I recently wrote this piece for Guild of Fine Foods publication – Fine Food Digest…

As winter finally loosens its grip on the country, it’s the ideal time to talk about some retail spring cleaning. More specifically, I mean tidying up your ranges to keep them relevant and appealing to customers. So, how should an independent retailer go about this?

Firstly, any data you can get your hands on will help immensely. If you have a POS or merchandising system that can generate sales (and profit) data, now is the time to take a look at how your categories and ranges are performing on paper.
If you want to tighten up your offering, be prepared to “trim the tail” of ranges by cutting poorer performing products.
It’s not just about sales volumes, though. As one of my the more overbearing chairmen I worked for once told me: “Sales are vanity and profit is sanity.”

Be aware of which lines are driving your cash profit. Margin mix is, of course, acceptable but large sales values without profit just renders you a busy fool.

Next, you need to move from the shop floor to the store room. Stock is effectively cash so keeping levels light and ordering frequently is always smart. But if you notice stock building up as a product sells slower than expected, then you should take immediate action. Heed another saying – “Your first loss is your best loss” – and ensure that first markdown is deep enough to shift the stock and recover your cash, as quickly as possible.

‘Stock is effectively cash, so keeping levels light and ordering frequently is always smart’

The crucial thing is that you must be ruthless and objective about every category. You need enough to offer variety but not so much that you confuse customers with choice. Offering Good, Better and Best ranges in popular categories is a good approach.
Not everyone likes cleaning but, no matter how well you’re faring, it’s got to be done.

Find out more about The Guild of Fine Food and Fine Food Digest HERE.