I would feel remiss if I didn’t mention the financial crisis our economy is currently dealing with. I won’t tell you what you already know: things are tight. We’re all doing what we can to make ends meet and, for the most part, we’re all in this together. With that said, this issue takes a look ahead to what you can expect for 2009.
With tighter budgets and less discretionary spending, people are looking for value now more than ever before, including me. Lately when I shop, I have come to realize that I look not only for the value placed on products, but the value placed on people. If I’m going to spend somewhere, what money I have left, I want to feel welcomed and appreciated. That genuine feeling comes from your employees and the work environment that
you help create.
You want the people who are working for you to want to be there, and that starts with appreciating what they do. With all the responsibility that owners and managers have, it can be easy to fall into the trap of focusing more on the problems than on the small successes. It can seem like you’re just putting out fires and waiting for the next issue to surface.
But especially in today’s tough retail environment, your employees are your most powerful resource. If you take the time to place value on the staff and reinforce what they do well — not just what they do wrong —
it builds morale and can motivate them to go above just doing their job.” And in a world of big-box stores and stressed out workers, this positive nature is something customers can appreciate.
What your staff will appreciate are specific compliments. “Great job lately” can come across as generic and impersonal, but “great job on putting together that new display” shows a genuine interest in their work and their efforts. I know that if I go to a store and the staff is unpleasant, openly complaining about their job or their co-workers or exhibiting a general displeasure at their situation, I hike it out the door and head somewhere that makes me feel welcomed and valued.
And every little bit helps, as the National Retail Federation predicts holiday sales overall will rise a meager 2.2 percent to $470.4 billion, the slowest growth since 2002. However, most experts agree shoppers will cut back on gifts for adults before they stop buying toys for children, which is good news for retailers that carry these products.
Because they’re already facing higher costs for everything else, parents are looking for a product that will get the most use, one that does more than just entertain, but educates as well. Just in time for Toy Fair, we have the “Creature Comfort” feature on page 50 where we follow how the classic plush has reinvented itself as not just another soft souvenir, but as a learning tool and lightning rod for steady sales.
Children like them because, well, they’re stuffed animals, and the possibilities for adventure with them are unscripted and endless. Parents like them because they can spark imagination and educate at the same time. Retailers like them because they appeal to the masses with both their nostalgia and modern innovation. This feature will give you a few hints on the secrets to plush profits.
When traveling to New York this summer for the NYIGF, I took a day to explore the Shop at the New York Botanical Garden. I was so genuinely impressed by the service and selection that I had to share it with the readers in the feature on page 30. They used the natural beauty of their surroundings to create a retail atmosphere conducive not only to shopping, but to learning about the products offered.
Those are just a couple previews of the features we have for you this issue. As you read through it all, take some time to think about where you want your store to be next year and let us know how we can help. Remember, we’re all in this together!