Winter 2016
Plan Ahead by Looking Back By Nicole Leinbach Reyhle

Reflecting on 2015 good way set goals for 2016

The start of a new year is a great time to assess what lies ahead as well as reflect on what you have most recently accomplished — or lacked to, for that matter — in the previous year. Joining you in these efforts should be your employees, who undoubtedly contribute a majority of your retail business.

To jumpstart this important review process, a few questions are outlined below to help engage your thoughts, provoke new ones and lead you toward accomplishing your unique goals in 2016.

  1. What was the single biggest accomplishment for your business in the past 12 months?

This accomplishment does not have to be reflective of dollars, but instead it can represent opportunity, steps taken to improve operations or anything else you truly believe made the largest impact on your business. Make sure your employees have the opportunity to give their thoughts on this. Hearing from a few perspectives can help you best plan for the year ahead.

  1. What do you believe you failed to accomplish in the past year that you had hoped?

Again, make sure your employees are given the opportunity to share their opinions. Take the time to listen to their thoughts and together, you can evaluate both the strengths and weaknesses of your business in an effort to do better in the coming year. As Michael Jordan famously said, “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” This perspective holds true in retail, as well.

  1. What were the top-selling items for your store or brand in the past year?

Do you think these items will continue to trend as top sellers? Or do you forecast other items providing better sales for your business? Review your inventory sales and strategies from the past year — or even two — and look ahead to what you should stock on your store shelves. To help, identify items as either “staples” or “statements. This will help balance inventory. Staples should be items customers buy often, while statements come and go but should sell fairly well within their short time period.

  1. Is your sales team is at the level of performance you want them to be?

Here’s the catch: do you think your employees are satisfied with their performance this past year? Your opinion matters here, too, but collectively you can all work to improve performances in the year ahead. Take the time to communicate with your employees about the past year while also planning time to educate and inspire them to become stronger store staff in the year ahead. Among the various ways you can do this include planning quarterly reviews per each employee, scheduling no less than bi-monthly store meetings and education opportunities and coming together as a team to make an impact on your store, community and each other. Often, thinking outside the box here can help you reach new heights, as well. For example, maybe you plan an activity outside of your store and after work hours that kicks off the New Year and helps brings your team closer together.

  1. What new marketing initiatives can you make to gain visibility for your store, your business, your website and your overall brand retail image?

Marketing, like it or not, is a constant effort. Reflect on what you have done in the past to gain visibility and increase customer engagement, and then challenge yourself to strengthen current efforts while also introducing new efforts in 2016. This may mean introducing a new social media outlet to your existing efforts of social media — if you only do Facebook, maybe you add Instagram — or it could be as simple as finally doing Facebook consistently. For those of you looking to expand marketing efforts beyond social media, consider how Periscope may be right for your business or how doing various special events could be the right next step for your store. Working with like-minded businesses that are not competitive can also be a great marketing initiative that can also lead to new customers learning about your business. Once again, be sure to include your employees here in this reflection process. Their perspective may offer insight you would have overlooked otherwise.

  1. Did you reach your target market last year?

Reaching your target market means first understanding who your target market is. Did you reach this audience in 2015? Whether the answer to this question is yes or no, you want to also consider what other consumers you reached over the past year. It’s possible your target market has room to adjust and as a result, improve. Identify how you have best communicated to this audience over the past year, and then look ahead to 2016 to see how you can take this up a notch. Also consider other marketing efforts during this process that can help you reach even more of your target audience.

  1. Do you have to give up anything to get ahead this year?

Sometimes giving up things is what can get you to the next level. For example, is your store currently in a location that lacks foot traffic despite a charming store environment and your best marketing efforts? Changing locations may be on your 2016 to-do-list — even if this is the last thing you want to do. The point is, often businesses need to make adjustments to their current strategies or plans that they don’t want to but know they need to. Looking back on 2015, what efforts can you improve that may mean stepping outside your comfort zone? Whether it comes to time management, employee staffing, marketing efforts, store location or product assortment, making change may be the best steps toward success in the New Year.

  1. Can outside resources help attain your goals?

It’s tough to outsource help when help can cost so much nowadays. But gaining the right support is often the best decision you can make for your business. Whether working with vendors, contractors, consultants, photographers or anyone else, identify the right partners for your business to help accomplish your store goals. Utilizing a point-of-sale company, for example, is one way to use outside support. Hiring a PR person is another. Consider who can help you beyond the store staff you may already employ, and then identify the costs associated with this support. Take the time to consider your options in each category you look to gain support from, and be sure to ask for testimonials from each respective partner, as well. While this will add time to your to-do-list, it should both save you time and help you make more money if you hire the right partners for your business. After all, making more money is always the goal. Right?

Whether you are looking to have a steady sales year based on a strong 2015 or are looking to make 2016 your best sales year yet, the above questions are intended to help, support and motivate you and your team. Reflecting back and looking ahead make a dynamic duo in helping you reach success.

Nicole Leinbach Reyhle

Nicole Leinbach Reyhle is the founder and publisher of Retail Minded, as well as the co-founder of the Independent Retailer Conference. She is the author of "Retail 101: The Guide to Managing and Marketing Your Retail Business" from McGraw-Hill and writes a regular column for Forbes. Visit, or follow @RetailMinded on Twitter and

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