New Year's Retail Resolutions

Happy 2014 !

After the busy holiday season and the frenzy of festivities, January and early February are often marked by a slump in sales for the retail industry. The following weeks tend to be slow for retailers, giving them a chance to reflect on 2013 and make some improvements for the future.

The results for December 2013 shopping sales are in, and it looks U.S. sales during the last week in December were 3.1% lower compared to last year, and traffic was down by 21% according to traffic tracker ShopperTrak. Online sales, however, increased from 13% to 23% between December 15 to 18 as measured by Custora Pulse, which calculates data from retailers all over the U.S. What does this mean for 2014? Small business will face new challenges as the retail landscape evolves, and competition will be forever fierce. This year, retailers can be resolute in their efforts to remain current, use the right tools to streamline their business and improve their customer experience.

Here are 6 actionable resolutions to keep in mind for a fresh start in 2014:

1. Get online! (if you haven’t already)

Customers expect immediate access your store across various touch points. Even if you don’t have an online store, consumers must absolutely be able to easily find information about your store from a desktop or mobile device. A website is the new business card, and it allows your brand to be instantly and widely accessible and shareable. Remember social media, as it can provide an exciting platform for customer reviews and again, shareable information. If you think your social media game is downpat with a Facebook page, think again; consider expanding your presence to services like Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr.

2. Get the tools

Shoppers might be attached to brick-and-mortar, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t super-savvy online shoppers too. With the right mobile payment technology and integrated POS systems, a store can become like a website-come-to-life, with many of the advantages of online shopping, such as swift transactions, digital receipts, and detailed product information. If that isn’t incentive enough, here’s another reason to update your payment and inventory system: your competitors are doing it.

3. Start a relationship

As you might already know, a key advantage of shopping brick-and-mortar is the personal touch. Getting to know your customers by name is not only a rewarding personal experience, but results in first-hand market research. In 2014, spend more time on the sales floor learning about your customers and observing shoppers’ habits.

4. Get creative

A store’s decor and overall atmosphere alone can be enough to draw crowds and become a destination. Keep in mind that many folks shop for entertainment’s sake, even for basic necessities. This past holiday season, shoppers could help bake cookies at William Sonoma, or soak in live classical music performed at Montreal’s Holt Renfew. The right amount of auditory, visual, and aromatic stimuli can create lasting memories for consumers – something your competitors can’t easily duplicate.

5. Think global, act local

Due to a cultural backlash against big box retailers, being an independent shop can actually work to your advantage in 2014. With the resurgence of interest in “Main Street” shopping and locally-sourced products, your independent store can become a pillar of the community. Getting involved in initiatives such as Shop Small can help to position your business as being local and community-oriented. How to become more involved in your neighborhood? Give back! Now is the time to join local charities and organizations in planning spring festivals and fundraisers.

Whether you decide to make serious changes, or just tweak your marketing mix, the spirit of the new year can give many entrepreneurs that extra push to improve. Here’s to 2014 being your best year ever.