By Christine Tsui
Translated by Rachel Wang
A question goes on the Zhihu.com:
“I am at my 20s. I run a clothing shop for both adults and kids. But the location is much out of way and the business suffers a lot, which I have known a little before I open this store.
It is only 120 meters between my store and the most crowded street of our town. But what’s the point is that few people know my store, so, even on low prices, customers are rare. For instance, the cloth, sold by others for 185RMB, is only for 130RMB in my shop. What’s the worse, my store is the only one in the street, where there is a kindergarten passed by so many parents, and a branch of the State Grid collecting fees of electricity for the whole town every month. However, they are nothing to do with my business!
What’s wrong on earth with my business? How can I deal with it?”
The questioner does not mention the profitability, which I suppose would be unsatisfactory enough. Besides, I do not know how long the shop has been opened, so I can only put up the following suggestions:
1. The flow of customers is the life of the offline stores. The essence of your dilemma is the lack of customers, so the major task for you is to increase the flow.
2. There are two ways to attract more customers. The first is to depend on the natural customer flow, which is exactly the shortage of your store, so the only way is the other one, to deliberately drawing the crowds, in other words, to promote both online and offline. The specific approaches are the followings:
- The first offline promotion approach is the traditional ones (it may work in our town), for instance, leaflet distribution, billboard hoardings in the places with heavy traffic, and the obvious signs etc.
- The second offline promotion approach is the joint promotion along with other stores that share the same target customers but with no competing relationships between your stores. For example, you should know which restaurants or amusement places the person buying clothes in your stores would like to go. And you should organize joint promotions with them. They would introduce their customers to you, and in turn you would also introduce yours to them. In addition, you can set the push money in advance.
- The online marketing can run through social media, like WeChat Microblogs, or establish the online communities, which can maintain all the customers within a community. You can reward the regular customers who recommend your stores to the new ones with a certain percentage of push money to attract more people to your store.
3. Without the flow of customers, it would be in vain whatever sales skill you would like to use, so the customer flow should have the privilege to be solved.
4. The less customers are, the higher the unit price should be set in your store. In the contrary, you sold in lower price than other stores did, which could only lead to a dismal sales performance. It should be a simple formula that Sales Volume = Sales Numbers* Unit Price. So, your sales performance would go down when you not only set the low unit prices, but also suffer from the stagnant customers flows. You cannot compete with the fast fashion brands with prices, for they hold a large sales volume. For you, you should raise the unit volume when you are not able to boost the number of units overnight, which means to ensure the quality and design equal to the high unit prices. Meanwhile, you can also manage to improve the per customer transaction. In other words, you can encourage each customer to buy more than one piece.
5. When it comes to the products, they should be qualified with the demands of your customers. The essence of retail is to sell the suitable items to the right people in the right sites. You should learn about the demands of your customers and try to supply exactly what they want.
6. In a word, the core of your business is not to find certain master strokes, but to improve the customer flow, and then the quality of your goods.
7. By the way, if you have run the store for over one year and have tried all the methods above but still cannot gain any payoff, my only suggestion would be giving up the business. You should conclude from the experience and try to find another location to restart your business. If the real estate of the previous shop is owned by yourself, you can lend it out. As we all know, starting your own business is the kind of process of repeated trial and failure, and at last you may find the right direction.