I get asked this a lot by retailers, salon owners, ecom sellers… and the truthful answer is, plan as far ahead as possible. Your plans don’t have to be concrete set in stone, but being mindful of the year ahead, and any long term plans really helps you move towards your business targets, helps form your sales plan and gives you a huge amount of confidence.

Everyone knows that the first year (or so) in business, particularly retail can be up and down, back up, and back down again… there’s so much to learn. But once we have past that newbie phase, it’s important to have some long term goals established… do you want premises, warehouse, to outsource, perhaps to sell on a new platform, or take on a new product range, brand or category. This big picture plan is your goal which then generates a road map which should detail and break down how your will get there… this could be financial plans that mean you have money saved to invest in premises, staff or stock, or time planned in to research your new platforms or products.

Start Planning Christmas

On a day to day basis, for a retailer, I always advise thinking about the coming 6-9 months, which pretty much means you have to be thinking about Christmas for most of the year!

When I worked in multiple retail as a buyer, I was often working 18 months ahead, and frequently had to ask my team “what year is it?” For example, in Spring (let’s take March 2019 as the example), I would be trading Spring Summer 19 (SS19) , (as well as comparing my sales figures to SS18) would have placed all my orders for Halloween and Christmas 2019 (AW19), and be chasing in approval samples and shipments (soon), preparing for range reviews for Spring 2020 (SS20) , and agreeing budgets for Winter 2020 (AW20)… so you can see how easy it was to be wondering if it was 2018, 2019 or 2020!

As an independent retailer, there isn’t any need to plan in detail so far ahead, but certainly at this time of year (March) it’s time to start thinking about Autumn, Halloween and Christmas. We are at the end of quarter one, and we have Mother’s Day, Easter and high summer to trade through… before we know it, it will be Back to School! When I work with clients, I push them to plan and think ahead, without bringing in overwhelm. Sometimes new retail businesses often can only see as far as the current season, they need to build up the confidence and self belief that they’ll be around to trade the next season. It’s my job as a retail mentor to help them see and believe that.

Review your figures and use them in your planning

I recommend you reviewing your sales figures from 2018, coupled with a list of stock you have leftover that you want to sell again in 2019. How much did you sell, how much stock did you buy, and how much stock do you have left over? And, how much do you want to generate in revenue (and profit) this year?

This will give you your buy figure, your buying budget…. The amount in the purse! At this stage, planning out your stock ranges and budgets is needed. Leave things too late and suppliers have no stock, place orders early enough and you can map out your delivery schedule, plan your launches and once this is established, your marketing should follow.

While planning Christmas, you still need to keep your focus on your Spring Summer 2019 plans, are you achieving your target, do you need to plan in a promotion, are you running low on stock. Think of ourselves as an athlete, we have a long distance run going on in the background (ie the Christmas plans), and the sprints are going on alongside that track in the form of the current season. Yes, we have to be working on each of the together, and that’s a skill, but one that retailers become very clever at acquiring. We do it again later in the year, around August, you will be finishing your Summer season and possibly in sale, monitoring sales and stock, chasing in deliveries, samples, images etc for Christmas, and visiting suppliers to select product for Spring.

Manufacturers have a longer critical path

I told you we always have to plan ahead and look forward. If you are sourcing from China or sourcing bespoke product from manufacturers, then you need to work on a longer critical path working around their lead times. Often manufacturers and China product can take 5-6 months to manufacture and ship / delivery your products so planning quite far ahead is needed.

Overall, it’s best to plan and think as far ahead as possible, this gives you plenty of time to order stock, consider promotions and launches, and establish your marketing plan. And it’s very true, in retail, the days, months and weeks absolutely fly by…. It was only 1999 last week wasn’t it?

I have over 23 years experience in retail… working for some of the UK’s biggest retailers and brands. And I have first hand knowledge and know how on running a successful small retail business…. because I have one alongside my consultancy business. If you like what I talk about, and want more of my retail lessons and masterclasses, then why not get access to regular training sessions, top tips and industry resources in my VIP membership club? Check it out here https://www.rbqconsultancy.co.uk/the-vip-retail-biz-club


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