Keeping a balanced inventory is really important as the industry heads into an era where products are delivered directly to your door for no additional cost. At the holidays, we are always looking to make that extra couple dollars. It’s a common theme in the industry to see shops struggle to maintain that connection to customers and keep them walking through the door. More and more shops have moved away from sales to service as the number one profit center for keeping the lights on and the doors open. We've got some reminders of some best practices during the holiday season that we talk about during the last day of our Pro Class.
1. Keep your inventory in check.
It’s super fun to have every Park Tool Pizza Cutter, Surly Bottle Opener, and Chris King Espresso Tamper in stock for customers to buy, but the reality of these items is that they seem to be dead stock for the rest of the year. Think about your average customer, what do they want? Maybe use that money to splurge on a set of nicer multi-tools(the DIY’er), the extra color run of caps(the Commuter), or possibly some maps(the Bikepacker) that you’ll still be able to sell come January.
2. Check in with your vendors.
Some vendors offer up the ability to swap older product for new product. See if you can use this to your advantage to stock fun colors, neat gifts, and then swap for more practical product after the holidays. Some may offer end of the year promotional discounts for you, that you can pass on to entice customers into your store. This can allow you to have selection and fun items without having dead stock for the rest of the year.
3. Throw a holiday promotion, not a holiday sale.
Give a promotion that keeps your customers coming back rather than a simple sale. “Spend $100 and receive 5% off the next tune-up” or “For every $100 spent, receive $10 gift card.” Or something to that effect. Sure it will be more difficult for your shop to track, but it means customers come in for the original promotion, but must return to your shop to use the remaining half of the promotion(or give it as a gift to another potential customer). True that some customers may still be turned off, but it may bring in some new business and help you keep that business coming back.
Invite the populations that don't traditionally come to your shop and get creative. Maybe throw a ride and an after-ride mixer, with a gift card to the people who bring a friend that's never been to your shop. It keeps people coming back and hopefully gets more cyclists in your door during a fun time of the year.
4. Advertise “Packs” of things
It’s hard to sell a single small item because Americans have gotten into the mindset of “bigger” and “more.” Make a display that shows a whole flat-kit instead of just a multi-tool, or match some socks to a set of bottles and a cycling cap, or perhaps create a “grab-bag” of nutrition items matched by flavor, or combine a set of lights with a set of fenders. Have a few “packs” of these ready to purchase(possibly already gift-wrapped) and display the combined price(possibly also holiday discounted). It helps the customer purchase a complete set to give their loved one(without the creative effort), frees up your sales staff to help other customers instead of custom tailoring every “I love a cyclist but am unsure what to get them” conversation, and earns you a multi-item sale.
5. Winter Service Rate
If you have a true winter, then you know the shop slows during the snowy months. Offer up a “winter-rate tune-up” at a discounted price to keep people bringing in those bikes for work. Make sure to charge a “storage fee” for customers who can’t seem to pick up their bikes on time. But a tune-up with your best mechanic who has wayyy more time to complete the repair than in the summer? Sign me up for that!
Whatever you end up doing this holiday season, plan early, have a good system for tracking, and enjoy the new faces your promotions can bring in the door. We want to see all of you, doors open, lights on, in the new year.
As a gift to your employees, maybe you could give them a Continuing Education Seminar. To help hone their skills, keep them interested, better your shop, and show them that you value their work, even when the ledger can't justify a raise. Check in with your tax professional or local laws to see if this can be deducted off your business taxes.