How to conduct a business review

Tony Scott from Forum of Private Business

27 Mar, 15
Co-founder of Restore, the High Street and retail adviser of Forum of Private Business Tony Scott says in a changing retail landscape businesses could be in danger of being left behind


People love shopping … they always have and they always will. However, customer shopping habits have shifted dramatically over the past few years, and for retailers the competition is getting even stiffer.

All businesses large or small have no choice but to up their game to drive growth.

Independent retailers need to get the basics right and know your own retail detail – not in your heart but in black and white numbers.

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Winners in the increasingly competitive retail landscape know the detailed dynamics of their business and plan their future trading strategy around it, capitalising on their strengths, maximising on missed potential and avoiding the less successful elements.

Retailers who don’t embrace this fundamental approach are in danger of being left behind and falling by the wayside alongside the other recent high street casualties.

Take advantage of sales and profit growth

1.    Ring fence Monday mornings

The biggest challenge for any small independent retailer is time, or rather lack of it, with a multitude of tasks to do 24/7.

However, it is vital you don’t lose sight of the fact that nothing is as important as looking at your numbers in detail every week.

Monday morning is often the best time for this. Spend a few hours looking over what happened the previous week and working out what the figures are telling you.

What can you learn from the last week’s trading? And how will this inform your plan of action for the next seven days’ trading and beyond?

2. Embrace your product and/or brand hierarchy

Looking just at your top line performance alone won’t tell you what the key drivers are and where you are losing business.

When analysing your sales, always look beneath the surface – by product category and/or by supplier/brand.

3. Understand why

When you are reviewing your performance, you need to build up a history of what has happened in the previous week.

Consider macro factors such as weather, roadworks, town activity – anything that could have had an impact on your sales.

Also scrutinise your own sales and stocks: What were your best sellers? What product groups/brands were the best performers? Where are you over or under stocked on and what lines have sold out?

Document the findings, ask why and then react to whatever you discover.

4. Structure your buying

Regular performance reviews and documented findings will drive your forward trading and buying strategy.

Set buying plans using your hierarchy and base them on your history, individual product sales, missed potential and new trends/products.

This is the most important task in increasing profit – failure to buy in this way will destroy net margin through unnecessary markdowns and missed opportunities will severely limit your growth.

The above may seem like simple points, but if you lose sight of the basics no amount of schemes or incentives will be able to help you resuscitate your ailing retail business.

Finally, remember if in doubt, seek help. Advice is on hand from a variety of sources, for example the Forum of Private Business in partnership with Retail Spa works with shop owners to provide expert support where they lack time, knowledge or resource.