Article By: Kathy Cruz
It’s that time. Time for a year-end-review to see what worked and didn’t work this past year.
At the beginning of each year, my sister (Karen) and I have a tradition. We go to dinner at a local restaurant in the city where our business is located, Lakewood, Ohio and have a pow-wow of sorts.
I come prepared with a long list and a bunch of spreadsheets… and Karen chuckles.
At this dinner, we laugh, we relax AND we usually spend a solid 3 hours treating ourselves to a great meal but don’t get me wrong, this meeting of the minds is serious. This is one of our most productive and meaningful discussions of the year.
Whether you own an online shop or a brick and mortar store, I highly suggest doing this…
Follow along in this blog post to see what Karen and I review – some of these may apply to your business, some may not so cross off the items that don’t fit and use the “Other” fields to add your own. Here we go…
Look at website stats for the current YEAR – Where is most of your traffic coming from? What pages are people visiting the most?
If you use Google Analytics, you can really dive into this by viewing the demographics of people visiting your site and so much more. View the stats for a full year, you might find some surprising information.
ANALYZE POINT-OF-SALE SYSTEM DATA:
One thing I’ve learned, don’t assume we know our business just because we’re physically in our store every day. Data doesn’t lie.
Look at your numbers! Of course, you’ll want to start with your gross sales but we also take a look at other things too, sales per day, per month, credit card vs. cash sales, which product or product line sells best, which sells the least, what hours do your customers shop with you and much, much more.
We recently reviewed the data from our Square system for nearly two years and found that we had consistent hours where we slowed down in sales. So we changed our hours. It was the first time in 2 years we did this but it was VERY clear in our system AND the change in hours totally worked for own lives too so it was perfect!
Which platform is working best? – Do you have an inactive Twitter account or other social media account that isn’t bringing in new customers? You can probably let it go…focus on 2 or 3 platforms that work the best for you.
Look at your analytics, which day are you getting the most engagement? What kind of post is more popular and what resonates more with your customers?
Do you have simple metrics system to see monthly results?
How often are you posting? Is it enough? Do you need to create a schedule and get organized with this?
Since we started and we transitioned from a DIY to a brick and mortar store, we let go of a few social media platforms. It’s okay to just focus on two social media accounts. For most shopkeepers, it will be Facebook and Instagram.
SPECIAL EVENTS / MARKETS:
Take a look at events you hosted in your store, the markets you were involved in or the pop-up shops you participated in. Which ones weren’t so fruitful, which ones took more work than it was worth, which ones were crazy successful and how can you profit more from it if you repeat it in 2018.
Do you have other markets that are on your radar? What can you do to get into them? Is it juried based on photos or your website and how can you improve these things?
How can you simplify your setup for pop-up shops?
PERSONAL OPINION(S) / FULFILLMENT:
If you have a business partner, sit down and talk about what’s working and not working, not just for the business…but for EACH of you too. My plan this year, like last year is to ask myself and ask Karen what do we LOVE to do in the business and what do we DISLIKE to do in the business.
When we opened our brick and mortar store we became overwhelmed with keeping up with our Etsy Shop listings, so we hired an intern to do this.
If you sit down and have this meeting with yourself or with a partner and find you BOTH really dislike doing something, discuss delegating it to someone. That may mean hiring an employee or hiring a subcontractor… but get it off your plate.
BUYING AND/OR MAKING PROCESS:
Whether your buy products to sell or make products, you have a system for each of these.
Take a look at your system. How can you improve it? Do you find a part of your system bottlenecks production? Do you find several steps bore you and you could be way more creative and productive if you delegated some of the “boring stuff”? You might want to hire help or an intern.
Karen and I found that we were spending way too much time on the laptop sourcing products from other businesses or wholesalers so this January we’re heading to America’s Mart in Atlanta. We’re confident that at least one buying trip a year will afford us way more hours at the shop to do other things!
Take a look at supplies you purchase regularly (packaging, shipping materials, marketing material, etc) and spend a little time researching more affordable options.
Don’t get complacent. You might be comfortable regularly placing an order but really take a look at numbers, quality, etc.
For example, this year we’re going to take a look at the number of shopping bags we purchased, the number of stickers we purchased for each bag and find out if it’s easier and more affordable to custom order pre-printed bags.
I have a feeling this will be enlightening….and we might end up with a better-branded bag for our customers!
How much are you paying for boxes and shipping for materials? Can you find a local box supply company? Can you use the free Priority Mail shipping boxes and supplies from the US Postal Service?
Are you shipping one item at a time? Can you batch your shipping process so you streamline the process and maybe ship out only 3 days a week.
Are you getting the best rates possible? Do you need to set up an account with a shipping service to get the best online rate? If you’re shipping less than 50 packages a month you set up a FREE account with Shipping Easy you’ll get the best online rates AND you can print labels at home.
If you’re in the U.S., have you downloaded the USPS app so you can schedule shipping pick-up? Do you know you can do this? You don’t have to go to a local Post Office each time you want to ship something!
Would it be nice to start branding your packaging? Stickers, personalized notes, pretty tissue paper?
How much are you spending? Where are you spending it? Do you need to budget more for this?
If you haven’t started using Facebook Ads, I highly suggest it for both online shops and brick and mortar stores.
If you own a brick and mortar store, your space will be one of your biggest expenses. Rent, Utilities, Insurance and everything else that comes with maintaining a physical location can be daunting.
Can you negotiate a better lease? How can you use less Electricity, heat, etc?
Do you need to shop for better insurance rates?
Can you find a more affordable winder cleaner?
Also, be sure to look at the percentage of operating expenses to income.
If you’re making your own products take a look at the production supplies you purchase.
Are you unhappy with the quality, do you need to find a better product?
Can you find the supplies cheaper somewhere else? Can you find a local business for the supplies, that way you don’t have to pay shipping or freight?
We offer creative DIY workshops in our studio. We started purchasing supplies from a local wholesale company and we save hundreds in shipping/freight every year because I can pick up the orders.
PROCESSES & SYSTEMS:
Do you find it’s taking too long to finish a task that is repeated over and over again? Or do you find your customers asking for something regularly but you aren’t prepared with the right paperwork? We work hard at systemizing many things in our shop. Here are some examples from years past:
Etsy listings – when we hired an intern we created an Etsy worksheet – we were listing unique vintage items so each listing required customization. We split the tasks associated with listing an item so the worksheet helped with this.
Custom Services Questionnaire Form – we found we were consistently asking and answering the same questions each time someone inquired about custom painted furniture services so we now have a Questionnaire and Information sheet. When someone walks into our store or sends us an email inquiring about the service, we simply give them the sheet.
Order forms – we offer some custom items (personalized signs, personalized ornaments and more). If a customer walks in we are no longer scrambling for a piece of paper – we have premade forms for our personalized items. Not only does it simplify the process, but it also makes us look more professional and prepared.
Merchandise arrival and pricing – Now that I’m ordering online more than ever we realized we needed a system for it. I would order and Karen would generally unpack and price. BUT many companies don’t include an itemized receipt with an order so Karen was often asking about what we paid for items so she could price accordingly. I would have to get online or look in a catalog for pricing. It might seem minor but it was time-consuming. So now, I make sure I print out ALL wholesale orders and I leave the orders in a slot on our wall organizer. It might seem silly, but it really does make a difference.
I’m a process and system kind of gal, I can go on and on about this topic. I use Trello for blogging and as an idea repository, Grum for Instagram scheduling, Facebook scheduled posts, etc.
GOALS FOR NEXT YEAR
Don’t have a business partner to review your year with? Find an accountability partner! Find another small business owner that you’ve befriended over the years, reach out to him/her and ask if they would be willing to do this for their own business and schedule a coffee meet-up, lunch or dinner to have your own pow-wow. I’m not suggesting that you share numbers, but you CAN chat about general topics, bounce ideas off one another and hold yourself accountable for 2018.
Finally, write down your goals! AND be sure to check-in, see how much progress you’re making. You can do this monthly or quarterly or even halfway through the year. It’s up to you.
Your Year-End Review might take hours of work but I promise it will be SO beneficial to your business. So, don’t wait, start to prep for your year-end-review NOW.
I look forward to sharing how I’ve been able to help build, market and manage a retail store with my sister—all on a budget. ~ Kathy Cruz
Kathy Cruz, Savvy Shopkeeper
Download the end-of-year checklist here.