No one said surviving COVID-19 would be easy. For that matter, surviving in retail in more normal times isn’t easily accomplished. Typically, fishing and sporting goods retailers are open seven days a week, work long hours and, if you are lucky, you might generate enough profits to send your kids to college.

Not only are you required to forecast what and how much the public is going to purchase, but you must successfully navigate through the plethora of marketing options such as print advertising, various forms of electronic marketing, internet based advertising and other more esoteric forms advertising. 

And if all of this wasn’t enough, there are all the conventional but effective forms of instore marketing such as signage, displays, adjacencies and product placement strategies. Brother, it’s not easy being a tackle retailer but it can be personally satisfying and potentially financially rewarding, if . . . . 

When it comes to writing a book on surviving in retailing, I could list a lot of “must do’s.” But upon reflection, I think I can get it down to five essential elements. Get out your note pads, here’s the list of high priority activities.

1. Stay liquid –  Even if you are profitable, if you run out of cash or borrowing capacity because of excess inventory, then you will likely go broke. Moreover, excessive inventory not only consumes liquidity, it also promotes stale and shopworn inventory and accelerates your carrying costs inclusive of costs for interest, insurance, shrinkage, handling and space consumption. When the day comes that you can’t meet your payroll or pay your vendors, the game is up.

2. Stay in stock on key inventory –  So, what is the “key inventory?” You have heard it before, it’s the 20% of the items that generate 80% of the sales. “No sweat,” you say. The problem is the items on that 20% list are perpetually changing and, as each month of the year comes and goes, the “hot sellers” list continues to morph. And unfortunately, as each year passes the list will change as well in response to changing consumer tastes. I ask you, how much of your time do you spend determining the list of items that generate 80% of your sales and how often do you do it and what metric do you use to make that evaluation? 

3. Cultivate and accelerate consumer demand – The lubricant that keeps the wheels of the company turning is sustained sales, aka, consumer demand. In other words, if you have it, they will come. While demand is, in part, cultivated by necessity, it is accelerated by advertising of some sort, displays, signage and promotion. Consumer demand is like a tomato plant . . . it will grow if left alone, but it will flourish if watered, fertilized and supported.

4. Use all available platforms to keep in touch with your current and potential customers – In the old days your choices were newspapers, radio, TV or direct mail. Today, all of that still exists but with many more, less expensive and more far reaching options, inclusive of social media. You have the luxury of trying and or using all or just a few of these options depending upon the degree of success they generate.

5. Stay relevant by distinguishing yourself from the pack of competing retailers – What makes your store better? Selection (both depth and breadth), price, service, knowledge, presentation, purchase options and attention to your customers be they in person or online.

In the end, my counsel to you, fellow retailers, is to be the best tackle retailer, not just another tackle retailer. Now go stand out!