Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Overwhelm them with choice.

Once again, I'm asking myself why my store is doing so relatively well in a down time.

I think it's because I overwhelm people with choice.

I have so much stuff, that people can't NOT find something they like.

That doesn't keep 80% of the people from walking out the door without buying something, but that's just because they're buttheads. (Look, Martha, he called his customers buttheads! No, I didn't. I called my non-customers buttheads. ;>)

Anyway, that's the policy I've been pursuing for that last eight years or so. Fill every nook and cranny of the store with intriguing product.

Not to be too obvious, but it's mistakes that kill small business. Either big mistakes or an accretion of small mistakes. In the case of Pegasus Books, about 10 years worth of mistakes both big and small, and another 10 years of working off the consequences of those mistakes.

It's not that I don't keep making mistakes; but they come with less frequency and less damage these days.

That's why I think Linda's store was successful from the start. We had 20 years of mistakes that we could avoid. It sprang into being a fully thought out and functional store, with a workable business plan and policies, and reasonable costs and realistic estimates. We had professional experience and an easy manner.

If you can survive the 20 years of mistakes, the experience is worth just about everything.

In my own store, I've got a pretty good idea of what sells and what doesn't, and at what price. I know when something is a bargain, and how long it will take to sell, and whether it fits the mix and whether I can have a smaller or bigger margin and where and how to display it.

I often get asked, "What's selling really well?" My usual answer is, "Nothing is selling a lot, everything's selling a little." Which is really true. Gone are the fad days. Last fad I was in was Pokemon, which peaked at Christmas 2000. I don't really miss them, frankly, though I'm prepared to try to make money if one comes along.

I had a regular come in, who asked me, "How can you get away with so much stuff that doesn't sell?"

Well, my answer is: Everything sells. Well, most everything. It may take 5 years, but eventually just about everything sells. I have toys that have yellow plastic; which is probably a sign that the toy has been in the store for more than 5 years. But I have very few yellow plastics -- and even they sell eventually, just because no one else has them.

When something gets taken downstairs to storage, that means I've decided that it will never sell.

I have maybe one or two boxes of dead toys. I have hundreds of boxes of back issue comics and sports cards and entertainment cards. That was because the market shifted, and I shifted toward a new retail model. These would probably sell if I had a way to display them, or the time to sell them online. Meanwhile -- they are in storage.

People who haven't been in my store for a few years, are always surprised by how much stuff I have. Anything that came in since they came into the store last is 'new.' For tourists, most everything in the store is 'new.'

That's one of the reasons I'm downtown.

I've just ordered a ton of stuff when my store is already packed. But that is part of the process of constant changing of product mix -- ordering both quality evergreens and cheap liquidations and blending them. So much stuff that anyone coming in the door will see at least one thing they simply have to have.


blackdog said...

"These would probably sell if I had a way to display them, or the time to sell them online.

There are a couple of local outfits that will take care of selling them for you on eBay. They take a commission, of course, but still, getting something for them is better than getting nothing, right?

Jason said...

"I have so much stuff, that people can't NOT find something they like."

I know that's always been -my- problem ...