Retail Rescue

Retail Rescue
Good businesses don’t become successful by accident. A motivated staff is the best asset you can have. Alan Hawkins

What do you do if you think your business isn’t performing or expanding quite as you’d like? Alan Hawkins, CEO of British Independent Retailers Association (BIRAƒ) provides some useful advice and support.


One of the hardest things in a business is to step back and bring a pair of fresh eyes to a problem. Are you working in your business or on your business?

In today’s climate many owners have made themselves an integral part of the everyday running of the business by removing a level of management This has many plus points but perhaps not of helping you see overall strategy.

The solution could be outside consultants but if you allow yourself a little time to think then the answers may not be that costly or difficult to find.


Is the fundamental issue for your business ‘position’? Maybe the centre of your high street has moved, or a major redevelopment some distance away has fundamentally affected your footfall.

It’s a brave decision to relocate but it can work. Just don’t leave it too late as you may have a valuable freehold that would be an enabler in releasing capital. This may not be an option in a few years’ time if you build up debt against that security.

Don’t expect a new location to be a bed of roses, but a least ask yourself the question around position. It may be that some owners would be better moving out quickly with something rather than ploughing on regardless and coming out with nothing.


OK, so your business needs a refresh not a complete restructure. Some time spent on research will pay back handsomely.

Start from the customers’ viewpoint, how do they see your business? Why are they not coming in the numbers required or spending enough when they are there? Are you a brand in your area? Do your customers understand what you are saying about your business, quality, value, service, range, advice, ease of dealing with?

A good old-fashioned SWOT analysis, (strengths weaknesses opportunities threats) can be a good starting point too.

Do this yourself, but also bring in your staff for a collective analysis. You will be surprised how much they can add, and in some areas will know your business better than you do. Check your rivals and see where you are best and where they are best, what can you do to change the balance? The outcomes will be different for each business but if you do nothing, the outcomes will be the same.


Do you really know your business or do you think you do? Do you really understand which items are moving fast and which ones slowly? Do you understand the interaction between margin and stock turn? Do you have the system to do it by product, or at least by department? Have you invested enough in systems to provide some of these answers?


When did you last train and challenge yourself and your staff?

A week away on a residential with high fliers from other sectors and business sizes is extreme but it could surprise you, both in what you don’t know but also in what you know but haven’t given yourself time to develop.

Training your staff, from in store, day courses and distance learning can all add to the skill set in your business. Good businesses don’t become successful by accident. A motivated staff is the best asset you can have.


Really work hard on reviewing costs. This of course starts with buying well. Have you price compared where you are getting stock from, what quantities are needed to take direct shipments, whether a wholesaler works best for you? What special discounts, payment terms are available? In many cases if you don’t ask you won’t get.

Overhead control is vital too, and that is where someone like Bira can serve you well. This should enable you to cut costs on credit card processing, insurance, banking, utilities and rent and rates, and of course buying too. If gross profit is hard to come by then don’t waste it paying more than you need.


There are only two reasons to go into retailing, making money and having fun. But if you aren’t making money the fun will soon evaporate. The answer to any problems in your business probably aren’t too hard to find. Implementing change is harder but that’s where the right results will bring back the fun.

For further help or advice contact: