I often get someone in who tells me that a certain product sells like crazy in the store they come from. I always listen. If it isn't something I carry, I might try it. If it's something I carry but which I've not done anything with, I might give it a more prominent display.
Of course, this is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Roughly put, whatever product you pay attention to, or talk about, or give prime space to, will sell better than it otherwise would. This can give you a misleading perception of the true interest.
I've learned that for a product to truly be a bestseller it needs to sell itself--at least to some extent. Whether you add or subtract to that momentum has to do with tons of factors. For instance, there may not be a way to display it well because of the size and shape. Or the profit margin sucks. Or someone else in town has the franchise, so to speak. Or it's too hard to get. Or there is market manipulation in supply and demand. And so on and so forth.
When you walk into my store, the first thing you might see is my stack of Settlers of Catan, and in the display next to it, my Calvin and Hobbes cartoon books. Not surprisingly, these both sell consistently well. I have not incentive to move them out for something else.
Fact is, you can only highlight so much. As I once tried to explain to a lady in charge of sign ordinances in Sisters, if you highlight every letter in a sign, then NOTHING is highlighted. It's a contradiction of the very meaning of "Highlight."
Signs? You can't put a sign on everything and if you do, you just wear people out.
Some thing sell themselves so you don't really need to highlight them. Others just need a little boost. Others will eventually sell if you have it. The trick is to mix these together in a way that they work together synergistically. It's intuitive, but to me that is the very basis of marketing.
In the end, a healthy store shouldn't have to heavy-lift every product to sell it. You can pick a few items to push, but you need to make sure you don't push too hard.
You can also trap yourself. Here's the thing--if you bring in a 100 units of a new product, it will obviously sell better than if you bring in 10. If you sell, say, 40 of those 100 and order another 100 units, it's likely you'll sell another 40 units right away and so on .
What you have to watch out for is the illusion of movement simply because you're carrying more of it. If you need 60 units to break even, and you constantly sell 50 units, you end up loosing money. It's the momentum that can fool you.
I have a rough guess I use to measure a product's viability. Whatever time it takes you to sell the first half of what you ordered, half of what's left will take twice as long, and of the quarter that's left, half of it will take four times longer, and so on.
Which is fine as long as it doesn't stall somewhere along the way.
So you can get trapped selling hundreds and hundreds of units of something you've ordered a ton of, but are left with 10 or 20% of them each time, which is covered up by the selling of the new wave.
What happens is that at some point, you take a break from buying. And the product stops selling. In truth, you never made a whole bunch of money, you just tied it up in unsold inventory.
No one taught me this. It's very subtle. I had to learn it the hard way. My impression from talking to other retailers--who are excited by how well something is selling--is that they never do learn the lesson.
My best example was the original interest in manga. I started with no manga, so the first few orders of what I got sold like crazy, so I ordered a ton more, and they sold like crazy, and so I ordered a bunch more.
Of course, with manga there is literally no end. Half of Japanese books are manga. There are literally tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands if not millions of titles. No exaggeration.
At some point, I ran out of room. I took a break from buying figuring I could concentrate on the bestsellers.
Instead, the product just started stinking up the shelves. Same with anime. The hunger for "new" made it impossible to earn a profit. So when I sold 80% of what came in at a 40% margin, but was growing new inventory by 30%, I actually was going backward. Ouch.
We've been (Sabrina has been) much smarter about the new interest in manga. We make sure a series sells consistently before we move on to trying something new. It seems to be working. Constantly selling Demon Slayer and My Hero Academia, allows us to try new series.
But I always take the instant sales on new product with a grain of salt. Better to take a wait and see attitude. If the product you have in stock when you stop buying new product sells at least three or four times, then you may earn enough profit to buy something new. If not, stick to what you have or move on to the next thing.
I have come to the conclusion that if you can design a store in such a way that the product more or less sells itself, without the constant need to push it--what I call heavy lifting--then you have a viable, profitable store. If you don't, you can survive, but you will eventually burn out, or eventually get it wrong. I still push product I believe in when it makes sense, but I try not to depend on it.
The real trick it to diversify in such a way that something will sell everyday without having to put on a clown suit. Talk to people, but not push hard. Let them decide.
Not the American way, I know. But it isn't about the money you made on any individual sale, it's the flow of customers that counts. Fill your store with things that sell and then you don't have to push so hard.
Of course, that's the trick of it.