Fashion Retail Sales Slowdown Australia-wide

Consistent with the emails and phone calls we receive from fashion retailers all over Australia is this last weekend photo in the Weekend Australian (30-31 July 2011).

"Kira Stutton has seen a steep decline in sales figures for the shop she manages in Adelaide."

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has confirmed consumers are saving more and spending less. I believe many fashion retailers became lazy and complacent with their marketing over the ‘boom’ years and now as store traffic has declined they are feeling the pinch. The need for good (if not, great) fashion marketing is more important than ever to bring customers into your store!

Fashion business sales adelaide store

Photo source: Weekend Australian (30-31 July 2011)

About the author: I’m Mark Fregnan, founder of Smart Fashion Marketing (Kinetic Media & Marketing) – an Australian consulting business that assists fashion retailers to increase sales and improve business value. Because we have a passion for marketing, our retail business clients enjoy better store and label brand exposure, greater cash-flow and more time off to enjoy the finer things in life!

How To Advertise Your Fashion Retail Boutique Store

Imagine – today a small boutique fashion retail store opens for the first time. How does the owner attract people and potential customers – where no store brand, awareness or recognition existed before?

fashion advertising for boutique retail stores

If, like most fashion retail store owners – they buy $50,000 to $200,000 in stock, make the shop nice, and then open the doors hoping to attract customers.

Perhaps, if they have any money left over – they place a few fashion advertisements, showing off a new season garment, shoes, jewellery or accessories.

This is a very slow way to advertise and market a fashion retail store.

I’ll let you in on a little ‘secret’…

Most retailers, want a customer to make a sale (i.e. to make profit). Whilst the smart retailer, wants to make a sale to get a customer!

This is profound. I hope you see the distinction.

If a fashion store can build a strong clientele base quickly – the store can achieve profitability much sooner. The alternative however, is years of slowly rising revenue using traditional fashion advertising which in most cases is not very effective.

Most fashion retailers still rely on the same techniques to advertise and market their store – where ‘smarter’, more efficient methods are available today.

About the author. I’m Mark Fregnan, founder of Smart Fashion Marketing (Kinetic Media & Marketing) – an Australian consulting business that assists fashion retailers to increase sales and improve business value. Because we have a passion for marketing, our retail business clients enjoy better store and label brand exposure, greater cash-flow and more time off to enjoy the finer things in life!

What To Do If Your Fashion Retail Sales Are Down

The GFC and the rising interest rate cycle has certainly affected retail sales in the past two years.

However, certain clever retailers have been able to leverage their fashion marketing and branding to maintain their revenue and even grow during this time. For the rest – recent times have been challenging. So let’s examine what is the role of the fashion store owner.

Fashion sales - what not to focus on

What NOT to do if your fashion store is quiet

I was contacted by a fashion marketing newsletter subscriber (a store owner) recently who said this (word for word…)
I know – it’s incredible…

…."I’m finding that we do not have time to read the ideas let alone implement them…"

I also had on my computer one of the original emails from this particular store owner – here is the important excerpt:

We own two clothing stores and have been in business for over 6 years. Although we haven’t made a profit in those 6 years! Our major goal, of course, is to turn a profit.

Yes, incredible. This owner says they don’t have time to implement our Smart Fashion Marketing strategies (actually proven to work – not theory), yet confess to spending 100% of her time on SHOPKEEPING ACTIVITIES!

This is real important – if you are fashion retail store… are you in the shopkeeping business or in the business of marketing of your store and brand?

I hope you answered MARKETING!

Absolutely – at least 4 hours a week of your time should be devoted to marketing, promotion and branding activities. It will only cost you $80 or so to free up those 4 hours (i.e. you pay a casual to do your shopkeeping work).

It’s YOUR role as the retail store owner to WORK ON your marketing and branding – no one else you employ will have the passion about your business that you do (you can, of course, leverage your time by utilising the services of a marketing house like ours).

Remember – you have to think like a marketer, and hand most of your shopkeeping activities to staff if you want to enjoy healthly profits and see your fashion store(s) grow!

About the author: I’m Mark Fregnan, founder of Smart Fashion Marketing (Kinetic Media & Marketing) – an Australian consulting business that assists fashion retailers to increase sales and improve business value. Because we have a passion for marketing, our retail business clients enjoy better store and label brand exposure, greater cash-flow and more time off to enjoy the finer things in life!

Fashion Retailing Meets The Titanic

I get correspondence from a surprising number of fashion retailers who own smaller stores where the annual sales revenue is ‘stuck’ at $200k, $300k or even $500k per annum. I’m told that not only have ‘sales growth’ have been stagnant this year, but for many years.

When I write back to ask them what fashion marketing, advertising or customer relationship activities they are working on – I usually get this response…

"Oh, we need to buy some new stock and move our displays around. We should have this all done soon. Maybe we can look at marketing next year."

Talk about "Shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic!"

Running a fashion business like the titanic

If 100% of fashion marketing ‘activity’ is stock ordering and moving it around the store…

Beware!!!

It’s like shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic.

Albert Einstein once said "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a difference result".

Yes, buying new stock and making the store displays attractive is important. Good visual merchandising does lead to increased sales. However, it can’t occupy 100% of the fashion business owner’s time.

At least 1-3 hours a week should be devoted to fashion promotion and working on the marketing calendar. You can’t expect store sales growth without this activity. It just won’t happen.

So when I get the ‘deck chair replies’ – I say to myself … "Insanity"!

If you are a fashion retail store owner and do spend 1-3 hours a week on ‘non-titanic’ activities – well done.

If not, or if you don’t know how to break-through to higher sales revenue, contact us about our fashion marketing programs. Not only will you save time and money ‘experimenting’, you will get actual proven and tested promotions ‘ready to roll-out’ for instant sales and more cash in your bank account.

Click here to contact us, or click here to join our entry level Fashion Retail Insiders program for only $47 per month.

About the author: I’m Mark Fregnan, founder of Smart Fashion Marketing (Kinetic Media & Marketing) – an Australian consulting business that assists fashion retailers to increase sales and improve business value. Because we have a passion for marketing, our retail business clients enjoy better store and label brand exposure, greater cash-flow and more time off to enjoy the finer things in life!

Does Facebook Own Your Fashion Retail Business?

"I want to save money on marketing and just use Facebook instead" – was the incredulous reply to a conversion I had with a Fashion Retailer recently. The reason I was so amazed at the response from this retail store owner was not the fact that he was using Facebook to market his business – actually I recommend fashion retailers to ADD Facebook to their marketing mix; but that the store owner wanted to rely on Facebook marketing exclusively!

Fashion marketing using Facebook

Facebook and Facebook fans are a great way to market your fashion business – but it’s not your customer database!

Facebook is a third-party company. The list of people (fans) are CONNECTIONS developed within the Facebook environment.

However, a Facebook account is not a retail store customer database. You don’t own a Facebook list – the Facebook company does.

When you want to communicate to a certain segment of your customers or find out how much they spent – Facebook can’t help you. You need to have your own customer database linked to sales history. That way you can be much more effective with your fashion marketing and achieve MORE SALES.

And as I’ve mentioned before, a customer database and the relationship with those customers is one of the most important assets in a business. It adds a substantial amount to your business goodwill.

SUMMARY : Add Facebook to your marketing mix, but it isn’t a replacement for a good customer list. Facebook is a complementary medium, use it to further promote your fashion store.

By the way, if you don’t have access to a good customer marketing system – Click here to test drive our Lifetime Customer Program (included in the Fashion Retail Insiders membership).

About the author: I’m Mark Fregnan, founder of Smart Fashion Marketing (Kinetic Media & Marketing) – an Australian consulting business that assists fashion retailers to increase sales and improve business value. Because we have a passion for marketing, our retail business clients enjoy better store and label brand exposure, greater cash-flow and more time off to enjoy the finer things in life!

When Is The Right Time To Open Your Next Fashion Retail Store? Part 2

I know, I know – you’re itching to open your next fashion retail store.

If your next store is store number 3 (or more) – I reckon you must have created a very good store opening process, so I would say go for it.

However, if it’s your second store – BEWARE – there are pitfalls.

Fashion retail store fit out

Many single store owners are tempted to open a second store because the first fashion retail store may not be performing that well and an opportunity arises to have another store in perhaps a better location.

Watch out – not only could this be a money trap, it can be a time trap as well.

I’ve personally met ‘stressed-out’ fashion retailers who try very hard to keep two stores profitable, by cutting staff time and working unrealistic hours, running back and forth between the two retail outlets. What often happens (and I’ve heard this first hand on the telephone from these poor retailers) is that they will finally close one store and be stuck with a big financial loss, excess stock, and excess store fittings. This extra burden puts more pressure on the cash-flow of the remaining store and often the retailer will close that store too, and be out-of-business!

It’s a heart-breaking situation, but unfortunately all too common in the fashion business world.

Here’s how to avoid that situation…

Guidelines for opening your second fashion retail store

Your single store MUST be able to stand on it’s own. That is, the store needs be profitable by being staffed without you being there. That is, your full-time staff member(s) and casuals cover 100% of the store hours. Another way to look at it – could you take three months off and still have an open store when you got back?

If not, please don’t open that second store – you’re not ready yet!

When you open your second store, you’ll need to give it your full attention for perhaps several months – to get everything right so it’s a profitable store too – you can’t be worrying about your original shop.

To have a fashion retail store that is profitable without you requires good marketing systems, good sales systems and good procedures for the staff to follow. Not only will this information make your first store very profitable, it will essentially form the basis of a ‘cookie-cutter’ system which will allow you not only to open a second store, but many others too.

For more information on good fashion marketing take a look at our FREE mini-course (click here).

About the author: I’m Mark Fregnan, founder of Smart Fashion Marketing (Kinetic Media & Marketing) – an Australian consulting business that assists fashion retailers to increase sales and improve business value. Because we have a passion for marketing, our retail business clients enjoy better store and label brand exposure, greater cash-flow and more time off to enjoy the finer things in life!

27 Questions You Should Ask Before Buying A Fashion Retail Business

I met the husband and wife owners of a small retail shop recently. The business was running at a $65,000 (approx) annual loss. They had purchased the business over 12 months ago and had been steadily losing money. I looked briefly at their books and realised they had paid too much for the business. On top of that, both of them had no retail business experience and they had decided to cut out all of the advertising that the previous business owner had been running – due to cost reasons only.

I asked them how much research and due diligence had they conducted before buying the business. I was shocked by their response…

Don't sign to purchase a fashion retail store without doing your homework

"We asked the solicitor who was performing the business settlement service if the business was a good buy."

In otherwords, they asked after the sale… Talk about throwing money away. Needless to say, they no longer have any available capital to invest in marketing or anything else. The outcome will be to close up shop and accept the loss, and the lesson.

 

This is real important…

I’ve spoken to and met with many business owners who have paid too much for their business (and not just fashion retailers – all types of businesses). It’s like paying $100,000 extra for a house. The problem is that usually the extra capital has been borrowed which puts a strain on the business cashflow. Often it’s very difficult to recover from this situation.

To gain $100,000 in net profit in a fashion retail store may require at least an additional $800,000 in sales revenue (i.e. on a 12.5% net profit margin).

$800k in ‘additional’ (over and above existing) sales revenue which isn’t a very easy thing to achieve in a short-time frame, i.e. 12 months.

So how do you actually avoid this type of business disaster?

Do your homework – Ask yourself these questions…

1. What do I want from being in business?

  • Freedom to do ‘my’ thing?
  • Be an entrepreneur?
  • To make more money than being an employee?
  • Work fewer than 30 hours a week?

2. Why am I going into a fashion retail business?

  • For lifestyle (to work fewer than 40 hours per week, with the freedom to go on holidays whenever you choose)
  • To make a profit by building the business up (increasing sales) and then selling it.
  • To generate more cash-flow than than a 9-to-5 job.

If your reasons are not listed above (lifestyle or profit) – don’t buy the business. If you want to be involved in retailing out of interest and passion for fashion – honestly it’s much safer to be an employee.

3. What will be my exit strategy to get out of the business?

  • Sell the business for a profit
  • Sell the business to a major shareholder(s) and become a silent partner
  • Pass the business down to a family member
  • Franchise

4. What skills do I have that will make me successful in this business?

Please don’t think that all that is required to ‘improve’ the business is cosmetic – by changing fashion labels or re-designing the store interior. Unless the store has poor stock and an ugly showroom – these ‘improvements’ won’t double sales.

Only very good marketing, a good sales team and good systems will increase sales significantly. Sorry, I’ve seen many business owners take over an existing fashion retail store – changing labels and interior perhaps at best has increased sales by 30% initially and then nothing after that.

5. What skills will I have to “hire in”?

  • Sales staff/assistants
  • Bookkeeper
  • Fashion buyer/consultant
  • Sales trainer
  • Outsource marketing?

6. What monthly cash-flow do I need?

  • To pay myself a decent wage
  • To cover all the retail business expenses
  • To cover the repayments if I borrow to purchase the business
  • Additional business profit

7. How much working capital do I have access to?

Can I get an overdraft to cover seasonal buying?

8. Will this business suit me i.e. hours, type of operation?

To ask the vendor who is selling the business…

9. How long has the business been operating?

10. How long has the current owner had the business?

11. Why is the current owner selling?

  • Worn out from working long hours for little money?
  • Couldn’t make the business work (perhaps in it’s current location)?
  • Actual legitimate reasons such as retiring, moving to another state or country, or looking for another challenge in another business?

If it’s retiring – also be aware that may business owners in their 50/60s hang on to a unprofitable business (maybe paying themselves a very basic wage) because it was too difficult for them to have sold earlier and got a job.

12. What is the Cash flow and Profit (Gross and Net) for the business?

13. What is the business owner paying him/herself?

14. What do the last 3 years of financial accounts show?

15. How has the business been valued?

16. Who are the key customers, suppliers, staff?

17. What are the terms and length of any leases?

18. Will the current owner stay on and assist for a period of time?

Ask them to put this period in WRITING!

19. What areas of the fashion retail business are systemised?

For example:

  • Point-of-sale (POS)
  • Bookkeeping
  • Marketing / customer marketing systems
  • Website / social media (e.g. Facebook)
  • E-commerce website

20. Is there a business plan?

21. How many hours a week does the current owner work in the business?

22. When was the last time the current owner took a holiday?

23. What is the marketing systems like? Do they make money for the business?

Review all advertising material, the customer database, the POS systems, any loyalty programs, special promotional material, etc.

24. What facts support the "story" of the business?

25. How secure is future income i.e. contracts with customers and suppliers?

26. How dependent is the business on the current owner?

27. What will it take to grow the business so I can sell it for a profit?

Fashion stock

Often this is the BIG ONE – many fashion retailers overcapitalise in stock in relation to the store sales annual turnover. Ask your accountant is there is too much capital tied up in stock on the balance sheet. If there is – don’t buy the business!!! Tell the vendor. You can either wait until they sell down the surplus stock at regular prices, or they can offload it at cost. Don’t let their past buying decisions become your problem!

Before you make an offer

1. Get your accountant to check the financial accounts

Obtain actual lodged tax returns with the government, not the business owner’s printout or handwritten bookkeeping summary.

Your accountant will ensure that the business has cashflow and is not over-capalised.

2. Hire a solicitor who is experienced in buying fashion retail businesses like the one you are looking at.

Your solicitor will ensure that the contracts with suppliers, the landlord, etc don’t have any surprises.

3. If you are spending over $250,000 on the business, or even if you want to be extra careful, pay for a business valuation.

Pay a licenced valuer to come in and audit the business. Even if you have to spend $7,000 for the valuation, it’s still much better than paying $50,000, $100,000 or more than you should have to buy the business.

You may even be able to ‘use’ the valuation to negotiate a better price.

The lesson

Homework always pays off in business. Sure, there is a lot of questions (above) – but, like with real-estate, the profit often is made when you buy the business, not when you sell. Taking shortcuts and buying a business on emotion often lead to regrets. Don’t let this happen to you.