit, and a small drink.”The employee answered, “The drink isn’t included with that.”She responded, “That’s okay, I want … Read more

Super Heroes aren’t Born, They are Made

May 7, 2015

I saw the new Avengers: Age of Ultron movie last night. Loved it!! I love the super hero movies in general. But some people are complaining that it is becoming over-the-top.Avengers: Age of Ultron copyright Marvel Comics, source IMDB.comIt seems like every few years they reboot the franchise for our beloved super heroes. We’ve had … Read more

The One Loyalty Program You Need to Grow Your Business

April 27, 2015

Your brain has a gatekeeper. His name is Broca. He protects your brain from all the boring, mundane and predictable in the world.Roy H. Williams, aka, The Wizard of Ads, was the first person to introduce me to Broca. Most advertisements fail because Broca saw them coming a mile away. But it isn’t just ads … Read more

Is It Just a Block?

April 14, 2015

Last night I showed my staff the movie Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium featuring Dustin Hoffman, Natalie Portman and Jason Bateman.I own a toy store, so the movie hits close to the heart.For those not familiar with the movie, there are three other characters of note in the movie… a young boy named Eric, the store … Read more

I Need Your Help for my Next Book

April 3, 2015

It is time to write a new book. Something fun. Something helpful. Something about marketing and messages and creativity.I know exactly what I want to write, but I need your help.But first, the inspiration behind this book… A couple years ago, during an online discussion, a friend gave me a crazy suggestion for advertising Toy … Read more

You Can Only Make One Point

March 27, 2015

I attended the TEDx UofM event last Friday and listened to fourteen different speakers. I was given a small booklet to write notes in. With fourteen speakers, each talking for thirteen minutes and a tiny book to record their thoughts, I figured the best thing to do was to distill each talk down to its … Read more

Your Customers Already Have the Power

March 17, 2015

Your customers have incredible power. They can take your business down overnight. One unchecked and unanswered complaint, one un-refuted accusation, one video of something you did wrong going viral, and you’re gone.Just ask Paula Dean.It didn’t use to be this way. You used to have all the power. You controlled access to the products. You … Read more

Sometimes No Actually Does Mean Yes

March 15, 2015

No means No.  Most of the time I agree.Here is where it doesn’t. When your No leads to their Yes.There is a toy company that just put it out to the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) that they said No to Amazon. That’s a pretty big deal. That’s a lot of volume in one … Read more

We All Get Distracted

March 2, 2015

I haven’t written in almost a month. I got distracted. It happens.This blog isn’t my first job. Technically it ranks around four or five or maybe six. I have my family and Toy House up there at the top. I have my Daddy Class at the local hospital. I have my paid gigs like the … Read more

Would You Ever Admit You Weren’t the Best?

February 6, 2015

Avis did.Avis ran a whole ad campaign for several years based on the fact that they were NOT the number one company in their industry.We’re number two. We try harder.They stood naked to the world. We are not number one. That admission was enough to garner a whole lot of trust. Any company willing to … Read more

We Trust the Non-Sellers More

February 3, 2015

Late night infomercials have done more to harm the trust relationship between retailers and customers than almost anything else out there.You’ve seen the shows where the person claims to be the expert on something, but you have a hard time believing them because they are also trying to sell you something. You doubt the veracity … Read more

How Far Behind Your Products do you Stand?

February 1, 2015

Everyone claims they stand behind their products. The question is, how far back do you stand? Far enough to distance yourself when something goes wrong? Or right there to take care of even the most minor of problems?One of the most powerful currencies you can spend to buy credibility and gain trust from your customers … Read more

Oops, I Violated My Own Facebook Rules (and got “boosted”)

January 27, 2015

This Thursday, 1/29/15 is National Puzzle Day. Being a toy store that sells thousands of puzzles, that is a big deal to us. Naturally, we are going to celebrate it and I’m going to promote it via Facebook.But I violated one of my golden rules for getting around the Facebook algorithm. I used language that … Read more

You Have to Pay for Trust

January 23, 2015

She doesn’t trust you. She has been burned by many retailers before you. If you want her to trust you, you better be ready to pay for that trust. You better be ready to show her what you are willing to sacrifice to earn her trust.Are you willing to give up money to earn her … Read more

Do Your Customers Trust You?

January 16, 2015

I’ve plowed my parking lot clean. I’ve held open the front door for my customer. I’ve greeted her with a genuine hello and thanks for coming in. I’ve avoided the dreaded Can I help you? phrase.Those are the easy obstacles to remove.The biggest obstacle is a lack of trust. A new customer sails in on … Read more

The Four Worst Words in Retail

January 13, 2015

You know them. You’ve probably even said them. More than likely you started cringing even as the words were floating across the ether.Can I help you?You say those words and the response is automatic.No thanks, I’m just looking.Here is why those words are so bad.First, the knee-jerk reaction, even from someone who actually wants your … Read more

I Want a New Front Door

January 9, 2015

Our front doors suck.Okay, they could be worse. They could be something other than glass, heavier than hell, and hard to hold open. At least you can see through them into and out of the store, and most of the kids can push them to get in.There used to be a store downtown that kept … Read more

I Hate Slush

January 7, 2015

Winter weather has finally arrived in Jackson, Michigan. Snow, ice, wind chills below zero, the whole nine yards. Every trip to the bank means sloshing through the slush that accumulates at the curb. My shoes and boots are a mess.I hate slush.I can deal with the snow and the cold. I just don’t like the … Read more

Here is a Year-End Evaluation Most Retailers Won’t Do

January 6, 2015

Try to describe in as complete detail as possible the typical experience your customer has in your store. Be as specific as you can from her parking spot through the front door all the way through checkout.Take your time. This is an important exercise. You can even do this with your staff. Write down all … Read more

A Journey of a Thousand Miles…

January 5, 2015

We all know the proverb… A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.We all know January is the month of making resolutions and getting started on that first single step.I’ll throw another favorite saying out at you… Success is a journey, not a destination.Maybe your journey really is one thousand miles. Maybe … Read more

Getting Around the Facebook Algorithms

December 6, 2014

Everyone is lamenting the death of free posts for your company on Facebook. For the third time in the last year or so, even Facebook has said that if you want to play, you better be prepared to pay.Maybe you have already seen your organic reach plummet and are already calculating your budget for boosting … Read more

Launching a New Website – The Jackson Retail Success Academy

November 6, 2014

Back in February 2008, the newly hired director of The Enterprise Group, Scott Fleming, invited all the alphabet groups in town to a meeting to discuss how we were supporting existing retailers in Jackson.The DDA, SCMW, SBTDC, JLF, EDC, JCCC and MA were all there. I was there. Everyone but Scott himself who got called … Read more

What Kind of Candy are You Giving Out?

October 31, 2014

There was a house on the next block that gave out full size candy – Milky Ways, Snickers, Butterfingers and M&M’s. My friend Peter and I spent one Halloween changing into multiple costumes and running up the street to that house at least five times.There was another house on the street we just avoided. Stingy … Read more

Do You Have Enough Staff or Just Enough Staff?

October 28, 2014

There are two ways to determine the right amount of staff to have on your floor.You can have enough people to handle the average traffic expected that day.Or you can have enough people to handle the peak traffic moment that day.Yes, the second one costs you more in labor expenses because you never know when … Read more

Anatomy of a Promotion That Pays

October 24, 2014

What if I told you that you could market your business to 6,000 customers and instead of costing you a penny, you would actually get paid $328 to do it?What if I told you that you would also get valuable market data from that promotion?What if I told you that you would be praised mightily … Read more

Tell Your Customers What You Stand Against

October 21, 2014

It is easier to rally a crowd against something than for something. Just ask any political campaign manager what really moves the needle.The same works in business advertising, too. Tell the people what you are against and watch a flock of like-minded people come see you. Tell the world why you don’t agree with your … Read more

9 Ways to Draw Traffic With Only $400 a Month

October 18, 2014

A fellow store owner was contemplating an advertising deal offered to her from Yelp that was going to cost about $400 per month. That got me thinking about what different things you could do to draw traffic with $400/month.You could rent a bouncy house and run it in your parking lot every Saturday.You could run … Read more

Lose the Battle to Win the War

October 13, 2014

We all have those unreasonable customers. Ones that want to bring an item back months after they bought it, not in resell-able condition. Ones that demand money back without a receipt or they will flame you on Yelp. Ones that want you to do something that your stated policies say you don’t clearly do.You could … Read more

Putting Amazon and eCommerce Into Perspective

October 10, 2014

It is about that time of year when you start hearing all the news about Amazon and Wal-Mart and low prices and discounts and the death of mom & pop shop retailers.Yeah, Amazon is huge. In 2013, they did $75.4 billion in sales. That was 28.6% of all US eCommerce!But it was only 2.5% of … Read more

Think Big to Draw Traffic

October 8, 2014

I was visiting a jewelry store in a sleepy northern Michigan town. The store used to be known for having a $32,000 diamond ring. Now those of you in a big city might think no big deal, but to this community, it would take the entire population pitching in $6 each to buy that ring.People … Read more

Your Frontline Staff are Your Ambassadors

October 4, 2014

Seth Godin nailed it today.“Would you send the clerk on aisle 7 to speak to a head of state or vital partner on behalf of your company? Because that’s what he’s doing right now.”If you cannot answer a resounding Yes! to Seth’s question, you need to re-think your hiring and training program today.-Phil Wrzesinskiwww.PhilsForum.comPS Hire … Read more

Beating Amazon?? Win Your Customers’ Hearts

September 29, 2014

I just read an article from Entrepreneur.com called 5 Ways Your Small Business Can Topple Amazon This Holiday Season.Usually I like what Entrepreneur has to say, but they got me this time. Shame on them. (Next time shame on me).First, let’s start with the obvious… No small business is going to “Topple Amazon”. Not you. Not … Read more

It’s Not What You Say

September 26, 2014

Rick Segel stood in front of us and said, “Sixty-second manager training…”“Everyone take your finger and thumb and make the ‘okay’ sign. Now place that circle right against your chin. Put it right there on your chin.”At the same time Rick placed his own okay sign firmly against his cheek.We did, too.“Your chin, folks, put … Read more

Two Specialty Retail Truths

September 23, 2014

If you’ve been a specialty retailer for several years you know these two things will happen every year. Every. Single. Year.A vendor who used to be exclusively sold only in specialty stores will start selling to a big box category killer (like Home Depot, Office Depot, Barnes & Noble, Toys R Us) or a major … Read more

Sometimes Second Place is the Winning Position

September 20, 2014

If you’re an indie retailer, quite often you get customers in your store that have already shopped (and even bought from) the competition. They know the big chains thanks to multi-million dollar ad campaigns. They know the big chains from the huge signs over the giant buildings on the busiest streets. They know the big … Read more

Using Quotes to Train Your Staff

September 17, 2014

I love quotes. One of my favorites is this beauty from Eleanor Roosevelt…“Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.”I use quotes during staff meetings. I use them in all my presentations. I use them in our team newsletters. I use them here in this blog. I often wonder, however, if … Read more

Two Strategies for Independent Retailers

September 16, 2014

I’m reading a fascinating book called The Man Who Wore Mismatched Socks about an indie brewing company in England fighting against the big corporate brewery who is trying to buy out and destroy all the competition.Sound familiar?In the book, the current head of the indie brewery says something profound…“As you get bigger, you get more … Read more

Reinvention as a Strategy

September 13, 2014

I was out in Las Vegas last week for a trade show. I hadn’t really been on the strip in a few years. Things had changed.The casinos were still there, still filled with blinking lights and maze-like aisles of machines. The fancy restaurants still stood guard on the edges of the gambling areas. The shows … Read more

It’s All About the Story

September 3, 2014

One final thought from my trip to Walt Disney World…I took two teenage boys to the land of pink princesses, Frozen queens, and fairy tales come true. I took two roller coaster freaks who think Cedar Point (a mere 2.2 hour drive from us) is the Mecca of amusement parks to the land of talking … Read more

The Waiting Game – Disney Style

September 2, 2014

We waited in line for Space Mountain and played video games while we waited.We waited in line for Toy Story Midway Mania and were transported to a room with larger-than-life toys and a story-telling Mr Potato Head while we waited.We waited in line for Mount Everest Expedition and explored a museum of Yeti artifacts and … Read more

Making Memories One Guest at a Time

August 29, 2014

Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom averages around 47,000 visitors a day. Everything about the park, however, is designed to make one person feel special, not 47,000. Let me explain.There were four young children on my left. My family sat to my right. We were all parked on the curb halfway between Main Street and the … Read more

What You Have in Common with Disney

August 27, 2014

I spent last week at Walt Disney World. As with any theme park, there are always upgrades being done. But instead of just “pardon the dust” signs, Disney plastered their walls with Walt-isms. I snapped this picture of one while chasing my boys to the next ride…“We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and … Read more

Better Than When They Came In

August 26, 2014

The New York Times did an interview piece with fashion icon Michael Kors and famous restaurateur Danny Meyer. (You can read the whole interview here.)Danny summed up great customer service in one line…“Great hospitality is taking however we three felt before we came here and making us feel a little better when we leave.”Are you … Read more

Have You Tried This?

August 13, 2014

Another restaurant closed in town. They posted a wonderfully grateful goodbye on Facebook, thanking everyone from the staff to the suppliers to the customers to the city leaders (well, okay maybe not that last one). They even apologized for the inconvenience of closing. They said they gave it their best shot but just couldn’t make … Read more

Moms, Mobile Phones, and the Transactional Customer

August 10, 2014

I have been bombarded with companies selling me on the merits and benefits of Mobile Marketing. The main focus is sending out texts with coupons and deals to people in the vicinity. Some of these companies are offering me packages less than $20/week. Others want me to commit to thousands a month. They have the … Read more

What are You Doing to Reach the Influencers

August 9, 2014

McDonald’s spent millions advertising the Happy Meal to children. Yet, who ultimately controls what a child eats? The parent, of course. Yet, McDonald’s made billions from the Happy Meal by advertising to the strongest influencer.There is a bra store near me that specializes in custom-fitted and hard-to-find sizes of bras. They advertise on the local … Read more

When Lions Lead Lions

August 6, 2014

Someone tagged the railroad bridge at the end of our block.It says, “An army of sheep lead [sic] by lions will always defeat an army of lions lead [sic] by sheep.”All four cars at the light praised me when I took this picture, thinking that I was going to report it to the authorities.I took the … Read more

Can You Call in Favors?

July 30, 2014

Could you call a media person right now and cash in a favor?Maybe ask a reporter or photographer to cover an event you’re hosting?Maybe get a little live air-time with the local morning-drive DJ?Maybe get a quote in the paper?Maybe get an article on the op-ed page?Maybe get some air-time on the morning news show?Maybe … Read more

A Clean Business is a Happy Business – Three Reasons to Get Out the Paint Brush

July 26, 2014

I hadn’t washed my car in weeks. When it was sunny, I didn’t have the time. When I had the time, it was raining. I finally got it done two days ago.As I was toweling off a few last sprinkles, I felt a little extra bounce in my step. There was a little more pride … Read more

The Best Sweepstakes/Email for Small Businesses

July 23, 2014

You all know I’m a fan of Roy H. Williams, aka The Wizard of Ads. (Look down the right-hand column to see how many posts I’ve tagged him.)You also know I have studied a number of Wizard of Ads Partners like Tim Miles and Jeff Sexton and follow a lot of their work.You also know … Read more

Go BIG or Go Home – A Lesson in PR

July 18, 2014

Your store just isn’t that important. You aren’t creating hundreds/thousands of jobs at one time. You aren’t attracting tens of thousands of people into town all at once. You aren’t creating multi-millions of dollars of economic impact. You aren’t raising tens of thousands of dollars for charity.The news media isn’t going to cover you just … Read more

The Signals You Unwittingly Send to Your Customers

July 16, 2014

While we’re on the topic of Signals you send your customers, here are few more to think about…The weeds growing in the bushes next to your store. Gee, they must not be into taking care of their environment. I wonder what else they don’t take care of.The old, faded, peeling window clings from companies you … Read more

You Wouldn’t do THAT to Your Customer, Would You?

July 14, 2014

Would you treat your customer with kindness right up until the end and then kick them in the face after they gave you their money?No, of course you wouldn’t. Yet you do.Would you tell your customers – Don’t come around here… We don’t want you… We’re all about ourselves, not you… – but let them … Read more

Three is Better Than One

July 11, 2014

Last fall we installed a chalkboard on the side of our building with the words MY BEST MEMORY IS… at the top and lines for people to fill in the blanks.We did it for three reasons.1. Because we knew it would generate talk. It did, too. Lots of it. We got press for it. We … Read more

Team Building and Business Building – The Principles are the Same

July 9, 2014

There is an article floating around about Team Building Gone Bad.As a business owner, you’ve heard about Team Building – doing activities to help bring the team closer together and increase communication, cooperation, and trust. You’ve probably thought about doing something with your own staff.Before you do, do me (and your staff) a favor. Write … Read more

Seven Reasons Why You Should Accept American Express Cards

July 8, 2014

I’ve heard the arguments against accepting American Express in your store. They charge too much. They don’t deposit as fast as other cc’s. Everyone has another form of payment. I’ve never lost a sale…All valid (kinda).Here are seven reasons why you should still accept it.The average Amex transaction is three times higher than the average … Read more

The Perfect Sale

July 5, 2014

I was just at Bob & Sue Negen’s Whizbang Training Retail Success Summit and Bob talked about trying to achieve the Perfect Sale.There are two Perfect Sales out there. From your point of view and from the customer’s point of view.From your point of view…You sold them everything you possibly could, including a bunch of old … Read more

Write Your Ad to One Specific Person

June 27, 2014

Christmas Eve, Nineteen Sixty-Five. He didn’t know if he would make it. Nine months of active duty, he missed his family. And he was an uncle now. His sister had a baby girl, a precious little child for which a stuffed animal from an airport gift shop just wouldn’t do.  As his dad picked him up in the family sedan, … Read more

Do Sex and Humor Sell?

June 25, 2014

Some like to rip theirs off quickly in the heat of the moment.  Others run their fingers down the seam, taking it off slowly savoring every second.  Pulses quicken, breathing deepens, the anticipation is almost agonizing.  Usually it’s the teddies, occasionally polka dots.  Always there is a smile.  There’s nothing like Free Giftwrapping at the … Read more

What Will it Take to Move the Needle?

June 23, 2014

Most people trying to persuade others to their point of view will bring out mounds and mounds of data. Stacks that reach as high as the ceiling fan. Piles that will collapse all but the most stout table. And if that isn’t enough, we’ll pile on even more.But does the needle move?Data is rarely enough … Read more

Dollars Left on the Table

June 19, 2014

You have a front line staff. You pay them to work with the customers and sell your products. Sometimes they get it right and make more money for the business. Sometimes they leave dollars on the table.All this year I have worked with my staff on how to raise the average ticket, how to get … Read more

How to Write Like a Poet

June 18, 2014

Poets force you to see things differently.Poets get you to feel things you weren’t already feeling.Poets influence you with words.Advertisers rarely make you crack open an eye.Advertisers rarely make you feel anything but indifference.Advertisers rarely use the right words.Unless the advertiser writes like a poet.A groan echoed through the terminal.  A gate change, and now … Read more

No One Likes to Listen to Your Ads

June 17, 2014

Could you stand up to the microphone at a poetry slam and read your radio ads?How fast would you be booed off the stage?I read fourteen of my radio ads the other night. One after the other. Didn’t get booed. Lots of snapping of the fingers (the way you applaud a great line at a … Read more

Take More Risks with Your Advertising

May 20, 2014

(Warning: this blog post contains math – lots of math. Proceed at your own risk)Your traffic comes from three sources…Repeat CustomersReferral CustomersAd-Driven CustomersI was asked once to write down the percentage of customers I believe are Repeat Customers. I wrote down 60%. I guessed 25% for Referral Customers. That left only 15% of my traffic … Read more

Give Them Something to Talk About

May 16, 2014

Roy H. Williams told you that to get Word-of-Mouth you have to do one of three things…Over-the-top DesignOver-the-top Customer ServiceOver-the-top GenerosityThis falls into that first category.Huge kudos to Kristina Smith, who made all the signs (that’s her in the photo). Notice that we positioned this so that when you take a photo of your kid … Read more

Self Service is NOT Customer Service

May 12, 2014

The email read…Hi Phil,I noticed you missed our free webinar on Wednesday, How to Make Your Customers Fall in Love With Self-Service. No worries — I know how busy this time of year can be!Gee, sorry I missed that. NOT.Why would I want to make my customers fall in love with self-service? Why would I … Read more

The Kind of Reviews You Want Your Customers to Write

May 10, 2014

Yesterday’s blog was an example of what not to do. Today is the kind of review you get when the front line staff knows how to make an experience wonderful…“We’re always impressed with customer service at the Toy House, but yesterday was over the top. Our family was there because our son was picking out … Read more

Your Front Line Staff is Selling You Short

May 9, 2014

I got this story from a fellow toy store owner who took her son to a different toy store and gave me permission to share her experience…“My son had a doctor appointment yesterday that was really hard for him. I told him that we passed a toy store along the way and if he braved … Read more

Creating a Shareworthy Customer Service Culture

May 6, 2014

We all know Customer Service is our calling card. It is our path to success. It is the one thing where we can excel far greater than our competitors and kick their asses to the curb.But how do you change the culture of your store to make Shareworthy Customer Service an every day event?Tim Miles … Read more

Features and Benefits Don’t Close the Sale

May 5, 2014

If you’re in sales, you’ve been taught Features and Benefits over and over. Show them the Feature and explain the Benefit they get from that feature.It does this (feature)… so that you get this (benefit)…Show them the F&B and you’ll close the sale… Or not.Probably not.As Bob Phibbs, aka The Retail Doc, shows in this … Read more

I Have a Money Tree

April 26, 2014

I have a Money Tree sitting on my desk. It promises me that if I give it sunlight, water it, and praise it, I will get money as if it grew on trees.I don’t know.I have twelve other “Money Trees” in the store. They are named Ruth, Erica, Lakisha, Kristina, Kathy, Elaine, Amy, Jesse, Richard, … Read more

Don’t Disturb the Bus Driver! (A Lesson from a High School Field Trip)

April 25, 2014

I went on a field trip with my son put on by his band teacher.We saw the Detroit Symphony Orchestra do a Bugs Bunny show – they played the music while the cartoons played on the screen. (Kill the wabbit!!). Took me back to the Saturday mornings of my childhood.We went to lunch at a … Read more

You are in the Job of Persuasion

April 22, 2014

Your job is simple – to persuade.Persuade the best people to work for you.Persuade those people to do more for you than they thought possible.Persuade your vendors to give you good terms for the best products.Persuade your customers to visit you in droves.Persuade them to part with their hard-earned dollars.Persuade them to bring their friends … Read more

For the Win – Best Customer Service Stories!

April 19, 2014

You’ve heard me talk about Over-the-Top Customer Service. See it in action in this article from Mental Floss.http://mentalfloss.com/article/30198/11-best-customer-service-stories-ever-Phil Wrzesinskiwww.PhilsForum.comPS Bring a tissue. A couple are real heart-string tuggers.PPS If you aren’t willing to bend over backwards like these companies did, don’t go complaining that no one ever brags about your “great” customer service, because it … Read more

Getting Customers to Walk Those Last 20 Feet

April 18, 2014

“At the end of the day you’ll get nothing for nothing.” -Les MiserablesI’m on the planning committee for a new street festival that will happen this summer in downtown Jackson. It’s a big one. Artists, Musicians, Restaurateurs, Local Brewers and Wineries, a Color Run and more.Some of the merchants on the streets that will be … Read more

Teach What You Can Teach Part 2

April 16, 2014

In a follow-up to yesterday’s post, today I taught two high school classes. They were Child Development classes and I taught about the importance of Play for child development and how to find the right toys (tools) for Play. I’ve now taught this class to high schoolers, new parents, mom’s groups, and even a grandparents … Read more

Teach What You Can Teach

April 15, 2014

Question number one: What can you teach?Make a list right now. Jot it down on a napkin. Tell it to Siri. What topic(s) do you know enough about that you feel you could teach it to someone who knows nothing?Write. Down. Everything.I can teach…How to tie a shoeHow to squash a bug with a tissueHow … Read more

Brick and Mortar Retail is Alive and Kicking!

April 14, 2014

According to a report from EMarketer, retail sales last year were a whopping $4.53 Trillion. Yes, with a T!E-commerce was $264 Billion of that. That’s 5.8%. Oh, and M-commerce – you know, those mobile apps that are the new hot thing you need to have that are going to eat the computer’s lunch? M-commerce was … Read more

The Sales Process Broken Down

April 13, 2014

This year I am leading my sales staff to water. Fortunately, they are not horses. They are drinking it up.At our monthly team meeting I am breaking down the sales process into small, drinkable chunks.In February we talked about Being Accessible. Customers don’t like to approach a crowd of employees, especially ones engaged in chatter. … Read more

Grow Your Business by Excluding, Not Including

April 12, 2014

“Without a doubt, networks yearn to be bigger and more inclusive. The challenge is to do that without losing what made them work.”   -Seth Godin (read the whole post here) As I was reading that statement from Seth, all I could think about was how this is probably the biggest mistake “networks” make – … Read more

Doing Business When Your Street is Closed

March 22, 2014

Winter is finally giving way to that other season – Construction. Orange cones are popping up everywhere.And shortly after that, if you’re a downtown business, you’ll probably be facing Festival Season – that time of year when the city shuts down the street for a car cruise or an art fair or some other event.Either … Read more

Be the Best at One Thing

March 18, 2014

Quick, name the second place person in the MVP balloting. Any sport. Bet you can’t unless it was your favorite player who got snubbed.When they give out the awards at the end of a sports season, the big winners are always the leader in at least one category. In fact, the short list of potential … Read more

Listening Your Way to Better Sales

March 17, 2014

“The fool speaks, the wise [business]man listens.” -African ProverbHere is one tip to increase your business this year. Are you listening?Be a better listener.What your customer is saying is extremely important. Over-the-top important. It is the center of her universe and the whole reason she is in your store trying to give you money.But she … Read more

Setting Yourself Apart From the Pack

March 11, 2014

I read a fascinating book called Built to Sell by John Warrillow. The book is a business parable about a guy who owns an advertising agency and wants to sell it. His mentor shows him how to transform his business to make it salable.Most retailers would dismiss the book because on the surface it doesn’t … Read more

My Three Biggest Facebook Posts This Year

March 5, 2014

This year I have had three totally different Facebook Posts that stood out among the rest.The first was this…Can you all help me out? I need to hype up our JUST FOR FUN SALE that starts this Thursday 9:30am to 6pm.Hundreds of great toys, hobby and baby products at deep discounts including LEGO and Playmobil, including … Read more

Is it a Business or Just a Job?

March 3, 2014

I work with a lot of smaller retailers – start-ups and indies who are just getting going in this crazy industry we’ve all chosen. Many of them get this one question wrong.Did you start a business or just create a job?Most people think they are starting a business, but in reality all they have done … Read more

People Do Business With People

February 25, 2014

A friend of mine is going through a change with her business. She opted out of a franchise agreement and is now going independent.She had a momentary bout of panic when the franchise webpage listed her store as “closed”. She wasn’t closed. She was open. Just doing business under a different name. How were people … Read more

The Best Ways to Grow Your Facebook Reach

February 21, 2014

Everyone is buzzing about the Facebook Fraud.Real or not, paying for FB to “promote” your page is not a smart way to grow your business.You need FANS not “Likes”. You want people who will engage and share. You want people who want to hear from you. You want people who want to see you succeed. … Read more

Negotiating About Price

February 18, 2014

This article from RetailCustomerExperience.com should be required reading of anyone working indie retail.We all get told at one point or another, “Your price is too high!“This article gives you clear responses that that anyone can use to handle such a situation.(Reader’s Digest version for those lazy people who don’t want to read a five minute … Read more

Tired of Saying No?

February 17, 2014

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? … Read more

It’s the Super Bowl! Don’t be Boring!!

February 2, 2014

Tonight is the Super Bowl. Half of the talk will be about the game. Half of the talk will be about the advertising.Everyone who spent the $4 million for a commercial to air tonight is hoping for one thing – Talk.Good or bad.Just talk about the ad. Please.We will be talking about the best and … Read more

Don’t Marry Your Inventory

January 30, 2014

Yes, you bought it. But not for the long term. Your inventory is more like a one-night stand. Love it and leave it. Love it and sell it. Love it and let it go.Today I am kicking a lot of my inventory to the curb. The Just for Fun Sale starts at 9:30am. Products that … Read more

How Much Cash is Enough?

January 3, 2014

(Warning: This post includes math. If you wish to stick your head in the sand and stay away from all things math, do so now.)This is a big question at the end of the year for pretty much all retailers, especially us seasonal retailers. We’re flush with cash from the big Christmas season. We’re thinking … Read more

Top Ten Blogs from 2013

January 2, 2014

A lot of people thought these blogs were interesting enough to tell others about it. Just in case no one shared these with you, here are the top ten most shared blogs from 2013.Are You Open-to-Buy? Inventory Management is one of the most difficult and costly things to do in retail. Do it right and … Read more

Give Your Business a Physical – Track These Numbers, Too

December 31, 2013

There are many different metrics you need to measure to determine the health of your business. Two of the biggest are Profits and Cash Flow. If both of those are good, your business is probably doing well.But that doesn’t mean you don’t look at other numbers, too. That would be the equivalent of a doctor … Read more

Many Happy Returns

December 27, 2013

Returns are one simple way to set your store above the rest in terms of customer delight. The more you can do to make a customer happy while making a return, the better.Here is what I reminded my staff regarding returns…MANY HAPPY RETURNSActually, we hope we have very few returns, but we do know we … Read more

“No, We Don’t Have That”

December 20, 2013

In these final days, the most common phrase spoken by retail employees everywhere is…“No, we don’t have that.” Or its cousin, “No, we’re out of stock.”Make sure in tomorrow morning’s huddle that you remind you staff that there is a better response…“Let me show you what I do have.”Learn to say that instead.Before you say … Read more

Maximizing the Final Week

December 19, 2013

Five Shopping Days left! Internet no longer a viable option. They have to come see you. Here are some things to remember to make this weekend HUGE!Prep the StoreGet everything out of the warehouse and on the floor, even if you’re making creative piles in the middle of an aisle or off to the side … Read more

You’ve Ruined My Christmas!

December 16, 2013

“You’ve ruined my Christmas!”We’ve all heard it. You can’t be a retailer with 4th quarter traffic without hearing that a few times. The problem is that we often let that statement ruin our own Christmas.Why do we give it so much weight?Why do we let one customer ruin our day, ruin our holiday, ruin our … Read more

Mandatory Breaks – This Means You, Too!

December 14, 2013

It is easy this time of year to work long hours without break. Easy. But not good.Your staff needs to have scheduled breaks to keep them fresh. They don’t have the driving passion you do to refuel them when they hit the wall. They need breaks they can see coming. I’m not talking about okay-there-is-a-lull-go-take-a-break-quick … Read more

Make the Guys Happy This Week

December 13, 2013

Starting today, the guys are hitting the stores. We are last-second shoppers by nature. Ladies shop fifty two weeks a year. The men? Ten days tops. Although I won’t speak for all guys, here are three things you should do to maximize their transactions.Limit their choices. Guys don’t want to make too many decisions. Bog … Read more

Corporate-Speak and Fifty-Cent Words

December 12, 2013

This was in a blog I follow…“In the next three years, retail will reinvent itself as omni-channel leaders reach for customer relationship, relevancy, and reciprocity. A new replacement cycle of enterprise, planning, and commerce systems will anchor complex companywide business transformation for immersive experience and commerce. Quick-to-market leaders will improve same-shopper sales — fast becoming … Read more

The Two Distinctly Different Customers

December 11, 2013

This video is a great summation of many of the ideas and thoughts I have shared with you. I want you to watch it and think about the Transactional vs Relational Customer. I want you to watch it and think about the importance of knowing and showing your Values. I want you to watch it … Read more

When to Stop Buying

December 9, 2013

Christmas is just over two weeks away. Your inventory is running down. You know about the holes on the shelves that you have secretly covered up by spreading things out. You know what you’re out of stock and won’t be able to get back in before Christmas. You’re worried you won’t have enough inventory to … Read more

The Mortar Between Your Bricks

December 6, 2013

They call us Brick & Mortar stores. Physical locations where you go to pick out and pick up your goods.But many stores are simply Brick stores – no mortar. Those are the stores being Showroomed.Bricks are the products. Bricks are the items you choose to put into your store. Bricks are the items you buy, … Read more

Call Me Farmer Phil

December 4, 2013

A toy store in December. Time to harvest the crops. Time to gather the rewards from a long year of planning and preparing for this moment.Yet here we are still planting seeds.Check out this FB post from a customer…We’re always impressed with customer service at the Toy House, but yesterday was over the top. Our … Read more

The Next Transaction

November 12, 2013

Do you know the real goal of each transaction? To earn the Next Transaction.Unless you’re closing the store and selling off your inventory, you’re going to need that next transaction, and the one after that, and the one after that, and so on.You always need one eye on the horizon, one eye fixed on how … Read more

Treat Your Sales Reps as Partners

November 8, 2013

The dreaded sales rep. We all have one. Maybe more than one. The rep that just doesn’t get you or your business. The rep you wish didn’t get all the good lines. The rep who makes you wonder if they even care. The rep that makes you roll your eyes just setting the appointment.Then there … Read more

Do Something Over-the-Top

November 7, 2013

You still have time to pull this off. Christmas is still 48 days away. Do something Over-the-Top for your customers this season.Is parking a problem for your store? Offer Free Valet Parking. Get some young motivated drivers to move the cars to the distant lot (hire the local cross-country team – they don’t mind running … Read more

Asking the Right Questions

November 4, 2013

The first few years I interviewed people for positions on the team I asked a bunch of questions. Most of them were the wrong questions.I asked a lot of “What if…” questions. You know, “What would you do if a customer comes up to you with a complaint about…?”Questions that are based on speculation will … Read more

Making a List, Checking it Twice

November 2, 2013

No, I’m not Santa (although some people in Jackson might disagree).The list I am making is the list of traits my seasonal staff needs to have. Things like…A willingness to learnKnowledge of toysKnowledge of play and play valueAbility to do mathAbility to work on a computerA strong, confident voiceFriendlinessProblem SolverCan giftwrap a packageLoves to help … Read more

Redefining the Terms

November 1, 2013

You don’t sell products. You sell feelings.The jeweler doesn’t sell diamond rings. The jeweler sells the look on her face when he opens the box and asks, “Will you marry me?”The shoe salesman doesn’t sell shoes. The shoe salesman sells the bounce in your step and the self-confidence you have when your feet feel good.The … Read more

Buying Word of Mouth Part 2

October 29, 2013

I bought people talking about my store for only $418.This next project cost about the same – and I didn’t have to pay for it!!Candy Chang started a project down in New Orleans by turning sheets of plywood into interactive works of art by asking people to finish this sentence – Before I die, I … Read more

Your Store is an Extension of You

October 28, 2013

I’ve been preaching this point for a number of years. What is important to you is what you will focus on in your store.We have always been a prompt store. We close at 6:00pm, but we turn out half the lights at 5:55pm and start the process of closing down cash registers while customers are still … Read more

If You’re Not Happy, Don’t Settle

October 27, 2013

I finished the stage, well at least the main part of it. We still have some decorations to complete, but the stage was up, the curtain was in place, people were using it.Something didn’t look quite right to my eye.This morning my wife made a suggestion. She was absolutely right. I had put the curtain … Read more

Buying Word-of-Mouth

October 26, 2013

I bought Word-of-Mouth advertising.Paid just over $400 for it.There are four different ways you can consistently get people to talk about you.Over-the-Top DesignOver-the-Top ServiceOver-the-Top GenerositySharing SecretsRoy H. Williams taught me the first three. The fourth I figured out on my own.Yesterday during our Fourth Friday Game Night we decided to play Charades. It was an … Read more

The Ripple Effect

October 22, 2013

I attended a reunion for former staff at YMCA Storer Camps last weekend. One of the events was celebrating 75 years of their horse program including 50 years of a dedicated ranch just for would-be wranglers.Tom Brown brought out a horse named Zach. Zach was 29 years old and had been giving rides to children … Read more

Head Cheerleader

October 21, 2013

Who is the head cheerleader for your business?Who is the one that puts the smile on everyone’s face and the determination in their hearts? Who picks people up when they are down, finds the silver lining in the cloud, points out the positives?Who raises the energy level up when it starts to lag? Who gets … Read more

What’s in a Name (Tag)? Money!

October 18, 2013

Do you and your employees wear name tags? Are they hidden down at the belt level or on a lanyard so that they turn backwards hiding your name?If your employees cannot be easily identified by name, you are missing one more chance to delight your customers.It is one thing to introduce yourself, “Hi, I’m Phil. … Read more

One Very Important Person

October 12, 2013

You have an opportunity. A true VIP is coming to your door. Someone with a lot of influence. Friends in high places. Someone who makes the who’s who list every time, everywhere.You know you need to step up your game. You know you need to pull out all the stops for this one person. You … Read more

The Math Behind a Sale

October 11, 2013

I had a vendor recently ask me to offer their items at 25% off for a month. They would split the difference of the sale off the wholesale price (12.5% discount on the cost). They figured this would be a big enough deal to drive a lot of traffic.On the surface it looks good. 25% … Read more

Can You Really Buy Loyalty?

October 10, 2013

How many of those loyalty scan cards do you have on your keychain? Your grocery store? Your pharmacy? Your office supply store?Are you going in regularly with those coupons they mail you? Does it make a difference where you shop and how much you buy? For some customers, yes it does. The Transactional Customer loves … Read more

But Why Would I Need That?

October 8, 2013

You can lead a horse to water…My friend, Rick, is a successful dentist with a wonderful practice. He has learned some principles along the way that he shares with other dentists. Good stuff, too, that makes a difference in their practices.My friend, Chris, is an amazing visual artist. He is responsible for making my powerpoint … Read more

Anatomy of a Staff Meeting – Play Value

October 7, 2013

THE GOALEvery staff meeting needs a goal. Not just any goal, but a big goal. Go big or go home.This morning’s staff meeting goal was: This will be a successful meeting if we understand the importance of Play Value, how our toys offer Play Value and the special needs of Play Value.THE TASKAfter that, I … Read more

Broken Communication, Broken Trust

October 6, 2013

One of my employees bought a new house. She got bombarded with the typical mail a new home owner gets. Tons of offers for phone and Internet and cable services. She received close to a dozen offers from one particular company for her cable and Internet.She finally decided to talk to an agent. You all … Read more

More Than a Fair Exchange of Value

October 4, 2013

You all know I follow a bunch of blogs. You’ve probably read a blog or two on my blog roll. I read them because they challenge me. They challenge my thoughts on retail. They challenge what I think I know. A few minutes ago, I read this on a blog about Customer Loyalty.5) Deliver a … Read more

Three More Ways to Freshen Up Your Store

October 2, 2013

I gave you four inexpensive ways to make your store look fresh.Here are three more things you can do that might cost a little more, but will definitely freshen up the place.Do a Wholesale Change of Fixtures. Move them around. Change the directions. Change the locations. Keep in mind things like sight lines, traffic patterns, … Read more

Four (Cheap) Ways to Make Your Store Look Fresh

September 30, 2013

When was the last time you changed things up? Is everything where it was last year? Even if the products have changed, if you haven’t moved the categories around since last year, your store looks soooo 2012.Yet, in a store like mine, where we have huge sections and categories, just changing the merchandising around can … Read more

When to Speed Up, When to Slow Down

September 28, 2013

One speed does not fit all in the retail world. Some shopping trips are quick hitters, kinda like guerrilla warfare – get in, get out, move on. Some are slow, easy strolls. A time for browsing, a time for gabbing, a time for pondering (a time for grabbing?).And even within a single shopping trip there … Read more

Leading from the Conductor’s Podium

September 27, 2013

The conductor of a symphony orchestra has the best seat in the house. All the music is focused right at him. From the podium he hears and sees everything that is going on. He sees things in the back row of brass that the violinists in the front row can’t. He hears things from the … Read more

Storytelling 101

September 26, 2013

“Tell more stories!” they shouted at you. “Stories sell!” they exclaimed. “It’s the best way to market yourself!” they bellowed. After the ringing in your ears faded, you said, “Okay, I have stories to tell.” You start telling them. But deep in the back of your mind, where you let few people enter, you’re wondering. … Read more

Motivating Your Employees

September 25, 2013

This Friday I am doing a talk here in Jackson on motivating your employees. The talk is part of the Small Business Summit put on by OSB Community Bank and takes place at the Grand River Marketplace from 11:30am to 2pm. (Warning: the content of this presentation will make lesser minds explode).You’re invited.I am debating whether … Read more

Emotional Responses

September 24, 2013

“The mind uses logic to justify what the heart has already decided.” -Roy H. WilliamsThe best way to get into the customer’s mind is through her heart. Tell stories. Share values. Speak to the emotions.On the flip side, however, the best way to hold yourself back is to make business decisions based purely on emotions.As … Read more

Are You Planning or Learning?

September 21, 2013

Five years ago, how many of you predicted that Amazon would be the retail power that it is today? How many of you accurately predicted the housing market collapse? How about the Great Recession? Did you nail that one, too?None of us did.Any Five-Year Plans that were made in the beginning of 2008 would not … Read more

What Do You Sell?

September 18, 2013

I don’t sell toys. I sell Play Value.I don’t sell baby products. I sell Peace of Mind, Safety, and Love.I don’t sell books. I sell Imagination, Travel, and Dreams.I don’t sell hobby products. I sell Creation.So why would I be advertising toys, baby products, books and hobbies when I should be selling Play Value, Peace … Read more

Pick One

September 14, 2013

My wife was on the phone calling to get some info about a project we wanted done.The guy on the phone said, “Hold on a second.”She could hear some rustling around, heard him call another person’s name. He finally came back with an answer that she wasn’t sure was directed at her or somebody else. … Read more

I’ve Been Slimed

September 13, 2013

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 … Read more

1063 Sailors

September 11, 2013

One thousand and sixty three sailors. That’s the crew size for the USS Arkansas Battleship on which my grandfather sailed during World War II. He was on board June 6, 1944 just off the northern coast of France. He was on board March 25, 1945 when the bombing began at Okinawa.Somewhere in between, this land … Read more

Marketing is Sharing

September 9, 2013

My wife likes sharing. Put her in a room full of other women and it isn’t a gabfest. It’s a sharefest. Right now, with two teenage boys, it is all about college and college prep. Every uncovered secret gets spread. At last Friday’s football game, while she and the ladies around us shared, I would … Read more

Don’t Be the Little Piggy

September 7, 2013

We all know about the little piggy. He went wee, wee, wee all the way home.As you craft your message for your potential customers this fall, don’t be the little piggy. Take all the “we” statements out of your marketing and change them to “you” statements.We’ve been in business since 1949.You want a company that … Read more

Peeing Before the Race

September 6, 2013

Jeff Foxworthy cracks a wonderful joke about a financial planner who advises that you take half your earnings and shove them under a mattress and the other half down to the track and bet it on the dog “who does his business just before the start of the race.”You laugh because you know there is … Read more

We Need More Rock Stars

September 3, 2013

Not just any Rock Stars – we need Retail Rock Stars. You know the stores I’m talking about. The ones you would be most disappointed if they closed. The ones who always seem to have traffic and buzz and excitement. The ones you think should probably be in a book or something because of how … Read more

Inspiration and Creativity

August 16, 2013

“Where do you get your inspiration for the ads you run on the radio?”“Where do you get the creativity for the ads you run on the radio?”I doubt a week goes by where I am not asked at least one of those questions.My stock response is that’s the fun part of my job. Here is … Read more

Pump Up the Values

August 10, 2013

We took a look at our Core Values of Having Fun, Helpful, Educational and Nostalgic to see where we might be lacking. If you’ve read Understanding Your Brand then you know the importance of making sure your business shows your core values in everything you do.Having Fun: We have toys out for demo all throughout the store. … Read more

Powerful Networking

August 5, 2013

I’m meeting with my US Congressman Tim Walberg in two weeks. He agreed to hold a round table discussion for retailers to talk about the Marketplace Fairness Act and other topics.(Wednesday, Aug. 21 at 8am at the Chamber office for all my local peeps reading this – please join me)A lot of indie retailers think … Read more

Business Boot Camp This Thursday

August 3, 2013

This Thursday, August 8, 2013, I will be holding a four-hour Business Boot Camp on Marketing and Advertising.Four hours of world-class information on Branding and how to make yours stand out in the crowd.Four hours of deconstructing the myths of Advertising, unlearning all those things uninformed advertising sales weasels people tried to teach you.Four hours … Read more

Retail Math is Not So Scary

August 2, 2013

No one signed up for my June Business Boot Camp on Retail Math. (Well, okay, a couple people did, but not enough for the Chamber to make it a go.)I think I know why.Retail Math is scary. So many numbers and ratios and calculations. So much confusion over terminology. Is a credit a good thing, … Read more

Two More Freebies For You

July 31, 2013

Why do I give it away for free? It is part of my Core Values to be helpful.Don’t get me wrong. I love getting paid to sell toys and baby products. I love getting paid to travel across the country and impart some of the lessons I’ve learned to a room full of peers.I also … Read more

Is Word-of-Mouth Advertising or Customer Service?

July 30, 2013

I recently did a workshop in Jacksonville, Florida for PRO on Customer Service. We started with a 45 minute presentation on Generating Word-of-Mouth.Most people think of Word-of-Mouth as a form of Advertising & Marketing, not Customer Service. They would be correct.But…The easiest way to get Word-of-Mouth is to offer over-the-top, OMG, I-gotta-tell-someone Customer Service. Do … Read more

1949 Retail Wisdom

July 29, 2013

I found this old typed memo from my grandfather who founded Toy House in 1949 while sorting through the archives. It was stapled to the top of some mimeographed sheets (remember the mimeograph and it’s purple ink?) of a business plan outline.I think this alone could be the blueprint of a business plan for many … Read more

Showing Your Values

July 28, 2013

I am digging through old archives of our store. One of the Core Values of our business is Nostalgia. We are putting together a display of old pictures and old advertisements from the 1950’s and 1960’s.Tim Miles wrote a great post on whether or not you should use how long you’ve been in business as … Read more

Bye-Bye Buying (A Grandfather’s Wisdom)

July 27, 2013

In 1951 my grandfather and founder of Toy House, Phil Conley, wrote his “Twenty-Two Important Retail Fundamentals”. I just uncovered them going through some old files.Wow!It was amazing how many of them are still true today. Take, for example, number 18 which is appropriate as many of us start buying for the fourth quarter…18. That … Read more

No Ads or Better Ads?

July 26, 2013

The most common complaint about television and radio is that there are too many ads. If that was really true, Satellite radio and premium TV would have killed advertising-sponsored broadcast media. They haven’t and it doesn’t look like they will.But the complaint still sits there and begs the question… Is the problem that there are … Read more

Own Your Mistakes

July 24, 2013

You will make mistakes. In business. In relationships. In parenting. In life. Own them. Admit you did them and learn from them. The worst thing we can do is try to find someone else to blame or be in denial about it.This applies to guys like Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez who cheated with drugs … Read more

Beware the Cocaine

July 16, 2013

This Thursday we are having our one and only big sales event of the year. We call it the Summer Fun Sale. My buddy, Randy, calls it the Make It Go Away Sale. Yes, it is a clearance sale where we mark all the slow moving merchandise, the dogs, down about 50%, put them on … Read more

Toy Store or Summer Camp?

July 15, 2013

Over the past several months my staff has been looking at all the parallels between our store and summer camp.Summer camps are built around a theme (i..e. space and science camp) and a set of core values (i.e. YMCA camps). Our store is built around the theme of toys and baby products with core values … Read more

A Great Use of Stories

July 13, 2013

I ran into Molly on a Saturday morning at the bank.“Phil, we’re having tours of our new building this summer. What are you doing this Tuesday at 5:30?”Molly runs the Center for Family Health, a healthcare facility for Jackson that is especially helpful for low-income, uninsured, and under-insured patients in our community. They just consolidated … Read more

How Much Can You Remember?

July 5, 2013

We played a game at a baby shower for an employee. Someone brought out a tray with random items on it and we were supposed to look at it for about 30 seconds and then write down everything we could remember.While my memory is not quite photographic, I was the hands-down winner, getting sixteen of … Read more

Less is More (Powerful)

July 3, 2013

Take two bottles of perfume. Pour out half the perfume in each bottle. Now fill one of the bottles the rest of the way with water. Leave the other bottle with only perfume.Which perfume is more potent and powerful?Take a 60-second radio ad. Cut out all the black and unnecessary words, the words that do … Read more

Most Ads Suck

July 2, 2013

What is the big draw about satellite radio? No ads. We all hate that break in the station when we get bombarded with ads. Boring, blah, blah, blah ads.It isn’t that we don’t like ads. We actually do. We tune in to the Super Bowl just to see the ads. We like great ads. We … Read more

Gardening, Training, and the Three Bears

June 29, 2013

The rains have been pouring down here at my store. Last night the river crested to the highest I have seen it in over 20 years. It touched the back corner of the building.My wife reported that all of our potted plants at home were swimming in their pots.That’s not good for potted plants. Almost … Read more

What Can You Get for $99?

June 25, 2013

What kind of return would you get if you learned one new technique that cost you nothing, but delighted customers even more than you do today? How would that impact your business for the remainder of the year?What kind of return would you get if someone revealed to you the secret to consistently getting Word-of-Mouth … Read more

Herds, Flocks and Gaggles

June 24, 2013

When a lioness approaches a herd of zebras, she searches for the stragglers, the loners, the ones who have strayed too far away. She isn’t attacking the whole herd. There is safety in numbers and the zebras know it.When a flock of birds flies in formation, they can fly farther than a solitary bird alone. … Read more

Insurance Agents Don’t Understand Customer Service

June 21, 2013

I was in a company store to make a few changes to my cellphone plan (got a new phone for my 12 year old son, which is a whole ‘nuther topic). Got there about thirty minutes before they closed. They were busy. At least six sets of customers in the store at this time. I … Read more

I Tore Up My Office Yesterday

June 5, 2013

I freely admit it. I am not an overly organized guy. I hate filing papers away. I would rather just push it aside for later.We all know later never seems to come.Back in 1998 I moved into the office I currently occupy. Before then I had a desk on the sales floor in our baby … Read more

What Do You Struggle to Train?

June 1, 2013

In a couple weeks I will be doing a workshop at the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) Marketplace & Academy.  This is the big gathering of the specialty toy industry where many of the best independent toy stores will be attending.The workshop I am doing is on Staff Meetings & Trainings Everyone Wants to … Read more

Is it a Win-Win?

May 25, 2013

Do you ever look for the Win-Win scenario?You win, the customer wins?They got their problems solved and the product they needed at a fair price, you got the sale and the smile and the long-term relationship.You win, the vendor wins?You got the product you needed at a margin you can afford, they got the sale, … Read more

How Much Are You Investing in Your Business?

May 22, 2013

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 … Read more

What Makes Them Drive to See You?

May 20, 2013

I plopped down in the back seat next to a newborn baby. Cute little thing. Eyes still closed to the world.The new mama sat on the other side of the seat and asked, “Do we have the straps on right?”They had been in last week to get help installing the seat in their car. Now … Read more

Do You Know Who You Are?

May 17, 2013

Do you know who you are? No, not you. Your business. Well, okay, and you, too.Did you know that as much as you try to keep your business separate, your business is really simply you?You only have so much energy to give to your business. You only have so much energy to teach your staff, … Read more

How to Handle the Crowd

May 13, 2013

I was at a trade show for the baby industry last week. One of those smaller shows with limited vendors and limited hours. My agenda was packed. One of my main vendors went out of business earlier this year and I was searching for a replacement. I had to budget most of my time for … Read more

Selling in a Showrooming World

May 11, 2013

Information wants to be free.Everyone has a smartphone.Much of what you sell can be purchased online – often for less.It has never been easier for a customer to do all the research herself, scan a barcode, and get the best possible price.How are you going to compete?By doing what you’re supposed to be doing anyway … Read more

Information Gotta Be Free, A Good Salesperson is Priceless

May 3, 2013

What did we do twenty years ago when we wanted information on a certain product we were considering?Anyone remember?There was Consumer Reports. There were other magazines that might have done a review or two. There were your friends and family – a much smaller circle before Facebook helped us all reconnect.And there was the salesperson. … Read more

I Did Some Showrooming

April 27, 2013

Showrooming (verb): The act of going into a store to see a product and collect information, then buying it from a different source cheaper.It is the new bad thing that will be the demise of brick & mortar stores trying to compete with Internet warehouses with low overhead in tax-friendly states with minimum wage order … Read more

The Four Questions a Buyer Should Ask

April 22, 2013

One of my vendors did a survey of retailers to get ideas how they could service us better. I told them that there were really only four questions my buyers ask about a vendor before placing an order.Do I like the product enough to want to sell it?Would my customer buy this product?Will selling this … Read more

Plan For Success – Event Style

April 21, 2013

I’m writing this from a chair in the back of a large banquet hall outside of Chicago.  My son is here for the Regional Qualifier Yu-Gi-Oh Card Game Tournament. Registration opened at 8:30am (and he was first in line – made getting up at 4am worth it). The tournament was supposed to start at 10am. … Read more

What Does Your Customer Want to Know?

April 19, 2013

How much product knowledge is enough product knowledge? Simple. Ask yourself…What does the customer what to know?Then make a list for each product.The customer wants to know (in no particular order)…How much does it cost?Where was it made?What materials is it made out of?Why it will solve her problem?What makes it different from all the … Read more

Tim’s Thing

April 17, 2013

Tim Miles is a smart guy. Funny, too. Oh, and quite tall. He makes up words like Shareworthy.He makes up other things, too, like this thing…It is really cool.Most of you instinctively see it for what it is.You have to first figure out the Goals and Values of your business before you do anything else.Then … Read more

The Last Buy

April 16, 2013

The season is almost over and you’re out of a lot of things. Do you make that Last Buy?This is a question that haunts all retailers.If you don’t make the buy, you run the risk of not having what the customer wants which means you lose the sales and you lose their trust. If you … Read more

Tell the Story

April 15, 2013

I stayed at a quaint little Inn on the main drag in Manistee, MI last week. It was an old bank and office building that had been converted into the Ramsdell Inn.The lobby was all marble. The huge safe with the big vault door had been turned into a gift shop.The room was nice, well-decorated. … Read more

Great Minds Discuss Ideas

April 13, 2013

Eleanor Roosevelt said,Great minds discuss ideas;Average minds discuss events;Small minds discuss people.I did a workshop on Staff Meetings Everyone Wants to Attend. After the presentation, I had each table plan a training for their staff. At many of the tables the attendees were discussing ideas and getting excited about sharing those ideas with others. They … Read more

Everything I Possibly Can

April 12, 2013

I went to Manistee, MI and did a full day workshop on Shareworthy Customer Service (thanks, Tim, for that wonderful word). Part of my contract was to visit stores the day before and the day after the event to get a feel for the town and give them some one-on-one time after the workshop.One of … Read more

Managing Expectations

April 7, 2013

Have you ever done something for a customer and been disappointed by her reaction?I mean, something really nice, quite special and unexpected, yet she didn’t respond in kind? She didn’t say thank you or decide to buy more, or promise to bring all her friends back to shop with you?She didn’t even acknowledge that you … Read more

Something for Dads, Something for You

April 6, 2013

(Note: this is a sales pitch. Kinda. There is a lesson at the end if you keep reading.)Twice a month I sit down at the hospital with new expectant daddies. While their pregnant wives watch videos of breast feeding, perineum care, and post-birth issues, I take the guys out in the hallway (yes, relegated to … Read more

The Smartest Kid in the Class

April 3, 2013

When you were in school you either hated the smartest kid in the class or you were the smartest kid in the class. No other options.Now that you’re older, there are three options.You hate that personYou are that personYou seek out that personI hope you’ve moved past number one to either two or three.-Phil Wrzesinskiwww.PhilsForum.comPS … Read more

How Well Do You Know Your Product?

April 2, 2013

My wife sent me into one of the big hardware stores to look at a product for refinishing cabinets. Rust-Oleum has a simple 4-step process that restores, changes, or simply transforms your wooden cabinets without having to strip and sand and labor for weeks.Sounds good to me.Our only concern was that our cabinet doors are … Read more

The Squeegee is Broken

March 29, 2013

I stopped to get gas while on the road today.  The back window of our van gets dirty quickly and the small wiper only creates a partial arc of viewing.I grabbed the squeegee and went to work. First impressions, I knew I was in trouble.  You know that fabric around the end of the sponge, … Read more

A Full Day of Customer Service Training

March 27, 2013

In a couple of weeks I’m going to Manistee, MI, a beautiful small town on Lake Michigan with an active Main Street DDA program and some lovely shops.They’ve hired me to spend a few days working with them on Customer Service. When I get to town, I’m going to visit a few stores and ask … Read more

Why Your Ads Go Viral

March 26, 2013

I just watched an interesting TEDTalk about Why Videos Go Viral from Kevin Allocca, a YouTube Trendwatcher (yes, he watches YouTube videos as a profession).He explains there are three things that make a video go viral.TastemakersParticipationUnexpectednessThe same three things are true of your advertisements.TASTEMAKERSIf someone of importance takes note of your video – a “tastemaker” … Read more

Praying for Customers

March 25, 2013

I know it was tongue-in-cheek (kinda), but when a fellow store owner asked a group of us on FB what we were doing to attract customers, the first response was “Praying”.This might seem like a religious post. If I offend anyone, so be it. But I found the answer to be not only funny, but … Read more

Delight People, and Solve Their Interesting Problems

March 22, 2013

I’m a big fan of Seth Godin. His blog is one of the first I read every day. (He posts Every. Single. Day. and it is usually something quite thought-provoking.)I’m stealing this from Seth, via the good Doctor Rick Wilson, who writes it this way.Delight peopleSolve their (interesting) problemsThe more interesting the problem, the better.Reading … Read more

What is Your Least Favorite Job?

March 19, 2013

You are an independent business owner. You wear many hats. You do many jobs. It is the nature of the beast. Let me ask you one question…What is your least favorite job?What is the one hat that you dread wearing the most? What is that task or duty that you fear, that you would rather … Read more

The Five Drivers of Traffic – Delight

March 18, 2013

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.DELIGHTDelight is probably both the easiest and most difficult of all the drivers to own. Easy because so few companies even try to own it. Sure, they give it lip-service, … Read more

Pendulum Made Easier to Understand

March 13, 2013

I’ve talked about this new book by Roy H. Williams and Michael R. Drew called Pendulum. It really has been an eye-opener for me to understanding how advertising, marketing and selling has changed over the last couple decades.The hard part is trying to explain it. The elevator pitch takes too many floors. Although I read … Read more

The Five Drivers of Traffic – Trust

March 12, 2013

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.TRUSTTrust is earned. You don’t get it automatically. Trust is earned one transaction at a time.  Trust is fragile, too. Trust earned over a period of years or … Read more

The Five Drivers of Traffic – Convenience

March 9, 2013

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.CONVENIENCEConvenience is a tricky subject because there are many different ways to define convenience. You could be considered convenient if it is quick … Read more

A Worthy Goal

March 8, 2013

My dear friend Dr. Rick Wilson, DMD posted an incredibly simple thought that many of us forget.To steal his line… Are we in the business to “get new customers” or “meet someone new and make a difference for them?”One helps the short-term and costs a lot, one helps the long-term and costs a little. Choose … Read more

The Five Drivers of Traffic – Product

March 6, 2013

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.PRODUCTProducts are the stars. Without them, you don’t have a business. You have to have products that people want. Products typically fall into three categories:Commodities – the products … Read more

The Five Drivers of Traffic – Price

March 3, 2013

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.PRICEThere are two pricing schemes that can work to own Price as a driver of traffic – Sales & Discounts and Everyday … Read more

Why JC Penney’s is Struggling

March 1, 2013

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 … Read more

Two Types of Customers (and Other Generalities)

February 26, 2013

(Warning: there are enough bullets in this post for the Zombie Apocalypse. You may want to save it in your favorites just in case…)I sat through a webinar today on advertising. The hosts (whose names shall be withheld to protect the ignorant innocent) said there are three types of customers:Frequent (loyal)Infrequent (fickle)New (not yet a … Read more

Can You Afford to Be a Snob?

February 21, 2013

This was an actual poster put up in a Borders store that was closing.There were three bullet points in there that bothered me (well, okay, the whole thing bothered me, but that’s another story).We hate when a book becomes popular simply because it was turned into a movie.Nicholas Sparks is not a good writer… If … Read more

Reading List (Short Version)

February 18, 2013

For some reason, I have found myself recommending the same three books over and over the past couple weeks. So before anyone else asks, here are those three books.Why We Buy by Paco Underhill – Buy this book if you want to be better at merchandising your store. Buy this book if you want to … Read more

Believing or Behaving?

February 13, 2013

I could probably fill up a whole page with “I Believe…” statements.I believe… specialty independent retailers need to have better customer service than their competitors.I believe… cash is king and sometimes more important than profits.I believe… the store owner who quits trying to learn quits trying to grow.I believe… what gets measured and rewarded gets … Read more

Are You Playing Your Best Card?

February 8, 2013

All through the 80’s, 90’s and even the early 00’s specialty independent retailers had the misfortune of competing with the big box stores like Home Depot, Toys R Us, Michael’s, etc. These Category Killers and the discounters like Wal-Mart, Target and K-Mart forced a dramatic shift in the marketplace.No longer could we afford to carry … Read more

Bacon and Eggs for Breakfast

February 4, 2013

This morning for my staff meeting I served my staff bacon and eggs. Brought in an electric frying pan, started up the bacon about 30 minutes before they arrived. Had some coffee, orange juice and bagels ready, too.Not a bad way to start the day post-Super Bowl. A couple of the more hungover staff truly … Read more

Measure and Reward

February 2, 2013

I’ve often used some form of the quote, “What gets measured, gets managed.”  If you don’t measure what you’re doing, you don’t know if it is improving or getting worse.Last week, I was reminded of a simple change in that statement that raises it to brand new heights.What gets measured and rewarded, gets improved.Measuring is … Read more

Sit in the Hot Seat for a Bit if You Want to Improve

February 1, 2013

I made Ernie sit in the Hot Seat.Ernie knows a lot about sitting in comfortable seats. His company makes the best, custom-built, ergonomically correct office chairs you’ll ever take for a spin. You just haven’t heard of him. Yet.Ernie knows that his product is amazing. He wants his customer service to be amazing, too. So … Read more

Sales Reps are People Too

January 24, 2013

Christmas is over. The dust has settled. The inventory is counted. The phones are ringing. Sales Reps are invading, loaded down with 2013 catalogs, samples, and stories.Some of us dread this. Some of us look upon our sales reps as a whole different breed of creature designed to suck the life out of us (not … Read more

Once Size Does Not Fit All

January 21, 2013

I am doing a training next week for a number of different businesses on Shareworthy Customer Service (with Tim Miles who deserves credit for coining the term Shareworthy). I have been doing a little research on each of these businesses to make sure that what I teach will fit for each business because when it … Read more

Are You Open To Buy?

January 16, 2013

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 … Read more

Is This the Right Price?

January 14, 2013

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, … Read more

Convenience Trumps Price

January 10, 2013

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 … Read more

A Reason to Belong

January 7, 2013

For those of you who have read the new book Pendulum about the shifting outlook of society, you will remember that we are ten years into a “We” cycle. We still have another 30 years to go.For those who haven’t read the book (and I believe it may be the single most important book you … Read more

Most Missed Posts from 2012

January 2, 2013

I posted my top ten most viewed posts in 2012.In all fairness and just for fun, here are the bottom ten – the ten least viewed posts (although I like to think they were just missed.)Read on if you dare…10. From the Mouth of Babes – Two great lessons on Customer Service I learned on … Read more

Top Viewed Blog Posts 2012

December 29, 2012

Everyone loves Top Ten Lists.Here is my list of my Top Ten Most Viewed Blog Posts from 20121. 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 … Read more

Trust is Broken

December 28, 2012

Does it frost you that people shopping online are significantly more willing to trust an anonymous customer “review” than what your well-trained sales staff might say about a particular product?According to Nielsen, although 92% of people surveyed will trust word-of-mouth from friends and relatives, online reviews are close behind at 70%. No form of advertising … Read more

Asking the Right Question

December 22, 2012

Seth Godin writes one of my favorite blogs. His post for today was so short and sweet and thought-provoking that I want to share it with you…Question the questionThe best creative solutions don’t come from finding good answers to the questions that are presented.They come from inventing new questions.-Seth GodinHere are my thoughts…The question most … Read more

Sometimes You Have to Tear it Down

December 18, 2012

They are tearing down the hotel across the street. We have a front-row seat for the destruction as a crane takes it down piece by piece.This is not the first hotel to be torn down in that general vicinity. I watched the previous one be exploded and dropped to the ground. Yes, two large hotels have … Read more

The Preferred Way

December 17, 2012

I hire a lot of new people for the Christmas season. Then I turn much of their training over to the current staff.  Every now and then we run into a problem. One staff person teaches the newbie one way, another teaches them a completely different way to do the same exact thing.The poor newcomer … Read more

How Late Are You Open?

December 16, 2012

This is our number one request from phone callers.How late are you open?Most people don’t know our hours in the first place. Plus, they expect that we will have longer hours for the holidays.How late are you open?It is an easy question to answer when you are open and already answering the phone. But what … Read more

Head Cheerleader (re-posted from Dec, 2010)

December 15, 2012

(This was first posted Monday, December 20, 2010, but worth repeating)(Nine) shopping days until Christmas. In the home stretch. You’re tired, run down and stressed, just counting the days. Your friends and family are encouraging you to “Hang in there, it’s almost over.” Sorry to burst your bubble, but you need to do more than just … Read more

Handling Multiple Customers at Once

December 13, 2012

This is the time of year when the customers outnumber the staff. That is both a good thing and a bad thing. Good because extra traffic means extra sales. Bad because you cannot give each customer the time they need to maximize those extra sales and you often lose a customer while you’re working with … Read more

Measuring People

December 12, 2012

“What gets measured gets done.” Frances SchagenThis is not a post about Financials. You can read more about financials here.This is not a post about Inventory or Open-to-Buy. You can read more about those topics here.Numbers are important. Very. Important. But at the end of the day it is people who create those numbers. If … Read more

Snapshots in Time

December 11, 2012

One thing that used to drive me crazy in retail was when we had just finished with a huge rush of customers, finally got a moment to breathe, and at that exact moment my father would walk out, see us standing around and yell at us to get busy since we were obviously loafing.Had he … Read more

Why You Should Go to Austin, Part 2

December 5, 2012

Yesterday I told you my three answers to Wizard Academy Vice Chancellor Michele Miller’s questions about the Shareworthy Customer Service class I am teaching with Tim Miles January 29-30.Here are Tim’s answers…Michele: How did you two come up with the idea of teaching this class?Tim: About a year ago, two things happened in the same … Read more

Why You Should Go to Austin in January

December 4, 2012

You should go to Austin, Texas at the end of January. Really, you should. It will be more than worth your while.On Tuesday and Wednesday, January 29th and 30th, I’m teaching a new class about Shareworthy Customer Service at the 21st Century Business School known as Wizard Academy with a fellow named Tim Miles. It’s … Read more

Non-Mystery Shoppers (Group Therapy)

November 30, 2012

I was asked recently for my take on the Mystery Shopper program – hiring anonymous people to be shoppers in stores and rate those stores on their appearance, helpfulness, and all other aspects of retail.The idea behind these is that often what a shopkeeper thinks is great customer service is not perceived that way by … Read more

Get in the Paper or On the Air

November 28, 2012

Rarely does a month go by that I don’t have my store mentioned in the local newspaper, on local radio, or local TV. Heck, rarely does a week go by, especially during the holidays, that I don’t get some complimentary coverage for something we are doing.I don’t think it is because I am more newsworthy … Read more

Take a Stand For Something

November 26, 2012

Want to get some FREE publicity? Take a stand for something. Draw your line in the sand and make it known on which side you stand. The press loves stories like that.Want to get some Word-of-Mouth publicity? Take a stand for something. Be adamant about what you will, and sometimes more importantly, what you won’t … Read more

Perception or Reality?

November 25, 2012

Another toy store owner was interviewed recently for a local news story on shopping local. The interview was great. The store looked great. The troubling part was a simple comment made by the anchor after the interview was done.She said, “The mom and pop stores, sometimes they don’t have flexible return policies should something not … Read more

The Coolest Store in Town

November 24, 2012

I was walking out of the grocery store a couple nights ago and caught my reflection in the window. I had on my Toy House jacket and saw our distinctive logo staring back. At that moment it dawned on me. I own the coolest store in Jackson.Oh sure, there may be a few people who … Read more

Fair and Square

November 12, 2012

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 … Read more

Tell Me About a Time When…

October 30, 2012

I’m doing interviews for seasonal staff. Since actions speak louder than words, my favorite questions tend to all start the same.Tell me about a time when……you went above and beyond the call of duty on your last job.…you received customer service so great you had to tell someone about it.…you had to work with another … Read more

Date Change

October 26, 2012

We changed the dates on the Shareworthy Customer Service class that Tim Miles and I will be teaching at Wizard Academy.The new dates are now Tuesday and Wednesday, January 29-30, 2013. Plan on being there.  It will be the best investment you make in your business next year.-Phil Wrzesinskiwww.PhilsForum.comPS  What will it take for you … Read more

Mixed Message

October 24, 2012

I was in Louisville, KY last week for the ABC Expo, the biggest trade show for the juvenile products industry. A trade show this big deserves decorations just as big. And sure enough, right outside the Expo Center was a twenty foot tall rocking chair……with an unfortunate sign in front of it.This was the first … Read more

Two Days to Take Your Customer Service to Shareworthy Levels

October 10, 2012

I’ve written about Wizard of Ads partner – the incomparable Professor Tim Miles.He wrote the e-book on Shareworthy Customer Service. He also wrote a book called Good Company. He’s tall. He’s smart. He makes up (really cool) words. And he knows more about how to improve your Customer Service than most people walking this planet.In … Read more

Don’t Hide Your Agenda

October 9, 2012

I was about to write a blog about the importance of the little details, like a clean bathroom, and how even those small things need to be consistent with your branding, your Core Values, otherwise they could undermine all the good you do.I saw a headline and a survey that said 62% of customers think … Read more

No One is Buying the Hype

October 8, 2012

Greatest (biggest, best…) ever!As soon as you hear it, you dismiss it.  You’ve been burned too many times.  If it sounds too good to be true, you know it probably isn’t. Hype is dead.  Hype has been laid to rest.  People aren’t buying it anymore.If your advertising campaign is built on the next biggest, greatest … Read more

Third Time’s a Charm

October 5, 2012

I did a new talk for the Monroe Chamber of Commerce’s Business Summit three weeks ago called “Better Your Business by Being Your Business Better”.    It is a mix of lessons and case studies of companies that are staying true to their Core Values and reaping the benefits.  Works well as a keynote or workshop.  Full … Read more

Every 80 Years

October 2, 2012

“The reason history must repeat itself is because we pay so little attention to it the first time.” -Blackie SherrodGo back in time to the early 1940’s.  What was happening?  Easy question… World War II. Go back another 80 years to the 1860’s.  What was happening?  Another easy question… The Civil War.Go back another 80 … Read more

I’m Gonna Raise Your Sales 300%!

October 1, 2012

I was at a conference where one of the speakers promised us he could raise our sales 300%!Yeah, like me, you’re all laughing at him.  Huckster, Snake Oil Salesman, Liar Liar Pants on Fire and other derogatory terms crossed your mind.  But after further review, I think his plan was solid and would probably work. … Read more

Is 90% Good Enough?

September 27, 2012

Last night I went to a Band Parent Meeting for my freshman trumpet player.  The band instructor set up the cafeteria so that he could teach a class and let the parents see how he teaches.  It was a fascinating glimpse into the world of musical instruction.At one point the instructor talked about his grading … Read more

When it Rains…

September 22, 2012

Yesterday afternoon I watched my son run a cross country race in the rain.  Some of the hundreds of spectators had umbrellas, some had raincoats, some had no protection at all.  I read the weather reports.  I had an umbrella and a raincoat.After the race that same son had to rush to the football stadium … Read more

An Article You Should Read

September 19, 2012

I just finished reading a fascinating study done by Forbes on Middle Market Companies (click here to get the study – yes, you need to give your email to them, their rules, not mine.)In spite of the economy, middle market companies are growing and they are creating jobs.One telling statistic was when they were asked…What … Read more

Two Ways to Use Facebook Better

September 18, 2012

Social media is not a new form of advertising.  But it is a new method for branding your business.Facebook is not a new avenue to talk at your customers.  But it is a new method for talking with your customers.The biggest mistake most businesses make with social media (heck, with all forms of advertising) is … Read more

Fake It Til You Make It

September 17, 2012

When you smile, the simple act of your muscles pulling the lips upward sends a signal to your brain.  Your brain begins releasing Endorphins that lower your stress.  It also sends a signal to your brain to release Serotonin, which boosts your immune system, gives you energy, and makes you feel good.Even when the smile … Read more

What Did You Do Last Week?

September 15, 2012

What did you do this past week?  Write it all down.  Short-hand, as a bullet list, paragraph form, whatever it takes.  Write it ALL down.  Go ahead.  I’ll wait…I played golf (twice), won a golf scramble tournament.  I led a group of Emerging Leaders through a Team Building training and then taught them how to … Read more

Don’t Know What to Do

September 9, 2012

My son is a freshman on the cross country team.  He needs to do running on his own over the weekend (which, of course, means running with dad).  Time got away from us and the sun was setting on our weekend.  We decided to go to the middle school where they have coin-operated lights on … Read more

Shopping Local Benefits Salt Lake City

August 31, 2012

More good news!  Another study has come out showing the HUGE economic benefits of shopping local.http://www.ilsr.org/independent-businesse-deliver-bigger-economic-benefit/(For those of you who either can’t or won’t follow the link, the gist of the story is that a study of impact on the local economy in Salt Lake City showed that local retailers recirculate about 52% of their … Read more

What to Do About Showrooming

August 30, 2012

We all have been showroomed.  The customer comes in, looks at your stuff, then leaves the store only to order the same items online.  Heck, maybe you have done some showrooming yourself.I had a customer who came in, asked our opinion about car seats, had us show her how they all fit in her car, … Read more

Starting or Finishing?

August 28, 2012

I asked some fellow store owners for their thoughts on the following quote:“Don’t worry about finishing, just get going.”Is this appropriate advice for a retail store?Their thoughts were quite interesting. Many people loved it, felt that it embraced their entrepreneurial spirit.  To them it meant to quit worrying about results and just start doing things. … Read more

Changing a Customer’s Mind

August 25, 2012

About 40% of the population are going to vote Democratic in the next election no matter what.  Another 40% are going to vote Republican no matter what.  Their minds cannot be changed.  These people are easy to identify.  They are the ones posting sound bites and article links all over Facebook.The real political battle is … Read more

Self Serve Checkout Equals Poor Serve Checkout

August 22, 2012

I know why stores starting implementing Self-Serve checkout.  It was supposed to save them money and speed up the checkout process.  You could have six lanes open with only one cashier.Some argued that not only was it more efficient, it also helped Customer Service.  You never had to have a customer leave unhappy because of … Read more

Thoughts From a Wedding

August 21, 2012

I attended my sister-in-law’s wedding last Saturday out in sunny San Diego and have some random thoughts for retailers from my weekend trip.Hide the BackroomThe lovely couple did all of their own planning for this backyard wedding including doing all the food themselves (with the help of their families).  I was there to help out … Read more

How You Lead

August 15, 2012

My boys (ages 11 & 13) asked me a question about why I was so flexible and accommodating in scheduling my staff.  They figure I could schedule the staff all the worst hours and save only the easiest hours for myself.They liked my answer.Leadership.There are many styles and philosophies on leadership.Role ModelYou can lead from … Read more

Stay Above the Fray

August 14, 2012

Mudslinging and politics seem to go hand in hand.  You’ve read enough articles about how effective negative campaigning is for political contests that you realize it isn’t going away any time soon.Some of you have even wondered if it will work for your store.It won’t.Here is why…When it is a one-time vote between only A … Read more

Politics and a Plan

August 13, 2012

The political campaign is upon us.  Let the mudslinging begin!Don’t you hate when one side criticizes the plan of the other without offering a plan of their own?  Me, too.  But I know why they do it.  It is easier to rip someone else apart, than it is to counter with a plan of your … Read more

Convenience Trumps Price

August 11, 2012

In case you need more proof that not every customer shops on price, a new study on Back-to-School shopping by WSL/Strategic Retail shows that only 26% of customers are chasing BTS price promotions to do their shopping.Instead they are shopping based on Convenience.  Seventy five percent are going to stores where they believe they can … Read more

Yes, I Forgot

August 10, 2012

The first phone call this morning was a guy wanting to know more details about the play we were hosting this afternoon.Play?  You sure you’re calling the right place?He was.  A month or so ago I had agreed to allow the Michigan Shakespeare Festival’s Shakespeare for Kids program to do a performance of Snow White … Read more

A Customer Service Story You Gotta Read…

August 8, 2012

My friend, Cynthia Compton, owns 4 Kids Books and Toys near Indianapolis.  Her store, as many toy stores do, offers to host birthday parties.  The kids come in, do crafts and activities, have fun and (hopefully) spend some money in the store.  Yes, there is a fee the birthday family must pay.  But the true hope … Read more

It’s All in the Packaging

August 7, 2012

Joshua Bell is a world-class violinist who demands $100 or more per ticket for concerts at places like Carnegie Hall.  As a social experiment he played in the Washington, DC subway to see if people could tell the difference between a virtuoso and a street musician.As expected, most people walked right by him and his … Read more

It’s Our Policy

August 4, 2012

When you hear a sales clerk say they can’t because “it’s our policy” don’t you just want to throttle them?Cinda Baxter of The 3/50 Project wrote a wonderful blog on exactly that topic and called those the three worst words to say to a customer, based on an experience that many of us will find … Read more

Get the Wizard for FREE!

August 3, 2012

You all know I am a huge fan of Roy H. Williams, aka The Wizard of Ads.  I have trained at Wizard Academy and owe much of my success to the lessons I learned there.  I am also a devoted follower of Roy’s Monday Morning Memo.For me it all started with his book Wizard of … Read more

Are Your Staff Experts?

August 2, 2012

Of course they are experts!  You trained them to be experts.  Here is an easy way to prove to your customers that your staff are experts.I saw this at The Harvard Book Store.  Each staff member made a recommendation including a little card with a reason why they suggested that particular book. Two things impressed … Read more

I Went to Harvard

August 1, 2012

Well… umm… I went to Harvard yesterday… while I was in Boston visiting another toy store owner.I thought about applying to Harvard when I was in high school.  I had the grades.  I had the test scores.  I had the extracurriculars.  I only needed to take three more tests and I could apply.  Problem was, … Read more

Magnetic Love and Hate

July 28, 2012

Take two magnets and push them together.  See how well they connect.  If they are strong enough, one can actually attract the other one to it.Now turn one magnet around.  See how it pushes the other magnet away? Magnets are governed by universal laws of physics.  The stronger the magnet’s ability to attract, the more … Read more

Advertising Versus Public Relations

July 27, 2012

I may be different because I look at Advertising and Marketing and Public Relations as just similar types of the same product – exposure of your business to the public.  You can add Location to that mix, too.  You can even add Customer Service.  All five serve the same purpose.  They just do it a … Read more

Return on Investment

July 25, 2012

In June 2011 we launched a generous Birthday Club.  We offered our customers a $10 gift certificate on their birthday and a chance to ring the Birthday Bell – a thirty-two pound brass bell hanging on a pole in the middle of our store.We were looking for three things from this promotion.  Traffic, Smiles, and … Read more

Do We Need a Law for This?

July 24, 2012

There is a bill before the State Senate in Michigan called the Family Education Leave Act that allows employees up to 10 hours of unpaid time off each year to attend school functions without retribution from the employer.My first thought was… Really?  We need a law for that?Let’s start with this simple premise… Your business is … Read more

What You DID Build

July 21, 2012

There is a lot of furor over President Obama’s statement,“If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen.”I know when I first read it, it made my blood boil.  Then I stopped, took a deep breath and went looking for the complete quote to see how it had to have … Read more

Thanks! It Works!

July 20, 2012

I have been teaching a class for new and expectant fathers through our local hospital for the past ten years.  Twice a month I sit these daddies-to-be around a table and teach them how to change a diaper, swaddle a baby, and take care of the mother.  Our two-hour time together is one of my … Read more

Don’t Marry Your Inventory

July 19, 2012

I had a buyer who insisted that he had to keep 24 pieces of a particular item in stock.  It was a “must have” item, he told me time and time again.  Fortunately, we have a POS system that tracks the sales of these “must haves”.  In the previous 18 months he had sold exactly … Read more

It’s Good for Morale, Too!

July 18, 2012

Do you have a way for your customers to tell you what they think?  Most of them won’t say it to your face.  Only a small handful will pick up the phone and call.  A few will post it on Facebook.  But wouldn’t it be better to capture their joy and excitement of visiting your … Read more

Do This Math – Now!

July 17, 2012

Do this math.  It is easy.  If you have a POS system worth a damn, it is really easy.On the first of every month run a report that shows you your total Inventory at Cost that you have on hand.  Write it down.  Put it in a spreadsheet.  Just collect that number Every. Single. Month. … Read more

Make it More Fun

July 16, 2012

At a recent conference I attended, a statistic was thrown out from the National Retail Federation that 78% of customers say they would shop somewhere else that is more fun.  I couldn’t find the source for that stat.  But let’s just assume it is true that a large percentage of people will choose fun over … Read more

What Would You Do With…?

July 14, 2012

What would you do with 60 copies of the book Hiring and the Potter’s Wheel: Turning Your Staff Into a Work of Art?Would you use them to prop up a table leg or two that is out of balance?  Would you use them as a door stop to keep the front door open when the … Read more

Pinterest and Twitter and Facebook, Oh My!

July 11, 2012

The Social Media mavens tell you that you have to maximize your presence on Twitter… and Facebook… and Pinterest… and Google+… and LinkedIn… and…I mean, they’re free, right?  Why wouldn’t you?Of course, these are the same gurus who used to be in traditional advertising and told you to make sure you had your message on … Read more

What Do They Know?

July 10, 2012

Your customers know a lot.  You know that.  They often know as much about your products as you do, and usually way more than the part-time neighborhood kid you hired to answer phones and wrap gifts.Where did they get that info?From that most informative and reliable source… say it all together……their friend!What? You thought I … Read more

No One Else Does It That Way

July 9, 2012

Here is a phrase you need to tune your ears to hear.“But no one else does it that way…”That phrase is money.  Gold.  Pure platinum.To do something remarkable, you have to do something worth remarking.  Nobody remarks on the stuff everyone is doing.  They only remark on the stuff no one else is doing. So … Read more

In the Shark Tank

July 7, 2012

I was watching my new favorite Reality TV Show last night – The Shark Tank. Entrepreneurs with dreams go before five filthy rich people like NBA Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and QVC celebrity inventor Lori Greiner to make a pitch for money to help them launch a new product or service.  The Sharks then … Read more

Twenty Five Cents is Golden

July 6, 2012

What if I told you that for only 25 cents per customer who walks through your door tomorrow you can generate a thousand dollars worth of advertising?What if I told you that a small gesture on your part will make a huge difference that sets you far apart from your competition?What if I told you … Read more

Recharging Your Batteries

July 5, 2012

It is 100 degrees out there.  Maybe if you live in Phoenix, that is no big deal.  But in Michigan that is a scorcher.  Easy to just want to phone it in.  No energy to do what you need to do.It is middle of winter, the Christmas season well behind you, the buzz is gone … Read more

Every Picture Tells a Story

July 3, 2012

I took these photos in the book department at our local Meijer’s store.Although it did give me a chuckle, I am not sure I want the kind of “self-help” that Captain Underpants might supply.  Nor do I think Michigan Chillers is going to get anyone on the right track in their lives.But it reminds me that we … Read more

Easier to Shoot Low

June 30, 2012

It is so much easier to lower expectations than it is to raise them.  So much easier to complain that Obamacare will cost too much, the Republicans will cut too much, the stock market will be too volatile, the economy isn’t growing fast enough, our local government is holding us back, the Internet is hurting … Read more

Different Campaigns for Different Customers

June 27, 2012

I learned this from Roy H. Williams, aka The Wizard of Ads…I use radio as my primary source of branding advertising trying to attract the Relational Customer.  But I also use radio for my one and only Transactional Customer event – our Summer Fun Sale.  Both campaigns are on the same medium but trying to … Read more

Schedule to the Peak

June 22, 2012

I just received my Profit Survey back from the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA).  Every other year they have toy stores submit their financials to help us see what the Balance Sheet and Profit & Loss might be for a typical indie toy store.  It is a fascinating document full of amazing facts and … Read more

Same Advice, Different Day

June 20, 2012

Seems like I have been giving the same advice to many different types of businesses lately.  I hope I’m not becoming a one-trick pony.  The advice is solid, though.  In fact, I believe it is the foundation to everything else you do for your business. It is the foundation to the type of products you … Read more

What Your Employees Really Want

June 16, 2012

Don’t you love it when the keynote speaker tells you to do three things and you’re already doing them?I had that experience last Wednesday at the ASTRA Marketplace & Academy. Our closing speaker was Barbara Glanz.  You might remember her from the YouTube inspirational customer service video Johnny the Bagger.  Barbara talked about a number of topics, … Read more

When and What to Change

June 15, 2012

Rich Kizer and Georganne Bender challenged me and a whole bunch of other toy store owners to change 10% of our store each and every year.  The premise being that what you do that is special today will seem ordinary and expected tomorrow.The famous gymnast Mary Lou Retton tells the same thing.  What wins Olympic … Read more

Working ON vs Working IN (Part 2)

June 14, 2012

At the panel discussion at the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) this past week, we discussed the concept of working ON versus working IN your business.  To clarify the concepts I asked the audience to define which of the following were IN and which were ON.  The results were interesting…Marketing & Advertising – ONHiring … Read more

Working ON or Working IN?

June 5, 2012

The big dilemma for most independent store owners is…How much time should I spend working ON my business versus working IN my business?I am going to be moderating a panel discussion at the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association Academy & Marketplace this coming Sunday on that topic.  I have asked my panelists to answer three … Read more

Better Than Brainstorming

June 4, 2012

I just finished reading an amazing book, Imagine by Jonah Lehrer.  His was not the first book, but simply the most recent to dispel the notion of brainstorming, how it has been proven to be one of the least effective methods of creativity.I admit, I was a brainstorming junkie.  As a typical extroverted, talk-to-think person, … Read more

A Bad Day at Golf

June 1, 2012

Those of you who golf know this saying…A bad day at golf beats a good day at work anytime.I put that saying to the test today. I played in a charity golf scramble for The Exchange Club of Jackson to benefit the Jackson County Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect.  It was low 50’s and … Read more

Raindrops Keep Falling on My (Son’s) Head

May 31, 2012

For the last 2 hours my 13-year-old son and I have been on a search of a raincoat.  We live in Michigan, one of the top ten states for # of rainy days per year.  All we wanted was a simple raincoat with a hood, size adult small.We went to four department stores, no luck. … Read more

New Way to Get This Blog

May 30, 2012

Okay, full disclosure… My wife made me do it, lol.Over on the right of this blog is a new feature – Follow by Email.My wife was complaining that she only follows this blog so it wasn’t worth opening up an RSS feed just for me.  She wished she would get the blog via email.  So … Read more

Don’t Make Them Guess

May 29, 2012

Have a different way of doing things?  Don’t make your customers guess.  Tell them right up front.  Here is how we do things.  Put it on a sign.  Put it in a brochure, flier, or even a simple handout.  Make sure every employee tells it to every customer.  Never assume they know.  Never assume they … Read more

It’s Not a Battleship at War

May 28, 2012

“To open a shop is easy, to keep it open an art.” – Chinese Proverb“If making a profit were easy, everyone would be doing it.” – Roy H. WilliamsMy grandfather, who founded Toy House in 1949, served on the USS Arkansas Battleship during World War II.  68 years ago today he was training for D-Day. … Read more

A Tough Question

May 26, 2012

I have been asked to apply for a position on an advisory board for a new retail organization.  Part of the application process includes a questionnaire.  I am stuck on the last question…Without regard for funding, what is one area of concentration or program you would implement today to help independent specialty stores survive? There are … Read more

Pulling for Karen

May 25, 2012

I’m pulling for Karen. I wasn’t at first.  But now I am hoping Karen succeeds.Karen was our bus driver for a fifth-grade field trip to Gettysburg, PA, Baltimore, MD and Washington, DC.  And she was the worst tour bus driver I have ever encountered.Missed turns?  Every. Time. We. Got. On. The. Bus.  We saw places … Read more

The Waiting Game

May 23, 2012

Speaking of what to do while waiting…I took this picture in the stall of the men’s bathroom at the National Aquarium in Baltimore. (sorry for the poor cellphone quality of the pic)There were animal poop and pee facts in every stall.  (Did you know a blue whale can hold over 55 gallons of urine in … Read more

From the Mouths of Babes

May 22, 2012

I’m on a field trip with my fifth-grade son to Washington DC.  I get to watch over three young boys this evening.  So I asked them after a full day of touristing… What would you consider to be the best and worst customer service you received today?The best?  Happened in the Food Court at the … Read more

Penny Wise, Pound Foolish

May 21, 2012

You are not in business to make pennies.  You are in business to make dollars, lots of them, over a long period of time.So why are you getting so upset at the customer who didn’t come in right away to use to the free gift certificate you gave her?  Why are you mad at her … Read more

Not Wide Enough

May 19, 2012

I pulled into the hospital parking lot.  I had a Daddy Class to teach in 15 minutes.  I hate this parking lot.  Almost with a passion, which seems much too strong a feeling for a patch of pavement with white lines. My problem is the white lines.  They are too close together.  My Chevy Silverado … Read more

Financials You Can Understand

May 18, 2012

I told you about the book I wrote for the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association called Financials You Can Understand: Building Blocks for Successful Toy Stores.The book is finished, published and available for purchase. Here is what the editors wrote about the book…“After reading this book you will know and understand all of the numbers … Read more

Tell Me a Story

May 17, 2012

Quick, tell me a story about a recent transaction in your business that made you laugh…Didn’t take long to think of something, did it?  The hardest part was probably deciding which story to tell.We all have a backlog of stories we can share; some touching, some hilarious, some that get your blood pressure up. Do … Read more

Grandfather’s Wisdom

May 16, 2012

Back in 2008 I interviewed my grandfather, Phil Conley, who, along with my grandmother Esther, founded Toy House, Inc. back in 1949.  Check out this exchange about Customer Service and return policies…Phil Wrzesinski: But, as far as the competition, did you give them [competitors] as much mind or did you say, “We’re going to do … Read more

Open For Business?

May 15, 2012

It is 5:26pm as I type this.  My business is still open a little bit longer.  But the local appliance store where I need to go to get the replacement filters I ordered will be closed before I publish this post.They won’t be open this weekend when I have time off either.Guess it is a … Read more

Excerpt from Hiring and the Potter’s Wheel

May 15, 2012

Here is another excerpt from my book Hiring and the Potter’s Wheel: Turning Your Staff Into a Work of Art.If you buy 60 books, one full carton, at the regular price of $1200, I will travel at my own expense to see you* and give you four hours of my business knowledge in the form … Read more

I Didn’t Do It

May 14, 2012

Last Saturday we celebrated National Train Day.We had a face-painting booth.We had a huge train cut-out for photos.We had train-shaped cookies.We had train whistles to give away.We had a train coloring contest.We had three train play tables out around the store.We had train storytelling.We had an electric train display.We had a model railroading expert talking … Read more

Same Song, Different Dance?

May 12, 2012

Let me tell you a cautionary tale, one you probably already know…Your company has some burdens, costs of doing business where you live.  Could be property taxes, licenses, etc.  Mandated costs that you have a legal obligation to pay.  You price your product to make sure you cover those costs, but even then you don’t have full … Read more

Planning an Event

May 11, 2012

Saturday is National Train Day.We sell trains… Electric, wooden, and everything in between.  We are celebrating in style. Activities for participants? Check.  Along with our usual train displays (and a couple new ones we are bringing out) we are doing face painting, coloring contests, having kids sign our almost life-size train poster, train photo ops, … Read more

They Aren’t YOUR Customers

May 9, 2012

You know YOUR customers.  You know their demographics, maybe even their psychographics.  You know their shopping habits.  You know their likes and dislikes.  You talk about YOUR customers lovingly. But they aren’t YOURS.  Even the evangelists.Yes, they support you.  Yes, they spread the word about you.  Yes, they defend your good name.Yes, they bought something … Read more

I Can’t Find My Desk

May 8, 2012

Oh, I know my desk is there, buried under papers needing filing, orders that have been placed, reports that were read, catalogs that have come in.  I just don’t like spend my time putting that stuff away. My wife and my employees agree that I need a secretary.  I am working towards that goal.  In … Read more

Buy the Book, I’ll Speak for FREE

May 7, 2012

(I know you know someone who could use this.  Please share it with that person.)My book, Hiring and the Potter’s Wheel: Turning Your Staff Into a Work of Art comes packed 60 books to the carton.  What would you do if you had 60 of these books?  Do you know some businesses who could use … Read more

The Price is Right

May 5, 2012

A recent survey done by The NPD Group states that 85% of customers say that Price will be an extremely important or important factor in where they decide to shop in the future.I would agree.  In fact, I am surprised it is not higher because almost every single buying decision ultimately ends up being about price.But … Read more

Cultivating Ideas

May 4, 2012

One of my staff came up to me… “Phil, I have an idea…”Great!  Run with it!Don’t you want to hear it, first?No.  I trust you.  Just tell me when you’re ready to launch.I could have taken a number of different approaches to this. I could have…Patiently listened to the idea, giving my input, tweaking it … Read more

Shareworthy Customer Service by Tim Miles

May 2, 2012

I wrote an eBook called Customer Service: From Weak to WOW!.  You’ve probably downloaded it already (it is free).Tim Miles wrote one too.  His eBook – Shareworthy Customer Service – is definitely shareworthy.  I have read through it twice and I’m working on a third time.  I am going to use it in my next staff … Read more

Monthly Chores

May 1, 2012

Today I…Balanced the store’s checkbookRan Sales Reports by departmentMeasured GMROI by departmentRan current Balance SheetRan Profit & Loss for the month and year-to-dateSat down with my buyers to make sure we were on trackMonitored Cash Flow*I’m not bragging.  I’m not even saying I liked doing any of those things. I am more Big Picture than … Read more

The Goldilocks Effect

April 29, 2012

That porridge was too hot.  That porridge was too cold.  But this porridge is just right.And so goes the fairy tale we all know as Goldilocks.And so goes the dilemma all retailers face.  How do we have a “just right” product for all the Goldilocks who walk through our doors?  Do we go deep? Or … Read more

An Expensive But Effective Form of Advertising

April 27, 2012

I was doing my presentation Customer Service: From Weak to WOW! yesterday, talking about how to deal with unhappy customers.  Someone brought up the question…“But what if there is a problem with the product and the manufacturer won’t back you up?”I answered that I have taken a loss on products a number of times to … Read more

That Kind of Customer

April 25, 2012

Don’t you just hate the customer who walks in, looks around, and then asks, “What kind of deal can you make me?”  No deal, no special, they aren’t buying.  Not only that, they are walking out grumbling as though you missed the boat. Everyone else has a special. Why not you?Let me ask you this…Would … Read more

How Good are Your Sales Reps?

April 20, 2012

Maybe I am biased.  My sales reps are for the most part pretty good.  Maybe it is because I am a big account in this territory.  Maybe it is because we just have good reps in our area.  Maybe I am just lucky.  But I get frustrated when I hear other retailers complaining about their … Read more

Back it Up

April 17, 2012

I’m writing this from my laptop – not because I am traveling but because this morning when I arrived at work my desktop computer would not start.Yeah, the desktop was old.  Was running Windows XP.  Was running Microsoft Office 2003.  I think it died of old age. This time I will finally replace it.  I’m … Read more

What Do You Sell?

April 14, 2012

I don’t think I know any toy store owners who didn’t like the movie Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium starring Dustin Hoffman and Natalie Portman.  It immediately made my top 5 list of all-time favorite movies.For me, the beauty was in the name of his store which described what he sold with ultimate clarity.  Mr. Magorium … Read more

Be Proud of Your Pricing

April 13, 2012

How much?Well… before I tell you that, let me tell you all that you get.We’ve all had that moment.  The customer wants to get to the bottom line before you’ve had a chance to talk up the product.  You hesitate because you are afraid the customer will balk at the price.  You know it is … Read more

Wonder Branding Reinvented

April 11, 2012

There is a blog in my blog roll that you regulars may have noticed did not have an update for the last several months – until two days ago.Michele Miller took a break to reinvent herself – something I think all businesses need to do from time to time to make sure they are fresh … Read more

Are People Really That Easily Fooled?

April 6, 2012

This question comes up every time I give my talk about Pricing for Profit. It always revolves around the concept of using 99 cents at the end of the price.  Marking things $19.99 instead of $20.00.  Most everyone sitting in the presentation automatically assumes that everyone knows both are virtually the same price.  People are … Read more

Plan for the Crowd

April 3, 2012

We went out to eat last Friday at one of our regular eateries while on vacation.  Things had changed.  The spot where we usually sat was now occupied by two empty pool tables.  Other seating areas had been replaced with over-stuffed chairs. The capacity sign from the county said 139 people but we only counted … Read more

Wild Caught Shrimp

March 31, 2012

I’m writing to you from Amelia Island, Florida near Jacksonville.  Took the wife and kids on vacation.  This morning we went on an Eco Tour and learned about the shrimping industry.  We took a ferry boat through the inter-coastal waterways and with the help of Andrea, our marine biologist, and Captain Sean, did some trawling.  We caught … Read more

A Teachable Moment

March 28, 2012

Two employees.  One a veteran of 24 years.  The other a relative newcomer starting her third year of employment.  Both thinkers.  Passionate to a fault.  Loyal beyond expectation.  Hard workers who more than earn their pay.A manager’s dream, right?Except when they butt heads.The newcomer came to me because she was having run-ins with the veteran. … Read more

Breaking Down an Ad

March 27, 2012

I’ve ripped apart a couple ads previously here and here.  Time to do it again.Today I will be recording the following ad…She is a writer.  Journals.  Poetry.  Stories.She is a writer.  Loves to put the pencil to paper.She is a writer.  Birthday coming up.She is a writer.  She lives in Belgium.She is a writer.  Her … Read more

Trying Something New

March 23, 2012

I tried something new and I learned two things.First, you should try something new more often.  It becomes less scary the more you do it and is rarely as hard as it seems.Second, you can cut a sixty-minute presentation down to twenty minutes and still get the crowd fired up.Let me explain…The phone rang at … Read more

New eBook – Reading Your Financial Statements

March 21, 2012

I promised I would let you know when I updated my eBook on how to read and understand your financial statements.It is updated. Just click the link to download your FREE copy of Reading your Financial Statements.You’ve most likely just finished wrapping up your year-end.  This will help you decipher those reports the accountant prepares … Read more

We’re Here to Make You Smile

March 21, 2012

Every month at our staff meetings we have time carved out for “Smile Stories” – moments when you made the customer smile in a memorable way.  The staff keep notes throughout the month of their favorite stories just so they have something to share.  Some even take notes of the smile stories someone else on … Read more

David Beats Goliath (Again)

March 17, 2012

March Madness is a great reminder that even when the deck is stacked against you, you can win.In the first full round of competition in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, ten of the thirty two games were won by the underdog.  31.3% for you statisticians.The more telling stat is this…100% did it by out-hustling their … Read more

Someone Always Does it Better

March 16, 2012

No matter how good you think you are, someone is better.  No matter how strong you think your customer service is, someone is offering more.  No matter how good you think your staff is trained, someone is trained better.  No matter how well you think you merchandise your store, someone merchandises theirs better.  No matter … Read more

What I Learned in an Exit Interview

March 14, 2012

You know what an Exit Interview is.I hire a large group of seasonal employees each year. At the end of the season I sit down with each one to discuss their experience. What did they like? What was a challenge? How well did they feel prepared? Did the veterans on the staff help them? What … Read more

You Don’t Need to Buy it All at Once

March 12, 2012

Christmas season is the time for most retailers to offer the widest selection possible. We broaden our selection. We increase the choices. We try extra stuff that we think we can sell that time of year.The problem, however, is when we get into the off-season and start re-stocking the store. We have a tendency to … Read more

Heart and Mind

March 10, 2012

The mind uses logic to justify what the heart desires.Roy H. Williams taught me that back in 2005 and I have shared it with countless other retailers since.Win the heart and you win the mind. But what does it mean to win the heart?It means to win the right hemisphere of the brain where emotions … Read more

Universal Laws are Universal – Use Them

March 9, 2012

Newton’s second law states simply that Force = Mass x Acceleration.That law is accepted as fact. It is a Universal law. That means it applies to everything. Including your business.Force = Mass x AccelerationImpact = Size of idea (mass) x Speed at which it is delivered (acceleration)If you have a great business idea and you … Read more

Do it Until it is Easy

March 6, 2012

I have always been pretty good at understanding Advertising. The stuff I have learned from Roy H. Williams, aka The Wizard of Ads, just makes total sense to me.I have always had a knack for teaching and training the staff. Once I created my own system for hiring, I’ve been sought out as a guru … Read more

How Many Points Should You Make?

March 3, 2012

(Full disclosure: I have no idea where this story originated. I think it came from Roy H. Williams or one of his Wizard Partners because it sounds like something they would say. If anyone knows where this story started, please let me know.)The ad committee met to discuss the new copy for their next missive. … Read more

JC Penney Revisited

March 2, 2012

I wrote recently about JC Penney’s new pricing policy and my wife’s experience there.I hoped they won’t muck it up, knowing if they do, no one else will follow their lead away from hyped up sale, sale, sale to a more realistic method of pricing.Unfortunately…My wife went in looking for a new pair of pants. … Read more

Two Things You Can Correct Right Now

February 1, 2012

Did 2011 go the way you wanted?Do you want 2012 to be better?Here are two things you can work on right now that won’t cost you an arm and a leg, but will make a difference.BEAT YOUR CUSTOMER’S EXPECTATIONSYour customer has a set of expectations of how she will be treated when she comes through … Read more

Is JC Penney Making a Mistake?

January 31, 2012

JC Penney announced a brand new pricing strategy. They are getting away from the over-inflated regular prices with everything on some kind of a sale all the time including scattershot coupons and deals.They have already implemented it in my local JCP. And my wife is not happy.She went shopping there recently and was more confused … Read more

Gotta Keep Learning and Growing

January 30, 2012

I have not been blogging as much as usual. Sorry about that. You would think that with the hectic Christmas season behind me I would have more time.Wrong.I have been busier than ever.One of those projects that has kept me busy is that I was asked by the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) to … Read more

Lessons from MLK Quotes

January 16, 2012

If you have seen my live presentations, you know I love great quotes. I love quotes that make you think, quotes that teach you a lesson, quotes that give you perspective.Here are some of my favorite quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr. that relate to our type of business.“Never succumb to the temptation of bitterness.”We … Read more

This Will Be a Succesful Year If…

January 9, 2012

I don’t like making New Year’s resolutions.I resolve to lose weight, pay off debt, exercise more, eat healthy, save money, go to sleep earlier…The moment you stop, you fail. I prefer success.So instead of resolutions destined to fail, I like to take a moment to define what success will look like.Finish the following statement:This will … Read more

Do You Want Fries With That?

December 30, 2011

McDonald’s gave us the best punchline for the upsell.“Do you want fries with that?”But that one little phrase made them a lot of money because it increased the average ticket, the average dollars per transaction.It makes intuitive sense that if every customer spends just a little bit more your store will be more profitable. That … Read more

How Many Customers Does it Take to Change a Retailer?

December 29, 2011

Two numbers every retailer should track are Number of Transactions and Average $ per Transaction. (Yes, if you know the first number then you can calculate the second).Number of transactions is simply how many times you rang up someone on your register. Did that number go up or down? If it went up, life is … Read more

You ARE Making a Difference

December 20, 2011

Sometimes it is good to take your eye off the big picture for a moment and focus on those little things you do that are so wonderful.This is a good time of year to do that.The customer in front of you is one of those moments. She is stressed. The holidays can do that to … Read more

Be the “Hot” in Your Category

December 15, 2011

Seth Godin pointed out something the toy industry has known for a few years…There is no singular HOT toy to drive in the traffic. Hasn’t really been one since the first Tickle Me Elmo back in 1997. Oh, sure, there have been some hard-to-find items, a few crazes here and there, but nothing like the … Read more

Be Good for Goodness Sake

December 14, 2011

(Yes, Christmas music has taken over my brain…)Just a quick reminder that during this busy season it is easy to dismiss problem customers. It is easy to not give your full attention to a needy customer. It is easy to blow off that demanding customer.You are already plenty busy enough. What difference does it make … Read more

Someone Is Lying to Me

December 11, 2011

My favorite gas station just changed all their pumps to Pre-Pay. The clerk told me it was a corporate decision. She had no choice in the matter. She also told me that she had been getting flak all day long for it. She did not like it. Neither did the customers.But somebody at the home … Read more

Two Ways to Look at the Amazon Deal

December 6, 2011

Amazon announced it is offering up to a $5 incentive for someone to walk out of a brick & mortar retailer this Saturday and shop online.Facebook and blogs are lighting up on this topic. Retailers are obviously outraged by Amazon’s blatant attempt to use their stores as free showrooms.Before you get your panties in a … Read more

Statistics Falsified for Your Benefit

December 3, 2011

I love December!The statistical anomalies are so much fun.Most businesses look at their sales in comparison to last year. And most businesses compare Thursdays to Thursdays, Fridays to Fridays, etc. This comparison works great right up until December 1st.As you know, you only get 24 days in December prior to Christmas. Those 24 days are … Read more

Should You Still be Ordering?

December 2, 2011

My dad always said…“There are 24 days in December before Christmas EVERY year. Make the most of those days because they are the days that count the most.”With that said, you only have a couple days left to check your inventory to make sure you have what you need to make the most of those … Read more

Black Friday – Good News or Spin?

November 30, 2011

The reports in the media for Black Friday have a lot of good things to say. Sales up 7% Traffic up 5% More buyers, more sales, economy must be good.But as we all know, statistics can be misleading. For instance, Black Friday used to be from 4am to 12pm – eight hours long. Now it … Read more

Tell ’em What You Stand For

November 23, 2011

(title written with apologies to all my English teachers)If you read my free eBook Understanding Your Brand, you know that I am a firm believer of being true to your Core Values and showing them off whenever and wherever you can.The stronger you take a stand for something you believe in, the more you may … Read more

How Much You Care

November 11, 2011

Just to finish up the subject of motivating your employees…We have all heard the phrase… The customer doesn’t care how much you know until she knows how much you care.Same can be said of your staff.You should care how they are doing. You should ask what you can do to make their job better. You … Read more

Almost As Hard As You

November 10, 2011

So your employees won’t work as hard as you. But you can get them to collectively come pretty close.We have all seen the sign that says “The floggings will continue until morale improves.” Apparently Amazon still works under that philosophy (Read this article about the shocking conditions at an Amazon warehouse).And Amazon also has extremely … Read more

As Hard As You

November 9, 2011

“If only I can get my staff to work as hard as me, it will be a great season.”Have you said this? Heard it? Thought it?You are not alone. Every small business owner has the dream of hiring hard working employees that do the work so you don’t have to. They do the heavy lifting, … Read more

The Purpose of Your Advertising

November 3, 2011

One of the best lessons Roy H. Williams, aka The Wizard of Ads, taught me was to look at where I get my traffic. Ask yourself these two questions:How much of my business is repeat business?How much of my business is referral business?The remaining is the business you got from your location and your advertisements … Read more

Educating the Customer

November 2, 2011

Most independent retailers fully understand the impact of a customer coming into your store, browsing all the aisles, asking questions, getting information, then walking out and buying the item online.We know how that action, beyond killing your own business, is also eroding the local workforce, the local tax base, and the local economy. We know … Read more

Ripping a New Ad Part 2

October 26, 2011

Time to take another critical look at some radio ad copy. This is my ad for November…The Toys They Play WithIt wasn’t on his list. In fact, he’d never heard of it. Christmas morning, it did not get the same exclamation of joy as those other toys he thought he wanted. But when the excitement … Read more

Resume Versus Application Versus Online

October 24, 2011

You’re hiring. You need applicants. What do you require those applicants to fill out?Some have a basic paper application.Some have a lengthy questionnaire.Some have an online application. Some require a resume.While each have their merits, I am still a fan of the basic paper application. Resumes, in my opinion, can be misleading. Supposedly they show … Read more

Radio Ads That Don’t Sound Like Ads in 30 Seconds or Less

October 21, 2011

The other day I was on a Facebook page with other toy store owners. The subject came up about writing radio ads. My biggest advice about radio ads is to make them not sound like other radio ads. Say something unique that grabs the listener’s attention and then tell a story from that. So I … Read more

The Customer is NOT #1

October 19, 2011

Yes, I said it. Go ahead and crucify me. But I stand behind it 100%.The #1 person in your company is your frontline staff. You take care of them, they will take care of the customer. You don’t take care of them, they won’t take care of the customer. Plain and simple.But how do you … Read more

Community Involvement Pays Off

October 18, 2011

You have already been asked to sponsor seven walks, three golf outings, two spaghetti dinners, a pancake breakfast, and forty-five silent auctions.Every non-profit thinks your pockets are lined with gold. And they all promise the same thing. “We’ll put your logo on our t-shirt. Thousands of people will see you.”Yeah, right. The only people who … Read more

One at a Time

October 16, 2011

I was on a bus full of rowdy kids with a brand new leader sitting in the front seat. In a voice slightly above a whisper, the leader said, “If you can hear my voice, touch your nose with your thumb.” About five kids nearby put their thumbs on their noses.Then, with the same voice … Read more

An Example of WOW!

October 14, 2011

My wife was shoe-shopping. A friend told her to try this shoe store at the mall. You all know the kind of service found in a mall chain store, right?Be amazed.The sales clerk happened to also be the manager. He was thoughtful, engaged, knowledgeable (all words my wife used to describe him). He asked questions, … Read more

The Busy Season

October 12, 2011

As a toy retailer everyone expects that my busy season is December. They would be wrong.December is the store’s busy season. My busy season is right now. Here is my October To-Do List:Place all my orders for product I expect to sell in December. If I wait too much longer, many of the best items … Read more

Being an Expert is Easy, Sharing is (not) Hard

October 11, 2011

You already are an expert. According to the famous physicist, Neils Bohr, “An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made, in a narrow field.”I take a more liberal approach.An expert is someone who knows more than me on a given topic.Most of your customers would agree. If you … Read more

Is Your Staff Laughing?

October 8, 2011

Laughter truly is the best medicine.Laughter decreases stress hormones.Laughter decreases the risk for heart disease.Laughter oxygenates the cells and helps fight cancer.Laughter boosts serotonin levels which helps your mood.Laughter releases interleukins that boost your immune system.Laughter releases endorphins that can even cause temporary pain relief.Laughter works your core muscles, which promotes better spinal alignment.Laughter also … Read more

Driving Traffic to Your Site (SEO)

October 7, 2011

I had a local entrepreneur contact me about her website. When she launched she was getting regular sales. But she hasn’t had a sniff in months. She thought maybe something was wrong with her site and asked me to take a look.She sells Made in Michigan, lead-free, lightweight, high-quality, reusable shopping bags, something worth a … Read more

A Lesson From Steve Jobs

October 6, 2011

My son is thirteen. He downloads Apple iPod/iPad/iPhone manuals for “light reading”. His favorite thing at the library is the latest edition of Mac World Magazine. His email address is applenerd@_ _ _. This past summer he taught the teachers in his school district how to use their shiny new iPads. We drove him and … Read more

Ripping a New Ad

October 4, 2011

I just recorded my October radio ad. Here is the ad copy…They gave up on you. They dropped layaway. They dropped a friendly knowledgeable sales staff. They even dropped classic toys like wooden building blocks. Oh, sure, they brought back layaway, but only for a fee. Our layaway is still free. So is our giftwrapping. … Read more

Is Somebody Trying to Screw You?

October 3, 2011

You think your return policy is quite liberal. Somebody still tries to take advantage of you.You think your layaway policy is quite liberal. Somebody still tries to take advantage of you.You think your giftwrapping policy is quite liberal. Somebody still tries to take advantage of you.No matter what wonderful, friendly, customer-oriented, liberally-applied service you offer, … Read more

Stay the Course

October 2, 2011

I sailed for the University of Michigan club sailing team. Finished 4th in the nation in the fall of 1986 in a windy National Sloop Regatta on Lake St. Clair outside of Detroit. Winds of 30 knots shifting and changing.The Naval Academy won that event. I wasn’t a very good captain. My specialty was boat … Read more

You Get What You Ask For

September 30, 2011

Many of you are putting out classified ads looking for help that read like this…Help Wanted: Seasonal employees needed. Apply in person at The Store. Short, sweet, and cheap. How do you think your application pool would change if your classified looked like this?Help Wanted: Are you a friendly person who loves to help others? … Read more

Fifty Cent Words are a Dime a Dozen

September 29, 2011

I got this email the other day. Here it is verbatim…Hi Phil,May I send you information regarding an upcoming thought leadership summit focused on data driven decision making, integrated business planning and leveraging business analytics?Regards,AlexI don’t know about you, but that looks like a bunch of business book vomit to me. A “thought leadership summit”? … Read more

Make One Point

September 28, 2011

As you prepare your advertising for the holiday season, here is one thing you can do to make your campaign work better.Make only one point in your ad.That’s it. One point. No more.The truth is, most people will neither hear nor see your ad. They are so bombarded with advertising that they have tuned you … Read more

The Customer is in Front of You

September 27, 2011

I just got back from the All Baby & Child Expo in Louisville, KY. This is the big show for the baby products industry. Thousands of vendors, thousands of buyers, millions of square feet of showroom space. This was the first time the show had been anywhere other than Las Vegas. Louisville was a big … Read more

What’s My Motivation?

September 21, 2011

Why do I write these blogs? Why do I create presentations? Why do I write and publish eBooks that I give away for free?To help you succeed.Sure, that’s what I say. But even then, you are thinking in the back of your mind that there must be something in it for me. Altruistic goals always … Read more

Do You Match Prices?

September 19, 2011

If you are an independent retailer you have been asked this question a thousand times.I was recently asked by a regular customer on Facebook. Knowing that a thousand plus people were going to read my response, here is what I said:Dear ____,This is a tough question to answer. I could just say no and leave … Read more

How Much Would You Pay for This?

September 16, 2011

I’m working on a project that would be a comprehensive guide for all those funky financial terms with which our accountants bombard us at the end of each fiscal year.I wrote a simple explanation that I published here (free download). This new guide will be in far more detail.The question today is…Would you be interested … Read more

A History Lesson About Change

September 14, 2011

I give talks to mother’s groups and other organizations about how to shop smart for toys. The talk is always well-received and praised for the smart and practical information. Most of the participants are surprised at how much thought should actually go into each toy purchase, and how easy it is, once you know what … Read more

Phones Done Wrong

September 13, 2011

I’ve been beating the Customer Service drum for a few weeks now. It is the one biggest advantages we specialty store owners have over our competition.Every now and then I see stores who get it right.Every now and then I see reminders of how far we still need to go.Just yesterday my wife had a … Read more

A Kid in a Candy Store

September 12, 2011

Actually two kids. My boys, ages 13 and 10.After a day at the Michigan Renaissance Festival that thrilled my 10 year old because of the sword play, we stopped in the quaint little berg of Linden, MI to visit Linden Sweet Shoppe, owned by my toy store buddies Chris & Laura Mathews. Chris & Laura … Read more

A Safe Place to Dry

September 9, 2011

As you hire and train your seasonal staff this fall, there is one thing I want you to contemplate…When do you throw your new staff to the wolves?I was in Office Depot yesterday and the name tag of the guy at checkout said “trainee”. I looked around and he was all alone. No support, no … Read more

Two Rules to Follow at Every Staff Meeting

September 7, 2011

Even though I have published a manifesto to help business owners and managers plan Staff Meetings Everyone Wants to Attend (free download), I still hear about two common mistakes being made all the time that make staff meetings ineffective at best, and sometimes downright dangerous for your business.Here are two rules you have to follow … Read more

Right, Right, Right

September 3, 2011

Just read an interesting article on a discussion board (sorry, don’t have the source link) about the new wave in retailing. Interesting because it talks about how big-box stores are downsizing to meet the needs of the new shoppers. Interesting because it talks about how today’s shoppers (now being called Generation C for their connected, … Read more

Speaker for Hire

September 2, 2011

I was sitting next to my Pastor about to give my first ever sermon in front of the congregation and I had an entire butterfly garden enter my stomach. It was a weird sensation. I have stood up in front of 150 independent toy store owners – some with far more experience in the industry … Read more

Laughter and Delight

September 1, 2011

Do you remember the last time you laughed while shopping? Of course you do. Those experiences are memorable. Those moments are what make shopping fun. The store that brings you those memories will easily be your favorite store. It has to be someone. Might as well be you. Bob Phibbs just wrote a fantastic post … Read more

Be Special at Your Specialty

August 31, 2011

I was sitting in a new restaurant last night and it dawned on me that sometimes as business owners we get so caught up in cash flow, marketing, inventory management, competition, staff training, worrying about the Internet, etc. that we forget to be special at our specialty. If you are a toy store you better … Read more

Is Self-Serve Checkout a Good Option?

August 30, 2011

Rick Segal posted a blog talking about the pros of self-serve checkouts. The cost for them is coming down. They never have a lousy attitude. They are cheaper to maintain than paying an employee. Rick even goes so far as to say that all retailers should be utilizing every option that saves them money. Do … Read more

“No” is Not Acceptable

August 29, 2011

“Do you carry this product?” “No.” End of conversation. End of interaction. End of sale. End of business. There are millions of products out there. You have 5,000 in your store. The chances are pretty good that your customers will ask you for something you do not have. How your staff answers goes a long … Read more

Growing in a Shrinking Market

August 27, 2011

Our market is shrinking. The 2010 census showed that we have 3200 fewer children in the county than we did in 2000. For four straight years the number of births in the county has dropped from the previous year. Plus, people are spending less on toys than ever before thanks to the economy and the … Read more

How Much Retail Shrinkage Do You Have?

August 26, 2011

According to the National Retail Federation, in 2010 Retail Shrinkage rose to 1.58% of all retail sales. (Note: Retail Shrinkage is the difference between your physical inventory and your “booked” inventory, divided by your total sales) What is more interesting is to what NRF attributes all that shrinkage. 44% is due to employee theft 33% … Read more

What is Your Eustress?

August 23, 2011

I learned a new term. Eustress – (yoo’-stress) A stress that is healthy or fulfilling. Think of Eustress as the opposite of Distress. We all have stress in our lives. As store owners, we often take on added stress that outsiders cannot comprehend. But not all stress is the same. Stress falls into those two … Read more

Are You Google?

August 22, 2011

Yes you are! (or at least you should be) Google is a search engine that helps you sort billions of pages of information into the most relevant answers to your question. Just like a smart salesperson. Customers now have more information than ever before. They have spec sheets, reviews, pricing, and a whole lot more. … Read more

Is This Happening In Your Business?

August 20, 2011

My friend, Chris, had an interesting experience with a specialty retailer the other day. I’ll let him tell you in his own words… I went for a long bike ride the other day and stopped at a bike shop I’d never been to before to buy a mirror. Asked a question, got an adequate (if … Read more

What if They Stay?

August 17, 2011

Most retailers know that we have to train our staff. The question is often how much should we invest in this process? The answer is Everything You Can! You can have the best product selection in the world at the best prices, but if your staff cannot lead the customer to those products and match … Read more

Four Steps to a Killer Radio Ad Campaign

August 16, 2011

You’ve tried radio advertising. Bought some package the sale rep offered. Ran a few ads that sounded “professional” and got little return out of it. That’s because you didn’t do it my way.* Here are the four steps to running a Killer radio ad campaign. Figure out your core values. Pick one core value that … Read more

Are Your Reps Coming to You for Training?

August 10, 2011

Favorite phone call. A rep just picked up a new line of products. He knows we sell them. He calls me to set up a time to have us show him the line. He knows he will learn more about how to sell the line to other stores by talking to me than by going … Read more

Two Books My Staff Read

August 8, 2011

I gave my staff an assignment. Read some of the books I have read and give a presentation to the staff. At today’s meeting we had the first two presentations. Lakisha spoke about the book Poke the Box by Seth Godin (not an affiliate link – I don’t have any of those). She liked the … Read more

Complete, Compliment, and Suggest

August 5, 2011

Closing a sale is a lot easier than all the books make it out to be. It starts with asking a whole bunch of questions before you make the sale to make sure the product you recommend is the perfect fit (or at least really good).And it ends with three simple tasks – Complete, Compliment … Read more

What Gets Measured?

August 3, 2011

We had a meeting of downtown business leaders to share our “one big thing”, that one nugget of truth that helps us be successful. Local businessman Bob Smith said…“You can’t manage what you don’t measure.”Frances Schagen, who helped me with the eBook Reading Your Financial Statement, had a more positive spin on the same message…“What … Read more

The Magnetic Principle

August 2, 2011

The power of a magnet to attract is in equal proportion to its power to repel.That is a universal truth about attraction.We hear with magnets that opposites attract because the positive pole of one magnet attaches to the negative pole of another. But in reality alignment attracts. For two magnets to hook to each other, … Read more

Customer Service: From Weak to WOW!

July 29, 2011

Every business thinks they offer great customer service. Yet every one of you reading this has experienced lousy customer service, probably within the last week!I think the problem is that we don’t have a definitive guide of what great customer service looks like. Until now…I also think great customer service isn’t enough. Just being great … Read more

Three Keys to Remember About Advertising

July 26, 2011

As business owners we are often the worst judges for determining what to do with our advertising. We’re bad because we don’t act like the typical consumer. We see ads that most people would miss because we are an advertiser. So all advertisements are relevant to us, ads that would not be relevant to the … Read more

Design for the Many, Not for the One

July 22, 2011

Too often we design policies for the wrong reason. We design them because somebody tried to take advantage of us. And in the process we restrict the many to protect us from the one.Yet, no matter where we draw the line, there is still someone out there who will try to skirt around the edges … Read more

Don’t Marry Your Inventory

July 21, 2011

Marry your spouse. Develop a long-lasting relationship built on love, trust, fun, and shared interests.But don’t ever marry your inventory.Your inventory shouldn’t be around for long. It is simply an affair designed to bring you some short-term enjoyment (profit). If it overstays its welcome, you both suffer.Oh, sure, when you first get your inventory it … Read more

Discounts or Dating, Which is Better?

July 20, 2011

The first question out of every retailer’s mouth at the trade show is, “What’s the Show Special?”The vendor responds with some incentive such as Free Freight, a percentage discount, or extended credit (net 60 instead of net 30 days for instance) if the order is large enough.If given the choice, which should you choose?Your ChoiceMost … Read more

Who’s Training You?

July 19, 2011

I talk a lot about the importance of training your staff. But who’s training you?Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’m honored that you’re here reading this post. That’s a fabulous start. What else are you reading? Other blogs? Books?Are you attending any conferences? Sitting in on any workshops? Listening to any podcasts or webinars?Are you … Read more

Building Your Customer Email List – Stolen Idea Made Better

July 15, 2011

I stole this idea from George Whalin. To build your customer email database, put a fishbowl on your counter with a sign-up for your email and offer a drawing for a $25 gift certificate each month for anyone who signs up that month.Works like a charm.I shared this idea with some of my toy store … Read more

Get Rid of Your Dogs

July 13, 2011

What if you bought this shiny new crib for your store. It measures 62″ wide and 35″ deep. It takes up 15 square feet of your store.What if six months after you bought it, you still hadn’t sold it?One calculation some stores use to see how healthy their sales are is Sales per Square Foot. … Read more

Customers Can Be Frustrating

July 11, 2011

She loves to tell you how your prices are high, how she can get everything cheaper somewhere else. She does everything but call you a price gouger and cheat to your face.You feel your blood pressure start to rise. You know she doesn’t know the truth. She doesn’t know that you check prices at your … Read more

I Couldn’t Have Said it Better

July 8, 2011

I stole this… Bob Phibbs wrote this on his blog yesterday and it is worth repeating.So many “retail brand experts” and C-level executives have bought into the belief “our customers just want to get in and get out.”Do you know why?Because their customer experience sucks wind, blows chunks, is one step up from the necessary … Read more

What if the Coach is Wrong?

July 4, 2011

Everyone knows in sports you do not question the coach.The coach says.. You do…Everyone has to be on the same page for the team to be successful.But what if the coach is wrong?Every season someone ends up in last place. Someone is the biggest loser. Even though the team did everything the coach asked. Either … Read more

How Many Customers Can You Afford to Anger?

July 2, 2011

I’ve been following a handful of private conversations in my industries about how to treat customers who really aren’t our customers.You know these people.Bleeding You BlindThey find every loophole to get the most out of every transaction with you. They rarely shop at your store unless there is a discount or special going on. They … Read more

Another Basic to Wow Example

June 30, 2011

I got a couple emails asking for more examples of Basic to Wow customer service against which you can measure your own business. Here’s one for the simple act of greeting a customer at the front door…Basic Customer Service: Look up from your station and say “Hello” to everyone who walks through the door.Good Customer … Read more

Everyone Thinks They Have It

June 27, 2011

Every store thinks they have Great Customer Service. Even Wally World thinks a greeter at the door qualifies them for the customer service hall-of-fame. But unfortunately, most stores barely offer the basics.And even then Great Customer Service isn’t enough to move the needle for customers these days. You need WOW Customer Service!See where your business … Read more

The No List

June 24, 2011

Carole Bernstein owns Get Smart! Carole Bernstein is Smart.She works on her business as much or more than she works in her business. But she still keeps a pulse on what is happening in her business at all times with a clever communication tool used by all her staff.I don’t know for sure what she … Read more

Notes From Visual Merchandising & Store Design Sessions

June 21, 2011

I love attending conferences with excellent presentations and workshops. At the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association Marketplace this week I got a chance to attend two sessions on merchandising and store design put on by Linda Cahan.Although I have already published a Free eBook called Merchandising Made Easy, I wrote down a ton of notes … Read more

You Get What You Pay For

June 14, 2011

A friend of mine’s wife was teaching a dance teachers workshop and one of the participants asked her how she was able to get such good musicians for the program.She replied, “Pay them!”The universal truth is that you get what you pay for.It especially applies to your staff.There are two management approaches you can take … Read more

How I Am Marketing the Birthday Club

June 10, 2011

Thought it might be insightful to show you all I am doing to market the launch of our Birthday Club at Toy House.Facebook – This is where I did a lot of research and also where we first announced it.Email – I use Constant Contact to manage my email list. This particular email was the … Read more

If You’re Gonna Do It, Do It Better Than Everyone Else

June 7, 2011

Today at Toy House we launched our Birthday Club.We looked into what our competitors were doing and figured out we could do a whole lot better.Our biggest competitor offers a small gift certificate of $3.So we offered $10.Their gift certificate had a strict time limit.Ours has (virtually) none.Their program ends when the kid turns 10.Ours … Read more

The Importance of Fun

June 6, 2011

Are your employees having fun?Do they enjoy coming to work every day? Do they smile, laugh and play? Do they make the tedious jobs seem fun and exciting? Do they brighten up the entire store?Or do they drag themselves to work at the last possible moment? Do they start each day with a bitch session … Read more

How to Remain Special

June 4, 2011

The independent retailers are often called Specialty Retailers because rather than carry a wide swath of departments, we specialize in one or two general niches.Specialty was also a way of saying we offered a little more in the way of a shopping experience, something special that the discounters couldn’t offer, that the department stores couldn’t … Read more

Smoothing the Rough Spots

June 2, 2011

Wow, what a fun ride!Last June I published my first book, Hiring and the Potter’s Wheel: Turning Your Staff Into a Work of Art. The book has received wonderful praise from store owners and HR people alike.And sales have been phenomenal! I have shipped copies all over the world.I set a pretty high goal for … Read more

It Took a Surgery to Learn This

May 31, 2011

My wife has been harping on me about this for 18 years.“The store is too big,” she says.“Your plate is too full,” she says.“There are other people who can do that,” she says.You know what? She’s right!I used to think I was pretty good at delegating. My father? Not so. He didn’t like to teach … Read more

Stats Lie, Trust Your Own Numbers

May 29, 2011

The only numbers that really count are yours, the ones you make, the ones you manage.The weather service says Jackson County has only received 3″ of rain (as of May 27) yet my dad had a bucket of 8″ of water from just the previous week (including evaporation).The various reports have retail sales up, down, … Read more

Teaching Your Staff to Connect

May 27, 2011

Let’s plan a staff meeting together…Every meeting needs to have a goal. Our Goal:This will be a successful meeting if… The staff learns a better way to create relationships with our customers.Doug Fleener, the Retail Contrarian, believes you should find out three things about a customer before you try to sell them anything. That way … Read more

Convenience Versus Experience

May 26, 2011

A Convenience Store is always located on the easiest side of the road to pull in or pull out, no-hassle driving.An Experience Store has you drooling with anticipation as you wait at the light to pull in.A Convenience Store carries all the same merchandise you would expect to find anywhere, the most popular items, the … Read more

Don’t Bring Me Down

May 24, 2011

At the trailer on the Manistee River where my family spent many a summer vacation there was a printed piece of fabric full of cliches. I loved reading those phrases and spent many a night asking my dad to explain what they meant. One of my favorites was “Before you run in double harness, look … Read more

The Emperor Has No Clothes

May 23, 2011

That’s where Roy H. Williams found himself in today’s Monday Morning Memo talking about Facebook & Twitter – as the boy in Hans Christian Andersen’s tale telling the truth nobody wanted to hear.Facebook and Twitter are not the be-all-end-all fix to your marketing & advertising woes.They are just the latest dazzling jewels being passed on … Read more

Staying the Course

May 21, 2011

Another lesson from surgery…In prepping for the surgery I had this past Wednesday, I read a 56 page thread on people recovering from this procedure.Time and again the pattern of recovery emerged the same. The first five days get gradually worse before it starts to turn around. Doing that research and having a realistic expectation … Read more

Bigger Rewards Require Bigger Risks

May 17, 2011

Tomorrow I am taking a huge risk. I am undergoing surgery to correct two physical abnormalities, an elongated soft palate and uvula, and a tongue that is positioned farther back in the throat than normal.I suffer from sleep apnea. And in the long run, if I don’t treat it, it will kill me.I tried the … Read more

Seth is Wrong, Brand Exceptionalism is Easy to Innovate

May 13, 2011

I have to take exception with Seth Godin’s post today. (Go ahead and read it. I’ll wait.)For those of you who don’t want to read it, his basic message is that once your brand becomes exceptional (whether in your own eyes or in the eyes of the public), you lose ground because you won’t change. … Read more

Just For Baby Stores (and Anyone Interested in Marketing)

May 10, 2011

Last week I gave a couple presentations at the All Baby & Child (ABC) Spring Educational Conference in Fort Worth, TX.Once again, Pricing for Profit was one of the biggest hits of the show. Many vendors were asking, “Who’s Phil?” as retailer after retailer showed them better ways to price their goods for more profit … Read more

Turning Nouns into Verbs

May 9, 2011

My friend, Rick Wilson DMD, is writing a novel.The story features a wonderful brewery in England called Gack & Bacon Brewery, established in the 16th century, now fighting off its conglomerate rival, Slore’s. (Their motto? “It’s beer.”)Gack & Bacon has an in-house pub called the Pig & Trebuchet. In a recent post (he’s sharing tidbits … Read more

Built-in Advantages

May 7, 2011

Some businesses have built-in advantages.The big box chain stores have the advantage of Price through buying power and a bully position to demand and extract better pricing out of their suppliers. Some have the advantage of Convenience, too. Great locations and one-stop shopping.The Internet sites have the advantage of Convenience. Shopping in your pajamas from … Read more

Are You Working ON Your Business or IN Your Business?

April 30, 2011

Morgan Freeman’s character “Red” said it in The Shawshank Redemption, “You either get busy living or get busy dying.” Never have more truer words been said about retail.So what are you busy at right now?Are you busy coming up with new ways to market your business?Are you busy evaluating your inventory mix to make sure … Read more

A Room Full of Sellers

April 29, 2011

I attended a networking conference yesterday for entrepreneurs. It was designed to be a way for people looking to go into business for themselves to meet people who could help them along the way.It looked more like a shark feeding frenzy.There were at least 5 people per entrepreneur in attendance. That’s 5 people hoping to … Read more

Oops, My Fault

April 26, 2011

No, this is not a post about admitting your mistakes as a way of better customer service. I already covered that here.This is about a mistake I made in marketing my marketing class.Last night I gave a talk titled “Main Street Marketing on a Shoestring Budget” to a group in Ortonville, MI sponsored by the … Read more

The Price is Right (Where it is)

April 22, 2011

I don’t recall any time in the past 18 years where price has been such a driving issue for retail. Is it the economy? Is it the Internet? Is it the smart-phone barcode apps?For whatever reason, all most retailers seem to be thinking about is where to set the price. How low do you go?The … Read more

It Takes a Big Person to Handle a Tough Customer

April 21, 2011

I was watching Cake Boss with my wife and kids last night (great show on TLC) and Buddy, the Cake Boss, had a really tough customer. How he handled it was a teachable moment for anyone in customer service.Background: Mother & daughter came in to order a wedding cake. Daughter was totally not into the … Read more

Can You Read Your Financial Statements?

April 13, 2011

I know for years I could not. Sure, my dad would try to explain everything to me. My grandpa helped, too. Even the accountant would chip in from time to time. But it always seemed like they were speaking a foreign language. Let’s face it, most independent retailers have little or no accounting background. And … Read more

Merchandising Visuals

April 11, 2011

If you struggle with creative visions for your merchandising displays I just found something perfect for you. Check out the new blog I’m following – Retail Details. It is chock full of pictures of creative retail merchandising displays from around the world. As you know, better merchandising leads to increased sales. Check it out and … Read more

When Bunnies Multiply

April 8, 2011

Easter is coming. If you’re a store full of seasonal merchandise there are bunnies sprouting up everywhere you turn. And just like the real critters, they tend to multiply at a rate faster than expected. When Bunnies Go Wild And in 17 days you’ll have a dilemma… what to do with all of the Easter … Read more

Word of Mouth, Hidden Talents, and Smiles

March 28, 2011

I plan every staff meeting the same way, by finishing this statement: This will be a successful meeting if…For this morning’s meeting it was: If the staff has a better understanding of how to truly create Word of Mouth in our customers, and how close we are to offering over-the-top experiences that customers will talk … Read more

Hiring & The Potter’s Wheel Principles in Action

March 25, 2011

I was going to post another excerpt from my book, Hiring and the Potter’s Wheel: Turning Your Staff Into a Work of Art.Instead I’d like to give you a glimpse into how one business put the principles of the book into action.The first principle of the book is to identify the right raw ingredients, the … Read more

Measuring Success

March 22, 2011

Last night was graduation for the fourth class of the Jackson Retail Success Academy. Eight weeks of Monday nights building the foundations for their success, culminating in a presentation by each student of what they learned and how they were going to apply it in their business.How Would You Measure Success?At the opening night I … Read more

Who’s Pulling You Up?

March 14, 2011

There is a wall between you and your goals. You need to get over that wall.Your peers can help you by pushing you and propping you up. But they can only get you to the point where you can reach the top of the wall. (And if your wall is really tall, they might not … Read more

Urgent, Important or Both?

March 11, 2011

My wife just bought a new Franklin Covey planner loaded with ideas to help you manage your time better. One of the best methods is a system I use regularly.PrioritiesDraw a horizontal line and call it Urgent. Then draw a vertical line intersecting your Urgent line at the midpoint and call it Important. Everything you … Read more

Surgery on Hold Because of Trust

March 9, 2011

I was supposed to have surgery last Friday. The appointment was canceled while I got a second opinion from a highly regarded doctor in the same field.Now I know why the doctor is so highly regarded.A Second OpinionQuick background: I scheduled a surgery with a doctor in whom I had trust from our initial meetings, … Read more

What Should Your Sales Be?

March 5, 2011

Thinking about opening a new store? Wondering what your sales might be?Here is the easiest method for estimating expected sales:Market PotentialFirst find out how much business can potentially be done in your market. To do this you only need to find the national sales figures for your industry (note: for some industries this is easier … Read more

The Weatherman’s Curse

February 25, 2011

Once again the storm wasn’t what we expected. Depending on your source, we braced for 3, 4, 5 or even 6 inches of snow last night.At best I shoveled an inch and a half off the drive before heading to work this morningMy boys were devastated. They had already put their brains into “snow day” … Read more

Short Term Pain for Long Term Gain

February 21, 2011

What sacrifice are you willing to make today to help you succeed tomorrow?At some point this spring I am having surgery to correct some physical abnormalities that will have a profound impact on my health going forward. The procedure is not fun, and the recovery is worse. Two weeks of excruciating pain followed by two … Read more

Finding Help in Strange Places

February 11, 2011

Yesterday my wife had seven friends over for “Healthy Group”. Eight women around a table talking about vitamins, allergies, hormones and health care. Sharing stories, articles and anecdotes about the latest findings in the worlds of regular and alternative medicine.None of them are doctors (although I think one of them stayed at a Holiday Inn … Read more

What Kind of Store are You?

February 4, 2011

Last summer LEGO made a decision to stop selling their architectural series of LEGO sets to toy stores. They believed that the product didn’t belong in toy stores like mine, that it was only appropriate for certain stores. Specifically in their words……appropriate distribution channels include the categories of gifts, souvenirs, museums, specialty bookstores, collectibles, art, … Read more

Neighborhood Kids Causing Trouble? Involve Them in Your Business

February 2, 2011

My grandfather served on the USS Arkansas Battleship in WWII. Fought at D-Day and Okinawa. Shortly after the war, with three kids and nowhere in town to go for toys, he opened our store.The original Toy House was not in the best shopping location, but rent was cheap on the edge of downtown near the … Read more

How One Bad Apple Nearly Spoiled the Ski Trip

January 29, 2011

The big family Christmas gift was a long ski weekend at Boyne Highlands in northern Michigan.Although not as immediate as a box of Legos, the boys were thrilled. And the experience was incredible!WOW Customer ServiceWe showed up at the Zip Line just as it was closing – no problem. They got us dressed and ready … Read more

Could an Accounting Class Help?

January 18, 2011

On my website I readily admit that although I can help you in almost every aspect of retailing, if understanding your financials is your weak spot I’m not your guy. So you can imagine how I’ve been over the last few weeks.Our accounting software finally bit the bullet. We’ve been using the same software since … Read more

New Free eBook on Merchandising

January 12, 2011

Three straight posts on merchandising? Are you kidding?Nope. But this one is a good one. Six tips about merchandising every retailer should know.The pros and cons of Branded sections within your store.Military versus Whimsical – How to design your store layout.The Most Important Four Feet of merchandiseHow often you should change your displaysAll of that … Read more

Signs Really Do Sell Your Stuff Better

January 11, 2011

Yesterday I worked with my staff on signage. Rick Segal has repeatedly said that signs on a display help sell that merchandise 43% better than a display without signs.I talked about the first reason why in an earlier post.Here’s another reason to consider… ValuePerceived WorthWhen a customer enters your store, the first thing she is … Read more

Plotting the Course and Raising the Bar

January 7, 2011

We all do this. Plot our course for the next year. We are all busy making Sales Projections, Expense Budgets, and Marketing Plans.But have you done a Training Plan?Raising the BarHave you worked on a list of skills you want to teach or improve in your staff? Have you made a list of strengths and … Read more

Managers in Training

January 4, 2011

If you could send your manager (or yourself) away for training, what topics would you want him or her to learn?Some of the topics might include:HiringStaff TrainingTime ManagementSchedulingAdvertising & MarketingWebsite developmentSalesBuyingInventory ManagementBookkeepingReading Financial StatementsMerchandisingWhat are your top three or four? What would you add to that list?-PhilPS I had a request from someone who wanted … Read more

What Difference Did You Make?

December 31, 2010

Sometimes we forget the impact we have. And this time I’m not talking about the social impact of the products we sell. I’m talking about money. Pure cold hard cash.Do me a favor… Go read this article . I’ll wait…Think about the billions of dollars of economic impact that one company has had on the … Read more

The Sincerity of Taking Risks

December 28, 2010

The earflaps of his hat were flipped down for the cold. His fingerless gloves seemed appropriate. He was holding a guitar after all.“Can I play a song for you?”If he had been on a street corner, my mom would have thought “panhandler” and walked on by. But here he was standing at her front door … Read more

Merry Christmas!

December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas to you and your family. May you find joy in the day no matter how you celebrate it or spend it.As a toy store owner, this is one joke that always brought a chuckle during the season…The winter break was over and all the kids were back in school. The teacher asked them … Read more

Head Cheerleader

December 20, 2010

Five shopping days until Christmas. In the home stretch. You’re tired, run down and stressed, just counting the days. Your friends and family are encouraging you to “Hang in there, it’s almost over.” Sorry to burst your bubble, but you need to do more than just hang in there.Of the hundreds (thousands) of customers who … Read more

An Excerpt from Hiring and the Potter’s Wheel

December 17, 2010

Another excerpt from the highly acclaimed book “Hiring and the Potter’s Wheel: Turning Your Staff Into a Work of Art”Chapter 12: Lessons 4, 5 and 6 Centering, Gentleness & Protection“Kind words can be short and easy to speak but their echoes are truly endless.” – Mother Teresa “So, how did the conference go?” Mary began.“Quite … Read more

It’s a Wonderful Life!

December 12, 2010

Yeah, watched one of my favorite movies last night, It’s a Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey. Cried like a baby at the end, just like I always do.Then it dawned on me…This is a movie about incredible customer service.All those people who came to bail out George at the end did so … Read more

What is Your Story? (Here’s Mine)

December 8, 2010

My first official day of work at the Toy House came the day after my 14th birthday. With work permit in hand, I joined the team in November 1980 and took my place behind the glass counter that housed all of our handheld electronic games.Games like Simon, Coleco Football, Speak & Spell and others.My parents … Read more

Measuring ROI (or in other words… Did it Work?)

December 7, 2010

John Wanamaker of Wanamaker’s Department Stores in Philadelphia is credited with the famous quote decades ago,“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The trouble is I don’t know which half.”Since that quote marketers have spent billions of dollars trying to measure the ROI (return on investment) of their marketing and advertising efforts. Do … Read more

Is Social Media Working?

December 6, 2010

In one of my online communities the question was posed…Is Social Media working or not working? Is it making anyone’s register’s ring?The purpose behind the question was because of mixed reactions from businesses who have found success through Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, etc. and those who haven’t.Personally, I think the question missed the mark. I would … Read more

Doing a Charity Event Right

December 2, 2010

We just hosted a fundraiser with our local radio stations for Toys for Tots in Jackson yesterday morning. We raised over $6500 in donations of money & toys and all that money was quickly turned into sales at our store. For a one-day event in a market like ours, that was a pretty good day.In … Read more

Don’t Panic

November 28, 2010

You’re at sea in the middle of a storm. Waves are pounding you from all sides. First from the right, then from the left, then two more from the right. You never know where the next wave will hit. You brace yourself for whatever impact will come and hold on tight.The only way out of … Read more

Rocked My Week!

November 23, 2010

It has been a fun week here and it just got better…Not only are we just moments away from Black Friday – the real point when the Christmas shopping season begins… (no matter how hard some stores try to push the holidays)Not only are we just hours away from my last day off for weeks… … Read more

Black Friday Deals – A How To

November 22, 2010

Okay, you’re gonna venture into the murky waters of Black Friday with some doorbuster specials at your retail store. You better know what you’re getting into. Do it right and you’ll see your registers ring. Do it wrong and you just might be borrowing trouble.Here are some tips to help you navigate the seas of … Read more

Love is a Given

November 18, 2010

Tiger Woods was on ESPN radio this morning and mentioned a lesson his father, Earl, taught him.Love is a given. Trust and Respect have to be earned.That is true not only in people, but in businesses too.You have customers who love you. We all do. Sometimes it is just the nature of our store. Heck, … Read more

Preaching to the Choir

November 8, 2010

This morning I gave a presentation to my staff that was the same one I’ve given three times in the past week to customers. It was a 30-minute presentation on Smart Toy Shopping.My staff already knows this information. Some would say I was merely preaching to the choir.And they would be right!Sometimes you have to … Read more

Why You Should Care

November 4, 2010

Saturday, November 13th is Neighborhood Toy Store Day – a day to celebrate the wonders and delight of your neighborhood independent toy stores.The genesis for this day comes from the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA).Yes, it is a contrived celebration, not unlike the Hallmark holidays like Bosses Day and Sweetest Day. Yes, it is … Read more

It Just Isn’t Fair!

November 2, 2010

There’s an uproar in the toy world and I want to give you my take on it – be sure to read the whole article. One of my major vendors, a long time player in the specialty toy industry, just gave a whole bunch of exclusives to Toys R Us. Many independent toy stores are … Read more

Two Classic Election Ad Mistakes

October 29, 2010

I hate politician advertising! I turn off the radio, change the channel, or flip the page.It isn’t so much the politicians and the political process that bothers me. I love a good political debate and discourse. It’s the horrible advertising that drives me crazy.Most political ads make the same classic mistake – they make claims … Read more

Christmas Sales Predictions

October 26, 2010

It’s time to make your predictions. What do you see in your crystal ball for Christmas sales?Shopper-Trak is predicting a 2.9% increase.National Retail Federation says it will go up 2.3%.But what does that mean?Not every retailer is going to hit that 2.3 to 2.9% mark. In fact, I predict that very few retailers will be … Read more

Spelling Counts for Something

October 25, 2010

There is no Spell-Check for an application someone has to fill out by hand. Don’t get me wrong. I like resumes. They show that the customer has some basic computer skills (sometimes really basic). But I like having a handwritten application for two reasons.You see if you can read their writing. In my business this … Read more

How Hard Will They Really Work?

October 20, 2010

It seems like every applicant to our store lists “hard working” as one of their attributes. But if they really were “hard working”, why would they be looking for a part-time, seasonal job in a toy store?Here are two questions you can use to see how much hard work your applicants are willing to do.What … Read more

Do They Really Care?

October 19, 2010

Seasonal hiring is upon us. You want people who will truly care about your customers. Here are some questions you should ask in an interview…What are your priorities in life? This can tell you what matters most to them. Watch out, though, this can also be a tell ’em what they wanna hear question. Follow … Read more

Men and Women Do Shop Differently

October 15, 2010

He stormed out of the store, mumbling how he would never return. Yeah, it was our store, and I was in the department that made him so angry.I was talking with the baby department staff about the new items I saw at a recent trade show. At some point he slipped into the department unnoticed. … Read more

Would You Attend This Workshop?

October 8, 2010

The Jackson Retail Success Academy is now signing up retailers for our 2011 class that starts in January. This 8-week program has been a huge help for new retailers to get the foundation they need to be successful.Some have asked if we could run this academy in their community so I put together a 2-Day … Read more

Who Wants to Help?

October 4, 2010

Signs are popping up all over.Help WantedBut shouldn’t the sign say “Helpers Wanted”?When you begin the process of hiring seasonal workers, look for truly helpful people. Look for people with a track record of doing more for others than expected.You can find these people by asking the following questions…Tell me about a time when you … Read more

Lesson #1 Raw Ingredients – Excerpt from Hiring & The Potter’s Wheel

October 2, 2010

(Here is another excerpt from the book Hiring and the Potter’s Wheel: Turning Your Staff Into a Work of Art)Chapter 4 Lesson #1 Raw Ingredients“The first ingredient in conversation is truth, the next good sense, the third good humor, and the fourth wit.” – William Temple, Sr.Mary arrived at the deli early and sat at … Read more

Seasonal Hiring

October 1, 2010

I admire Doug Fleener. I follow his blog. I get his daily email full of great advice for retailers.Recently he sent an email about hiring seasonal employees. I’ll recap some of his main tips here:Hire a Specialist – someone just to do one task rather than a jack of all trades – much easier to … Read more

Sleep is the Great Eraser of the Mind

September 29, 2010

Note: Most of the stuff in this post I learned from Roy H. Williams. Please forgive me for stealing.Okay, you’ve made one point, spoke to the heart, made it relevant, and didn’t look or sound like an ad. Yet, the needle isn’t moving. No one is remembering your message, let alone acting upon it. Why … Read more

Don’t Look Like an Ad

September 28, 2010

My radio ads were roundly criticized when I first started doing them the way Roy H. Williams taught me. The biggest criticism was, “They don’t even sound like an ad!”Good.That was my goal.Filters In PlayWe are bombarded with advertising – over 5,000 advertising impressions a day! Our brains can’t handle all that info. Our brains … Read more

Not Relevant Equals Not Seen

September 24, 2010

Are you a newspaper reader? Quick, tell me all the ads you remember from yesterday’s paper. No fair peaking at the recycle pile. And don’t just guess the big furniture chain or tire store. They might have been in yesterday’s paper, or was it last Monday’s?The Invisible TruthThe truth is, the only ads you see … Read more

Field of Dreams

September 22, 2010

“If you build it, he will come.” -Shoeless Joe Jackson, Field of DreamsGreat movie. Bad advice for business.Yet too many independents start out that way, thinking all they have to do is build a wonderful little shop and people will climb all over themselves to get in and give them money.Roy H. Williams said, “If … Read more

Make Only One Point

September 21, 2010

Our attention spans are short. Our memory is faulty. Heck, I tell my staff that I am not responsible for anything they tell me. Write it down!So how can we expect a customer to remember more than one point in any of our ads?We can’t. And they won’t. So why bother?Unclutter Your AdsWhen you know … Read more

Say Something Interesting

September 20, 2010

Your message is fine. But how you are delivering it needs some work. No one is getting it for one simple reason – you do not have their attention. Sure, you could yell and scream, but that doesn’t really get you anywhere. We are bombarded with so many advertising messages that it is like trying … Read more

Definition of Insanity?

September 19, 2010

Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.Never change your message, it is the key to your long term branding and growth.Two truths. Yet, two seemingly opposite statements. How do we reconcile them? It would seem that if your advertising isn’t working, then doing the same thing won’t change that, therefore the message … Read more

Don’t Alienate Your Fans

September 16, 2010

At the Michigan Downtown Conference two speakers talked about sign ordinances. The first was Sheila Bashiri, City Planner from the city of Birmingham, MI, a well-to-do suburb of Detroit nestled in amongst the other wealthy suburbs.Because Of or In Spite Of?Birmingham has the most strict sign ordinance in Michigan, so strict that some of the … Read more

How Long is Your Shoestring?

September 15, 2010

The term “Shoestring Budget” dates back far enough that no one really knows who or how it got started. Some say it’s because shoestrings are so low to the ground and your budget is really low. Some say it’s because shoestrings are so cheap that they’re all you can afford. Some say it’s because broken … Read more

New Statistics on Market Share

September 14, 2010

I just got back from presenting at the Michigan Downtown Conference in Bay City, MI. Robert Gibbs offered some new statistics on the breakdown of Retail Market Share worth passing along.In 1955 the Central Business Districts of our cities had 90% of the Retail Market Share. Today the CBD’s have 2%.The breakdown looks like this:Power … Read more

How Much Market Share Should You Have?

September 10, 2010

I showed you how to calculate your Market Share. Hopefully you did that. It’s a real eye-opener when you see how much (or little) of your market you actually own.Your first thought was to wish it was higher. But how high is realistic? It depends on a few factors, some of which you have no … Read more

Is it Interesting? Cool? Useful?

September 8, 2010

You should ask that question about every product you sell.If it isn’t at least one of those, preferably two or three, then why do you have it? I’m pretty sure that unless someone thinks a product is interesting, cool and useful, you aren’t going to sell a whole lot of them.Interesting gets their attention. Cool … Read more

Growing Your Market Share

September 7, 2010

Toys R Us has opened an Express store in our mall.They already have a full service store in our other mall (2 miles away). They are hoping to grow their Market Share with this pop-up store (here today, gone December 26th).Calculating Market PotentialDo you know your Market Share? Here is an easy way to find … Read more

To Labor on Labor Day or Not

September 4, 2010

Are you open this Monday? We aren’t.Labor Day & Memorial Day are paid holidays for my staff (along with New Year’s Day, Easter, 4th of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas).We’re also closed Sundays of Labor & Memorial Day weekends.Why?For my staff. They deserve a break. I expect a lot from them and so I need to … Read more

Completing the Sale

September 3, 2010

Rick Segel’s last post was on how to raise your average ticket by selling more. His suggestion? Suggestions (read his post here).Of course, rather than tell you what to do, he invites you to attend his webinar to learn how.With all due respect to Rick, I don’t want you to attend any webinars, so let … Read more

Chapter 2 The Lunch

September 2, 2010

Another excerpt from the book “Hiring and the Potter’s Wheel: Turning Your Staff Into a Work of Art”… Read previous excerpts here and here.Chapter 2 The Lunch“Just as our eyes need light in order to see, our minds need ideas in order to conceive.” – Napoleon HillThursday arrived and Mary breezed into work. But even … Read more

Your Actions Tell Us Who You Are

August 30, 2010

A friend and colleague of mine had an experience using Groupon, a company that sells discounted coupons online to your store, that went horribly wrong. Bob Phibbs, the Retail Doctor, did a Case Study on his blog. (Go ahead and read it… I’ll wait)In a nutshell, Kim made an incredible offer that sold in far … Read more

Credibility Shown

August 29, 2010

Tom Wanek wrote a book, Currencies That Buy Credibility. The new CEO of Step2 Company – Jack Vresics – is an embodiment of that book.Last Thursday I was in Streetsboro, OH for a meeting of Step2 Center dealers – the retailers who sell the vast majority of the Step2 line. Step2 is the largest manufacturer … Read more

An Open Letter to My Staff

August 24, 2010

The following is an open letter to my staff in our monthly newsletter. Feel free to copy it, model it, use it with your own staff.You Were Hired…You were hired because I believe in your ability to help me grow this company.You were hired because I believe you can connect with customers, make positive lasting … Read more

How Will You Measure Success?

August 22, 2010

It dawned on me that I’ve never asked you the most important question of all.How will you measure success?Whenever I work one-on-one with another retailer, that is usually one of the first questions. If I don’t know what measuring stick you’re using to decide if you are successful, I can’t help lead you there.Will it … Read more

Don’t Eat the Tea!

August 11, 2010

My friend, Joel, told an interesting story about Tea in England.Apparently, it was quite expensive and only for the very rich at first. As Joel tells it…One woman in the south took a full pound of her expensive cache and sent it to her sister in the north, telling her how marvelous it was. Her … Read more

Meeting Your Goals

August 9, 2010

Had another fun staff meeting this morning. More importantly, we met our Goals for the meeting.Yes, every single one of my staff meetings has a Goal (or two). And I define that goal by finishing this simple statement…This meeting will be a success if…I had two goals for today’s meeting that finished that statement:The staff … Read more

Signs Sell

August 7, 2010

Rick Segal has said that proper signage will help an item sell up to 50% more than without a sign. Here’s why…First, there is this group of people known as Introverts.About half of your customers identify as Introverts. They tend to think to talk instead of talk to think as Extraverts would do. If they … Read more

Which Topic Next?

July 31, 2010

I recently published three Free eBooks on my website – Inventory Management, How Ads Work Part 1, and How Ads Work Part 2. I have two more eBooks I’m working on, but not sure if I have the time to get both done. Which would you prefer first?One title is Marketing a Retail Store on … Read more

Free or Priceless?

July 19, 2010

I’m going out on a limb with my next two Freebies – How Ads Work Part 1 and Part 2.Pablo Picasso is credited with saying, “Good artists borrow, great artists steal.” Much of the information in these two eBooks is stuff I stole from Roy H. Williams, aka The Wizard of Ads, especially the mind-blowing … Read more

Which Would You Attend – Revisited

July 17, 2010

A few days ago I posted 4 potential classes and asked a bunch of my retailer friends if they could only attend one, which would they choose.I had two purposes for this post. First, to see how people choose which sessions and trainings to attend. Second, to see if there was one over-riding topic in … Read more

Make Your Dogs Bark!

July 13, 2010

If you’re in retail, you’ve done what I’ve done – bought stuff that didn’t sell. Oh, it looked good in the catalog or at the trade show. The sales rep gave you tons of info on it. You put it in a great location, even trained your staff on all its finest features.But at the … Read more

Help Me Choose A Workshop

July 6, 2010

At many conferences we have breakout sessions – three or four different topics and speakers from which you can choose.I struggle with these because I usually want to attend more than one, and cloning has not reached the level to allow me that luxury. And trying to decide between one session and another is tough.I … Read more

How Much Marketing Does it Take?

July 2, 2010

Here are some of the ways I have decided to market my new book…Face-to-Face Sales – I do speaking engagements all around the country and get opportunities to sell my book one at a time to attendees. Plus, I sell it in my store. And I always have a few copies with me wherever I … Read more

Another Excerpt From the Book “Hiring and the Potter’s Wheel”

June 29, 2010

Here is another excerpt from my new book. You can buy it here.Chapter 6 Lesson #2 Wedging“The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn.” – Gloria SteinemMary was ready when Dr. Scott entered the deli.“So, what did you learn last night?”“I learned that even if you … Read more

Excerpt From the Book “Hiring and the Potter’s Wheel”

June 26, 2010

Here is an excerpt from my new book, “Hiring and the Potter’s Wheel: Turning Your Staff Into a Work of Art”Flipping through her Rolodex, Mary knew she needed help. And there it was. Dr. Scott, of all people, her least favorite professor. Mary could still picture Dr. Scott peering over his wire-rim reading glasses as … Read more

Who is Your BFF?

June 22, 2010

Had lunch today with one of my best friends. Good food, good conversation, and more than a few laughs.Got me thinking about why he’s my friend. We certainly have common interests – go to the same church, hang out with the same people, have boys of a similar age. But there are more than a … Read more

New eBook on Inventory Management

June 18, 2010

Cash is King.And in retail, your cash is primarily tied up in your inventory.But what would happen if you earned an extra 20 cents for every dollar you have in inventory? Multiply your average inventory times 0.2. What do you get? Extra money to play with. Extra money to pay yourself, to invest in your … Read more

The Easy Way to Solve a Tough Problem

June 17, 2010

Finding solutions to tough problems is not as hard as you think, especially when you understand Business Problem Topology.Roy H. Williams first taught me the concept of Business Problem Topology through his trilogy of “Wizard of Ads” books.Then he taught it to me again during a visit to Wizard Academy in May 2005.And when I … Read more

I’m Going to Learn

June 8, 2010

Next week I’ll be attending the ASTRA Marketplace & Academy 2010 in Providence, RI. Four days of workshops, keynotes, small group discussions, panels and a mini-trade show.I’m going to learn.I’m going to learn new ways to improve my marketing.I’m going to learn new ways to train and motivate my staff.I’m going to learn how to … Read more

Stand Up and Be Accounted!

June 4, 2010

Two nights ago I watched one of the most painful moments in baseball history. Yeah, I’m talking about my beloved Detroit Tigers and their pitcher getting robbed of a historic Perfect Game because of a blown call by the umpire on the final out.That night, like a whole lot of Tigers fans and players, I … Read more

Here’s Something I’m Watching

May 31, 2010

Yesterday’s paper had an article about a new strategy Wal-Mart is rolling out. They’ve decide to do… wait for it… price cuts. Yeah, they’re cutting prices again (you’d think with all the price cuts that their prices should be zero about now, right?).Here’s the interesting part of the article… They are only cutting prices on … Read more

Successful Stores Have Meetings

May 29, 2010

Most people consider it a universal truth – no one likes to go to meetings. They’re boring and a waste of time. Nothing sucks the life out of a room more than a scheduled meeting.Yet, the most successful stores have regular meetings. Maybe their meetings aren’t the same as your meetings. I know my meetings … Read more

Avoid Ad-Speak in Your Ad Copy

May 28, 2010

I’ve talked about it before here and here and here. When your radio or TV ads sound like ads, people will tune you out. We’ve become immune to ad-speak. We don’t hear it. We don’t see it. We don’t believe it. It is the white noise in the background of our lives.You’ve heard my radio … Read more

Give ‘Em What They Want

May 26, 2010

Next week I’m sending out a coupon. $20 off a $100 Purchase. I need to generate some cash flow and get some traffic through the door.For the past two months we’ve been shut off from the community on two sides by federally funded construction projects (Mr. Obama, I’m not feeling very stimulated). So I’m sending … Read more

Thieves in the Night

May 21, 2010

Got an earlier than usual start today – the alarm company called at 5am. Northwest warehouse motion detector went off.Normally I wouldn’t have them dispatch police for just a motion detector without another zone, especially one of the outer doors, going off. But this morning I did.Last night at 2am someone broke into the restaurant/gift … Read more

Practice How You Play

May 18, 2010

My son’s Little League baseball game was rained out last night. Too bad. We worked hard Sunday on his throwing arm, getting him to throw more overhand and less sidearm.But he said something to me Sunday worth discussing here. After telling him that it was important to focus on making every throw the right way … Read more

I Served Them Ice Cream

May 17, 2010

Staff Meeting. 8:30am. Ice cream served.Ice cream for breakfast?Some loved it. One employee had two bowls.Some hated it. Who would eat ice cream for breakfast?Some were indifferent. “No thanks, I had a bagel.”Kinda like your business, right? Some love you, some hate you, some are indifferent.Do you know what causes people to love you – … Read more

Stopping Employee Theft

May 12, 2010

According to the National Retail Federation, 44% of your shrinkage is caused by Employee Theft. Yep, your own staff is stealing you blind!Quit being in denial and do something about it.Here’s what you should do…Background Checks – It starts with the people you hire. Did you look up their court records? (They’re available online for … Read more

Retail Shrinkage – Where Does it Go?

May 10, 2010

In doing my research for a presentation on Inventory Management I’m giving at the ASTRA Marketplace next month, I found this interesting little statistic from the National Retail Federation.Total shrinkage in the retail sector in 2008 was about 1.52% of gross sales. That’s $1.52 out of every $100 that mysteriously disappears.More interestingly, almost half of … Read more

Discounting Question…

May 5, 2010

I had an interesting debate with the president of a baby product company here at the ABC Spring Conference in Louisville.His company has a minimum ad price to help protect the integrity of his brand (and keep the low-overhead Internet dealers from discounting so much that the brick & mortar stores drop the product). But … Read more

New Freebie for Non-Profits

April 30, 2010

I’ve just posted a new eBook in the Freebies section of my website titled Non-Profit Marketing on a Shoestring Budget.It’s my notes from the presentation I gave yesterday to the Jackson Non-Profit Support Network about simple ways non-profits can improve their marketing without spending a ton of money.Thanks, Regina, for the opportunity to speak to … Read more

Employee Handbooks – Do You Have One?

April 24, 2010

I created quite a stir in ASTRALand last week. Someone posted the question on the listserve about employee handbooks. In my reply I offered to send a copy of our handbook and training checklist to anyone who wanted it. In short order I had 45 requests for copies of our handbook.Apparently, handbooks are a hot … Read more

I’m Hiring Part 4 – The Interviews and the Aftermath

April 20, 2010

I asked each applicant to, “bring in one item that best represents you and be prepared to explain why.”All 14 did an excellent job with this exercise, and the insights it gave me into what really makes them tick was well worth the effort. It also gave them one question for which they could be … Read more

I’m Hiring Part 3 – Who to Interview?

April 13, 2010

This is Part 3 in my quest to find the next great employee. (Read Part 1 and Part 2.)In three weeks I have received 79 applications. I need to get that down to a more manageable number before I start interviews. Here are some of the steps I have taken to weed through the potential … Read more

How Much Are You Giving?

April 3, 2010

Wal-Mart recently announced that it gave $467 million in charitable donations of cash & in-kind gifts to non-profits last year.Some people will read that and say, “Wow, that’s a lot of money! Way to go Wal-Mart!”Others will do the math and see that with $401 billion in annual sales for 2009, Wal-Mart’s donations to charity … Read more

Comments, Anyone?

April 1, 2010

Apparently some of you have tried to leave comments on my blogs but had problems. Oops! That’s not good manners on my part. Sorry.I think I solved the problem.Could you please try to leave a comment on this post so that I know if it is working?? (And if you can’t, send me an email.)Thanks … Read more

I’m Hiring Part 2 – Identifying the Right Traits

March 30, 2010

Facebook & Email Newsletter ads sent.Radio ad running.Applications coming in.Now for Part 2…My goal is to find genuinely helpful people. The application/resume only gives me hints at this. The kinds of jobs they held before tell me a little. The organizations they’ve joined tell me a little more. But I need to find out in … Read more

I’m Hiring, Part 1 – Attracting the Right People

March 27, 2010

I need 2 or 3, or maybe 4 more part-timers to round out my staff and keep customer service levels at our high standard.Here’s how I’m going about finding them.First, I announced it on our Facebook Page and Email Newsletter. Here is what I said… Do you like to interact with adults and kids alike? … Read more

The 3/50 Project – Are You On Board?

March 26, 2010

Cinda Baxter had a good idea. A really good idea. An idea that sprouted wings only seconds after she hit “publish” on her blog.Pick 3 local retailers you would really miss if they closed. Spend $50 in those stores this month. Repeat.It’s The 3/50 Project and it all started with a blog post on March … Read more

Serving the Customers WHEN They Want to Be Served

March 20, 2010

My wife and I finished a wonderful meal at Pablos in downtown Fernandina Beach, FL. It was 8:15pm on a Friday night. As we strolled the shops of this quaint downtown on Amelia Island, one thing was noticeably absent.No, it wasn’t the people. The sidewalks were teaming with people out for an early evening stroll. … Read more

Yellow Pages Online Don’t Work Either

March 16, 2010

I’ve talked about how Yellow Pages (don’t) work here.Now let’s talk about Yellow Pages Online…Last year I let my sales rep talk me into trying out yellowpages.com for Jackson and Ann Arbor areas (where most of my traffic originates). Now I’m trying to talk my way out of it.Last year http://www.toyhouseonline.com/ received over 44,000 unique, … Read more

Systems Versus Creativity

March 8, 2010

Interesting dilemma… Are systems for handling situations and creativity mutually exclusive?Here is the situation. One of my vendors informed me that we needed to send in photos of defective parts to get replacements. Makes sense. They need to protect their costs by knowing that they are replacing only that which needs to be replaced.Our first … Read more

Turning Your Customers Into Fans

March 5, 2010

I’ve just posted a new Freebie on my website based on the presentation I gave in January at the IDEX Show.It’s called Turning Your Customers Into Fans.If you want to grow your business, you can use traditional marketing and advertising. But everyone knows that Word-of-Mouth is the strongest form of persuasion. And you’ll get far … Read more

The Local Parenting Magazine – Is it Right For You?

March 3, 2010

My wife and I started a local monthly magazine for parents in Jackson, so I knew exactly what was going on when a colleague of mine asked my opinion about advertising in the magazines like this in his area.In his city there are multiple magazines distributed through OB/GYN offices and other locations where parents might … Read more

Make Your Emails More Effective

February 26, 2010

Here are two tips from a recent Jackson Retail Success Academy class for making your quick emails to colleagues and customers more effective and better received.Make your Subject Lines more descriptive.Make only One Point per email.How often do you scroll back through old emails looking for that one message about that one certain meeting only … Read more

Winning Gold for Your Business, Olympics Style

February 24, 2010

While watching the Olympics with my wife I came to a startling realization. In the three hours of an NBC telecast there is probably only about 45 minutes of actual sports taking place. The rest is background stories, analysis, and commercials.Since my wife and I tape it on the DVR, we quickly forward through the … Read more

I’m Sharing My Biggest Secrets

February 19, 2010

But not right here… (at least not yet:-)Thursday, Feb. 25 from 8:30am to 11:30am I am doing a 3-hour workshop with the Greater Jackson Chamber of Commerce to share the biggest secret behind the incredible success of Toy House and Baby Too. (Success? Besides growing and remaining profitable while in a shrinking industry and shrinking … Read more

Ads That Moved My Needle

February 8, 2010

There weren’t many.Last night had to be the worst round of Super Bowl ads I’ve ever seen. There was only one ad all night that I replayed for my wife to see. It was Google’s story of a trip to Paris.It had an interesting storyline that spoke to the heart. It gave you new information … Read more

The Oscars of Advertising

February 7, 2010

To the general public, tonight’s Super Bowl broadcast is the Oscars of Advertising. Like you, I get as much enjoyment out of those multi-million dollar blips on the screen as I do the actual game.And Monday morning, I’ll be talking about my favorite ads at the water cooler, too. But my criteria might be a … Read more

Profits versus Cash Flow – Which Will You Choose?

January 29, 2010

Sometimes in retail you are faced with a difficult choice. In a tough economy, one of those choices is Profit vs. Cash Flow.Sometimes you have to give away your profit to get more dollars streaming through the till. Sometimes you have to give up chasing dollars just to protect your profit margins. The question is … Read more

Two Ways to Increase Profit Margins (Without Bullying Anyone)

January 23, 2010

There are two simple ways to increase your profit margin. The first is to increase your prices. The second is to have fewer discounts and sales. (There is a third method to higher profit margin – lowering the cost of the goods, but that involves the vendor, which doesn’t qualify as simple)Did you know you … Read more

Inventory Controls That Work

January 12, 2010

Open-to-Buy is great for businesses with vendors who ship quickly and can pinpoint delivery with consistent terms. It works great for businesses whose monthly/weekly/daily sales are predictable. It is a super system for companies who can give the system full-time attention.In other words, for the Independent Retailer, Open-to-Buy sucks!I’ve looked at a half-dozen OTB methods, … Read more

Cutting Expenses the Smart Way

January 11, 2010

This past year I cut expenses at Toy House by 7.8%. And I did it without sacrificing customer service or the reach and frequency of my advertising.Here’s what I did:PAYROLL – Yes, I cut payroll. Had to. It is the single largest expense we have. Yet, even with all my cuts, my payroll actually became … Read more

Settling the Dust

January 6, 2010

Christmas is over. Retailers across the country are adding up the numbers to see how they did.The media is having a field day reporting about whether Sales were up or down and using that to determine who “won” or “lost”. The problem is that the media are not looking at the whole picture.Sales are only … Read more

What Audience Segment are You Targeting?

December 20, 2009

I subscribe to a free service called Help A Reporter Out. Three times each weekday I get an email with requests from multiple sources needing quotes for articles, blogs and books.One question recently peaked my interest. Below is the question, my answer, and some follow-up questions & answers. Are retailers doing enough to attract new … Read more

Doing December Differently

December 6, 2009

(Note: I know it’s already December 6th. For some of you it might seem like too little too late. But the advice is good and I didn’t want to wait 11 months before sharing it.)Today’s sermon from Pastor Dr. James Hegedus at the First Presbyterian Church of Jackson was about “Doing December Differently.” Would it … Read more

What Chris Brogan Can Teach You About Retail

November 30, 2009

Chris Brogan, author and power blogger, just posted a blog about a horrible shopping experience titled What Timberland Taught Me About Retail.There are many lessons in there for independent retailers. I’m going to talk about two of them.The gist of the story – he saw a Timberland boot advertised on TV and went to a … Read more

Don’t Make Your Customers Mad

November 25, 2009

Why would I want to make my customers mad? Apparently some retailers think it’s okay to piss off a few people.This Thursday the fliers hit the door with all the early bird doorbuster specials for Black Friday, and some of them are going to make customers mad.Look at the fine print in these ads and … Read more

Currencies That Buy Credibility

November 23, 2009

I’m reading a brand new book on marketing. Well… okay, I just read a brand new book. I read it in one sitting. And I’m planning to read it again – probably tonight.Yeah, it was that good. The book is called “Currencies That Buy Credibility” by Tom Wanek. Too many times we hear lines in … Read more

The Three People to Solve the Problem

November 17, 2009

If you’re in retail, at some point you will have a customer with a problem. And your success will depend on how well you solve that problem in the customer’s eye.The key is knowing the three people who can solve the problem. Those people are (in no particular order):The person Most Capable of solving the … Read more

The Christmas Tree Lesson

November 11, 2009

My son gave me the coolest gift for my birthday – a Charlie Brown Christmas Tree. Now some of you might wonder why I think that is so cool. I mean, it’s a lonely, bare tree that represents the ultimate failure of a blockhead child. Charlie was laughed out of the auditorium when he presented … Read more

What Are You Tracking?

November 4, 2009

You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Here are two numbers you should be measuring this holiday season.Traffic Count: How many sales do you have per day (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday…)? Per day part (morning, afternoon, evening)? Knowing this can help you schedule your staff to better meet the peaks and valleys of your daily & … Read more

Yes They are Price Shopping With Their Phone – It’s Okay

November 2, 2009

The new applications on iPhones allow your customers to scan a bar code on a product on your shelf and get all kinds of information online including the price others are charging for the very same item.Oh no! Oh, yes. Customers can more easily price shop you than ever before. What are you going to … Read more

More Than One Way to Say It

October 30, 2009

I wrote two articles for a local organization’s newsletter about Shopping Local. The first was soundly rejected. The second was roundly praised. Funny thing is, both said pretty much the same thing. The difference is that one said it powerfully, one not as strong.Yes, it was the more powerful message that was rejected. The fear … Read more

A New Twist on Training New Employees

October 24, 2009

I just hired seven new employees for the store. Now comes the fun part – training.My standards are high. My customers’ standards are even higher. They have an expectation about our store that may seem unfair in these days of self-serve retail. They expect to be waited upon. They expect to have their questions answered … Read more

Google AdWords – Good or Bad for Advertisers?

October 9, 2009

John Kelley from Google Ann Arbor was in Jackson yesterday telling a room of 150 people about how Google makes its billions of dollars a year. Almost all of it comes from their advertising auction known as Google AdWords.If you’re not familiar with how it works, here’s a quick breakdown.You set up an account with … Read more

What Apple Have You Eaten Today?

October 7, 2009

This post is totally off topic, intended only for those who want a little brain exercise and reflection time. Last night I watched the movie Phenomenon with John Travolta & Kyra Sedgwick. There was a particular scene that stuck with me.John Travolta’s character George Malley is dying from a brain tumor. He has just befriended … Read more

Breaking Trust the AT&T Way

October 2, 2009

Two letters have undone all trust I ever had with AT&T. For 60 years we have used AT&T in one form or another for our store. That’s a lot of trust built up.The first letter came on August 24th saying that my account with them was about to expire. With 16 phones, 8 business lines, … Read more

Being a Successful Retailer

September 30, 2009

If you’ve been following this blog regularly, you probably know everything I’m going to say here. Some of it is in my Bio, and some is on my new website www.PhilsForum.com. For those who are just starting to follow, I’d like to give you a little background about who I am and what I want … Read more

Social Media – A Must Have or A Passing Fad?

September 23, 2009

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace. You’ve heard the names. Some of you even have accounts – personal and business. And everywhere you turn, another talking head tells you how these new Social Media platforms are going to change advertising as we know it. Yet the critic in the back of your head wonders if it’s really … Read more

Billboards – Drive By Advertising or Wasted Space?

September 15, 2009

Coming into Las Vegas, you don’t need a show guide to see who’s playing. One trip from the airport and all the major acts in town are displayed larger than life. Penn & Teller, The Jersey Boys, David Copperfield, are all standing tall above the road. The promoters in Las Vegas must believe that billboards … Read more

You Have to Have a Website

August 29, 2009

In today’s business climate you HAVE to have a website. It is a minimum requirement of doing business.Over 70% of all households have Internet access. That number grows even higher at higher incomes and lower ages. According to a Pew Report study, shopping is one of the top uses for both men and women.The key … Read more

Email Marketing – Free and Easy or Spam City?

August 25, 2009

As we continue the discussion of how advertising works differently in different media, we enter into the new, scary online world of Email, Websites, and Social Media.Today’s topic is Email.At a fraction of the cost of direct mail and with the availability of templates and email services, many consider Email to be the easiest, most … Read more

Dipping Into the Well of Magazine Advertising

August 19, 2009

Every form of advertising has it’s pros and cons. Magazines are no different.To understand magazine advertising, you have to understand the magazine business model. Ray Bard of Bard Publishing explained it best when he said:“When you’re thinking about writing a book on a subject or considering abusiness to go into, it’s essential that you find … Read more

The Direct Mail Shotgun

July 25, 2009

A continued discussion of how ads work differently in different media…Ready, aim, fire!Shotguns are different from rifles. Rifles fire bullets, singular masses of metal propelled by gunpowder that make a single, clean (deep) hole in the target. Shotguns fire shot, a collection of small pieces of metal that scatter somewhat as they fly giving you … Read more

Yellow Pages – Advertising of Last Resort

July 23, 2009

Continuing the discussion of how ads work differently, lets talk Yellow Pages.For some of you, your Yellow Pages probably take up half or more of your ad budget. I know. We used to be the same way.Unfortunately, Yellow Pages are only for those people who have lost the will to advertise. It is the last … Read more

Run the Radio Marathon to Finish in the Lead

July 21, 2009

As we continue our discussion of how different advertising media work, we come to my personal favorite.Radio – the Marathon runner.No, I’m not a runner. But I am in business for the long run. My time horizon for Toy House extends beyond my children. So I like advertising that also has long term benefits. Radio … Read more

Television – the Super Bowl of Advertising

July 20, 2009

We’re discussing how ads work differently in different media.Today the topic is Television – the Superbowl of advertising.Just like the Super Bowl that everyone seems to watch, even if they are not a football fan, TV Ads get seen every day by people who are not fans of commercials (except, of course, the Super Bowl … Read more

Advertising in Newspapers the Right Way

July 20, 2009

Most advertising fails because it is the wrong type of advertising for the medium in which it is placed. As I mentioned before, I’m going to discuss a variety of advertising media and how they work best (and worst).First up is Newspapers – the medium of Relevancy.To start, let’s identify the elephant in the room. … Read more

Which Medium Works Best for Your Ads?

July 19, 2009

You’re not sure where to spend your ad dollars. It is hard-earned money and you need to make the most of it. You ask all your buddies in the industry where they get the best results. Unfortunately, twenty questions garner twenty responses, all different. You’re still confused and unsure. Which medium will work best for … Read more

Uncover the Diamonds in Your Hiring Process By Eliminating the Biggest Hiring Mistake

July 14, 2009

You’ve hired and fired enough people to know what makes a good employee and what doesn’t. Yet, your track record of finding diamonds in the rough doesn’t seem to change. I know. I’ve been there. It took me years to learn this logical approach, but now I have a proven process that eliminates the biggest … Read more

Your Products Tell Your Story

July 11, 2009

It probably seems like common sense that to be successful in retail you have to have the right products. Unfortunately common sense is all too uncommon.With the massive glut of retail on this planet, the specialty and niche independent retailers keep hearing the message, “You have to differentiate”. “You can’t carry the same things as … Read more

Are You Saying Something Remarkable? (Would You Like to?)

July 10, 2009

What do your ads say?Wait, let me rephrase that.What do your ads say that is truly worth remembering?I know what you say about your advertising.“We’ve tried that and it didn’t work.”“We don’t have that in our budget.”“We only believe in word-of-mouth.”“We only do ‘event-advertising’.”“We had to cut advertising because of the economy.”The reason your ads … Read more

Helping the Independent Retailer Succeed

July 8, 2009

“An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made, in a narrow field.” – Neils BohrWhenever I make a mistake, I am usually the first to admit it. Probably makes me unique. But if you’ve been near me when I goof, you’ve heard me say, “Not the first time … Read more

A Coach and a Leader

June 27, 2009

My son’s little league team lost in the playoffs last night. It was amazing they even made it that far. This was a team of castoffs from the start.Four weeks after practice began and two games into the season, a few kids had been mistakenly left off teams. Rather than add them to existing teams, … Read more

Growing the Top Line or the Bottom Line, What’s Your Goal?

June 22, 2009

I just returned from the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) Marketplace 2009 in St. Paul, MN. Hundreds of toy retailers and manufacturers gathered to highlight the best toys for 2009 and the best practices for toy store owners.And over the course of 4 days I must have heard the question, “How’s biz?” at least … Read more

Courage to Lead

June 9, 2009

I ran across these two videos on Leadership on a blog by Mike Rogers. Different styles (one is a movie excerpt), but similar messages.Running a business requires leadership and leadership requires courage – the courage to go on when you’re afraid.By the way, you might want to get the tissue before you click the links. … Read more

Tooting Your Own Horn

May 25, 2009

My son plays trumpet in the 5th grade band. He’s been tooting his horn since October and has improved greatly. The school pointed us in the direction of an online program called Smart Music that has helped his practice time immensely.In fact, he has even taught himself how to play Happy Birthday and Hail to … Read more

Doing it the Right Way

May 18, 2009

My wife hit her goal today. In the fall of 2007 she set a goal – lose 50 pounds… the right way.Yep, eat right, exercise more. No fad diets, no magic fat-burning pills, no surgeries, meal deals or other gimmicks. Just eat right and exercise more.Yes, she enlisted help. She signed up for Measure-up Monday … Read more

What I Learned in Louisville

May 7, 2009

The All Baby & Child Spring Conference just wrapped up. It is a conference for stores who sell baby products. Over 3 plus days we had speakers, presentations and a mini trade show. I was asked to be a presenter when the conference was scheduled but got bumped for a presentation on the new CPSIA … Read more

Deep Versus Wide

May 1, 2009

In just about everything you do, you have a choice. Go Deep or go Wide.In business that could mean a number of things…Stock a few things Deeply or stock a Wide assortment.Try to create Deep relationships with a few special customers or shallow relationships with as Wide a group as possible.Advertise Deeply in one media … Read more

Watch What You Say

April 18, 2009

1:06 pm Saturday, April 18th, phone in my right hand listening to the ring tone. Calling a downtown restaurant known for good lunches in the sleepy city of Jackson where on a Saturday half of downtown shutters the doors before the sun hits it’s zenith. They answer…“Hello, {Restaurant Name}”“Hi, how late are you open?”“One o’clock…” … Read more

What to Change, What to Keep the Same

April 14, 2009

Johnny’s Toys, a fixture of the Cincinnati toy market for decades is dropping out of the toy business. Their flagship store in Covington, KY, just across the river from Cinci is converting the sales floor into more space for birthday parties and events that they host in the back of their store, an area called … Read more

More on Word of Mouth

April 7, 2009

It’s pretty much a universally accepted truth. Word-of-Mouth is the best form of advertising. And most people add… “and best of all, it’s free!”Really?If you remember from an earlier post, Roy Williams said that word-of-mouth (WOM) comes from 3 things:Over-the-top DesignOver-the-top PerformanceOver-the-top GenerosityThese all cost money. You either spent money on the design, on the … Read more

Flowers For My Lady

April 3, 2009

Another man gave flowers to my wife. Should I be angry? Jealous? Should I hunt him down? Threaten him?I wanted to send him a thank you note.The perp who gave my wife flowers runs the body shop across the street. Al Mackey of Mackey’s Body Shop. And no, he’s not a perp. He’s a smart … Read more

Ambassadors Among Us

March 24, 2009

The wristband was teal and marked with the date March 24, 2009. It was my ticket on the ferry that would take me 8.5 miles from Fernandina Beach, FL through the Amelia River, Cumberland Sound and St. Mary’s River to the quaint little town of St. Mary’s, GA. No wristband and I was swimming back.The … Read more

Do You Have It In Stock?

March 20, 2009

Took the kids to Florida. The pool was heated. Parker brought his swim fins. Ian’s didn’t fit.No problem, we’ll be in Florida on the ocean. We’ll have no trouble finding Ian a new pair. Right?A couple of stores that we thought might have fins failed to produce. Plenty of goggles and masks, but no fins. … Read more

What Are They Talking About?

March 16, 2009

When people talk about your business what are they saying? Do you know? More importantly, are people even talking about your business?Have you given them something to talk about?Roy H. Williams, aka Wizard of Ads, mentioned three ways at a recent conference to help you get WOM (word-of-mouth) from your customers.First, you could choose to … Read more

When You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

March 11, 2009

I just got back from Grand Rapids. As a favor, Jackson Radio Works invited me to join them for the Great Lakes Broadcasting Conference to see Roy H. Williams, aka the Wizard of Ads, do a 3-hour presentation on how radio broadcasters can turn around the Michigan economy.Whenever I see Roy, it rocks my world … Read more

What Are You Going to Do Now?

March 6, 2009

The headline in the Jackson Citizen Patriot was about another manufacturer closing doors here in Jackson. I haven’t been doing the math, but add those 206 jobs to the layoffs and closures already announced and it paints a bleak picture.Our county administrator spoke on the Bart Hawley Show that despite the “goverment estimates” that say … Read more

The Third Mistake

March 4, 2009

The boss says,”Cut your spending.” The acountant says, “You’ve got to cut spending.” The board says, “Reign in the spending.”But as you pour over your expenses, they all seem necessary. Utilities? Yep, gotta keep the heat on. Insurance? Don’t want to be caught with our pants down. Selling Supplies? Can’t sell without supplies. Payroll? Don’t … Read more

Three Mistakes to Avoid

March 1, 2009

Circuit City is just about gone. The remaining stores are liquidating as we speak. This once fabulous chain (one of the 11 companies featured in Jim Collins’ book Good to Great) made two of the three classic retail blunders so common in a rough economy.First, they slashed prices. In December 2006, in an effort to … Read more

No More Pollyanna, It’s Time to Talk Cash

February 25, 2009

Okay, enough Pollyanna posts about being positive in a down economy. Enough about turning off and tuning out the media. You can only control a few things. Over the next few weeks we’ll talk about those few things you can control in concrete ways.First, and foremost, is Cash Flow. In retail cash is king. Without … Read more

Optimism in Toyland

February 20, 2009

The toy industry shrank for the second year in a row. Sales nationally were down over 2% compared to 2007, which was down from 2006. The new Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) has the whole industry in turmoil trying to figure out how to prove their already safe toys are still safe. Half of … Read more

Are You Riding the Mommy Tsunami?

February 11, 2009

There is a tidal wave of babies being born. A group large enough to rival the heralded Baby Boomers. And the moms having these babies are the most educated, wealthiest, most connected group of moms in history.They have a name for this group – The Mommy Tsunami.When the Baby Boomers had their kids it was … Read more

Wal-Mart Got it Right

February 7, 2009

In this dismal economy Wal-Mart keeps racking up sales gains. Many people are quick to point to the slumping economy as the reason Wal-Mart is doing well. Lost your income? Shop at Wal-Mart.But there’s more to it.In 2007 the economy was already starting to slide, yet Wal-Mart didn’t fare so well. In 2007 Wal-Mart rolled … Read more

Keeping Fit the Triathlon Way

February 1, 2009

Jeff Beagle talked me into doing a triathlon a few years ago without saying a thing.Jeff is a personal trainer who had a client larger than me that he was training for the Clarklake Triathlon, a 0.5 mile swim, 14 mile bike, 4 mile run event. I figured if that guy could do it, so … Read more

Blow Up Your TV, Throw Away Your Papers!

January 30, 2009

It’s time to follow the sage advice of one of my favorite folk singer/songwriters when John Prine told us all to…Blow up your TV/Throw away your papers/Move to the country/Build you a home…No, I’m not moving to the country, but I’m getting close to canceling cable TV and my daily read of the local newspaper.After … Read more

Customer Policies are for Customers

January 28, 2009

I’m sitting in the new North Terminal at Detroit Metro Airport. My AirTran flight has been delayed 8 hours because the plane taking me to Florida couldn’t leave Ohio.Sitting in the breast pocket of my sport coat is a $10 gift certificate for food in the terminal, just enough to offset the $7.95 I paid … Read more

Are You Real Real or Just Fake Real?

January 26, 2009

I watched an interesting video this morning. Great way to start the day. It’s from the TED Conference. For those of you that don’t know TED, TED is a conference of really smart people, way smarter than me, doing really cool, mind-blowing presentations, usually 15 minutes or less.Joseph Pine did a presentation on “what consumers … Read more

New Year’s Resolution for Business

January 17, 2009

Someone stole my idea.I was working on blog of a New Year’s Resolution list for businesses and someone else beat me to the punch.And they did a better job at it than I had planned.Read it for yourself by clicking here. I’ve already printed a copy for myself for continued consumption. It’s good.Happy New Year!-Phil