In this 3-part series from the Savvy Shopkeeper Retail Podcast, I’ve shared my best advice for shopkeepers who are working through some common fears as we head into Q4. Check out parts one and two after reading this.
When the pandemic hit and many of us were mandated to close, there were lots of questions around when we could open again and what would happen once we opened. It caused many independent retailers to either suspend the merchandise orders for their stores or cancel them completely.
Personally, at my own store, we didn’t cancel any orders. We just delayed a few. For several reasons—and I think one is just a bit of luck—we were really conservative in our buying when we went to AmericasMart in Atlanta in January.
Now, most stores are open again. Customers are shopping. But we have no idea what to expect in Q4! Unless you’re in a seasonal location, quarter four is the biggest season of the year.
Normal Fears About Buying For Q4
It’s okay if you’ve been feeling apprehensive about Q4. Feelings of fear are natural. Here are some of the common fears I’ve heard from shopkeepers…
- I don’t know what to buy
- I don’t know how much to buy
- I don’t know if I should cancel my market orders
- I don’t know if the things I usually sell in Q4 will sell again this year
- I don’t know what’s trending or what I should buy to serve my customers
Practical Buying Tips
Now is the time to turn those fears into action. It’s easier said than done, but I can say that you need to stop hiding, start analyzing, and start getting creative! Make this fun instead of daunting!
Challenge yourself to have a successful Q4, because if you keep yourself stuck in fear or in negative energy, you will perpetuate that. I don’t want that for you, and YOU don’t want that for you!
Buy Items That Transcend Seasons
Look for inventory that you can continue to sell beyond December—for instance, wintry items instead of Christmas-y items.
Look At Your Numbers!
You’re most likely seeing a pattern or trend in how much people are buying. Has your average order increased, or decreased? Can you pinpoint why?
Take Stock of Your Current Inventory
When was the last time you ran an inventory report and really took a look at your categories and what’s turning over fastest?
Because of the pandemic, people’s buying patterns have changed. Instead of buying business clothes for work, they’re buying business casual or completely casual. Instead of spending money on junk food, maybe they’re investing in self-care. Instead of buying jewelry, they’re buying masks. You can probably identify some of these changes in your own personal buying patterns, too.
Talk to Your Vendors
It’s important to chat with the ones you trust and that guide you well every buying season. They have invaluable insight into what other retailers are doing and what’s working well.
Check Your Google Analytics Dashboard
Look at Google Analytics and determine where your online shoppers are coming from and what they are buying.
Ask Your Fellow Shopkeeper—Especially in the Savvy Shopkeeper Communities
I’m not suggesting you ask for resources or vendors, although some will share this. But you can ask about current trends, what’s selling well, what other retailers are expecting—Savvy Shopkeeper members will help! We all want to see each other succeed this year.
6 Ways to Overcome Your Fear of Buying
Now that you have some practical strategies for buying for your store, let’s deal with those fears.
Identify Your Fears
You have no idea what people will buy this Autumn/Christmas season and it’s keeping you from taking action!
Realize It’s Not About You
Yep, we all know this. It’s about your customers! So let’s think strategically, read articles about current buying trends, and ask in the Shopkeepers Lab group or Master Shopkeepers.
Determine the Worst Case Scenario
As always in retail, we can hurt ourselves if we underbuy and we can hurt ourselves if we overbuy. Thinking about the worst-case scenario in advance can help calm our fears because we can think of a solution in advance, too.
Focus On Your Why
Maybe for this instance, it’s about your ability to help others gift well during the holiday season. What makes YOU stand out here?
You have a whole list of actions in the section above, but another activity I like to recommend when it comes to fear is writing out a list of FEARS vs. FACTS.
For instance, in our minds the fear can be, my Q4 is going to tank.
But maybe if you look back over the past 3-4 months, your sales have actually increased. Or maybe they tanked in March and April, but they got better in May and July, and then August wasn’t so great again but historically that happens with back to school.
Now every retailer is different—if you sell school supplies, then August might have done well. These examples are just to help you relate! But my point here is this: consider if your fear is really justified, or if it’s just a fear.
Find Your Support System
If you don’t have data because you don’t have a bookkeeping system, or maybe you don’t have a POS (you’re still dealing in cash and paper receipts), or you don’t have an inventory system…then maybe it’s time to get that rolling.
If you want to take it one step further, In the free resources section of the Shopkeepers Academy there’s a Break Even Analysis spreadsheet. Working through your numbers and determining what’s fear and what’s fact can be extremely helpful. I used this spreadsheet when we were mandated to close and I was able to create a good, better, best scenario for 4 months. And in my mind, I thought, if I need to do this for four more months, I will.
Once I did this, it actually motivated me to get creative. I challenged myself to hit the BEST goals every month and it worked!
In the end, we can all sit in fear and wait to see how the rest of the year plays out. We can just cross our fingers and hope for the best because we’re too afraid to do anything else. We can underbuy out of fear. OR, we can take ACTION.
I want a successful Q4, so I’m taking action—and I encourage you to take action too!
- episodes 39 and 40 of the Savvy Shopkeeper Retail Podcast
- free resources from the Shopkeepers Academy (be sure to check out the Break Even Analysis spreadsheet!)
- [03:11] Normal fears about buying for Q4
- [04:44] Practical buying tips
- [13:12] Ways to overcome your fears
- [13:20] Identify your fears
- [13:33] Realize it’s not about you
- [13:47] Determine the worst case scenario
- [14:02] Focus on your why
- [14:50] Take action
- [15:45] Find your support system