Are you overwhelmed by your store's inventory situation? Have the past few years completely flipped everything you thought you knew about inventory management?
Regardless of what's been happening around you or what your retail experience level is, the foundation for a successful retail business remains the same – having plans around sales and inventory.
We've partnered with Darlene Mitchell, Boutique Business Coach and Inventory Strategist, to help give you tools and strategic planning methods you can use to increase sales and maximize profits. Darlene uses a combination of traditional financial planning philosophy mixed with innovative tactics to deliver customized inventory plans and strategies.
Q: Darlene, what drew you to this business of helping retailers improve their planning?
Growing up, my grandfather owned a barber shop in our town and he was surrounded by retail stores that came and went over the years. However, there were two stores that were right across the street from each other - and they both did well. I developed a curiosity about what made some stores succeed and others fail, and a college retail management course gave me an "Ah-ha" moment that led me to my career in corporate retail.
Along the way, a friend of mine on the vendor side asked me to help a client of hers with their cash flow and profitability. As expected, the root cause of her issues were her buying patterns and pricing.
After working successfully with that client, I began helping others - and eventually made the leap to becoming the Business Coach that I am today, where I get to help store owners achieve their retail dreams in a profitable manner!
Darlene Mitchell, Boutique Business Coach and Inventory Strategist
Q: When you talk with a store owner about their planning, what is the first thing you want to know about their business?
The first question I ask is what they want their business to look like in 3-5 years. If there isn't an established vision, we start there. We have to have a goal, to then reverse engineer how we get to that goal.
From there, we talk about who their customer is, and what is important to that customer, and what their style inspiration comes from. Then we cover key categories within the business and how each of those categories are performing within the business.
All of those points will come together to help us build the inventory and pricing plans that will drive profitability and growth.
Q: What is your top tip for retailers wanting to improve their planning?
Your inventory levels should not be the same every month! You need to deeply understand your customer, and let that drive your buying, selling, and marketing actions - all of which will drive your days or weeks of inventory coverage.
This goes for both new and experienced retailers. There are constantly new customer types coming into your store - and those customer types evolve, too! A 25 year old female today will look a lot different than a 25 year old female shopper from 5 years ago, or 5 years in the future. Priorities, trends, technology, and general lifestyles shift over time.
Q: You talk a lot about “Mindset”. What does that mean for a retailer?
Your mindset determines "who" you are in your business. As your business grows, or you grow within your role, you need to shift "who" your company needs you to be.
For example, as a start-up owner, your mindset will need to shift over time as you grow and expand, moving you from being a "doer" to being more "visionary" to help drive continued growth.
I learned how to navigate this in corporate retail as I moved up the ladder. The me who started as an assistant buyer, responsible for $200k in sales, had to acquire skills and undergo a mindset shift to later become a Vice President, responsible for $748M in sales and leading teams of teams.
This same mindset shift has really become a crucial part of my clients' growth strategy, time and time again.
Q: What is your personal goal when helping a retailer?
My goal is to help my clients achieve their retail dreams! That looks like a sustainable and profitable business, developed through a solid foundation of financial strategy, inventory management, and assortment planning.
The retail environment is ever changing and evolving, but the foundation needed for a successful retail business remains the same – having plans around sales and inventory.
Interested in learning more from Darlene?
Don't forget to follow Darlene on social media, or contact her directly on her website.