Retail is facing a tough time. So, if you’re facing adversity, then it’s essential to take action and do it quickly too. There are many things you could do, but what are the things that you must do quickly for a fast return on your time investment. In this podcast episode, join Oliver Banks to discover 10 things that you can do right now to get started.

What you’ll learn in this episode

  • Why it’s important to take action quickly
  • What are 10 things that you can do now?
  • Also, what are 5 things that you can do later too.

Time to take action

The retail industry is going through a significant change right now, as I’m sure you know. Many retailers are closing, going into administration or giving profit warnings.

There are many reasons why things have changed. So, if you’ve not checked out episode 51, or 49, then they could be also good things to listen to.

These episodes explore more about the changing and challenging retail landscape.

But, it’s important to take action now. With each day that passes, troubled retail businesses are missing goals, leaving money on the table and even frustrating their customers.

Not taking action now will only escalate this situation. Procrastination or taking things slowly will eliminate motivation and the likelihood of turning around a troubled business.

10 steps to start overcoming adversity

In this episode, you can discover 10 steps to overcome adversity. Each of these 10 steps is something that you could start doing right now. And each could yield some immediate benefit.

Now, I’m not promising they’ll be easy. And they won’t be finite – each step could yield further actions to help you.

You must be:

  1. Truthful and honest with yourself.
  2. Willing to do the work.

You will also need to repriortise what work you do yourself. To make dedicated time for this, you’ll need to deprioritise or delegate existing responsibilities.

Step 1: Visit real stores

Life in retail starts in stores. It’s where your business actually happens. So, make sure that you’re visiting them to understand what’s going on.

But, be careful of some common mistakes

  • Don’t visit flagships stores. These often don’t represent your usual operations or customers.
  • Don’t go to the “usual” stores which receive many internal visitors. These don’t reflect reality.
  • Do talk to staff members – your team members – not just the store managers.
  • Look the part – not in your usual attire so you don’t stand out.

Also, you must actually get your hands dirty and do the work. Fill a shelf. Serve customers. Receive a delivery. Merchandise a window. Count the stock. Change a price. Fulfil an order. Actually “doing” your operation will help you understand.

Plus, you should visit other important parts of your operation too. Distribution centres, fulfilment centres, service centres and more all may hold important elements of your operation.

Step 2: Talk to customers

Have informal conversations with customers. You’ll be able to find out lots of golden nuggets in normal conversation.

Make sure that you’re talking to the type of people that you want to serve. Find out more about them. Where does your business sit in their life and how does it help? Also – how does it hinder them. What frustrates them? What delights them?

Proper market research, surveys and focus groups still have value but they’re not going to be as quick as having an informal chat.

Step 3: Check your purpose

Purpose is important. In fact, it’s so critically important.

If you’re not sure, go back to episode 25 to check in on defining your purpose – it’s all about becoming a relevant retailer. Many of the expert guests that I’ve had on the show have all pointed back to having a clear purpose too.

But, now, you need to challenge yourself to whether you are fulfilling that purpose or not? Are they just empty words? Do you truly live by your purpose?

Why should a customer visit your store? Just as Ian Shepherd, the author of Reinventing Retail, has told us in episode 45 and episode 46.

Step 4: What is the data telling you

KPIs can tell you what’s going on. But… they can also mask the story from you.

Focusing on KPIs can drive performance. And, they can also drive behaviour change to meet the metric. They can give you a false sense of security as people learn how to “game” the measure.

You must take a look at your KPIs to work out if they are telling you the truth.

If they are, then look at the variability across the estate. Why are your best stores doing so well. Why are your worst stores not changing? Also, consider if there is a lot of noise day to day, week to week or across the year. What is this telling you?

Step 5: Optimise your ecommerce offering

It’s likely that you have an ecommerce offering or sell across marketplaces too. It’s also highly likely that your customers are looking to shop with you across channels too.

How does your ecommerce offering stack up? Is it easy to shop?

To do this, try shopping and actually buying on your own website. Try shopping on other websites. Remember to go all the way through the process to pay and actually receive the goods – just like a customer would.

Does it make sense if you’re trying to shop across channels.

Also, look to see if there are some simple things that you can to do optimise sales and conversions.

Step 6: Engage on social media

In our digitally enabled world, customers are talking to you and to each other on social media. But, are you listening to them and are you engaging with them?

What are the key messages that are coming across? Simple word clouds can give you an idea of sentiment and subject matter.

Listen to episode 42 and episode 43 with Polly Barnfield OBE.

Also, check out Polly’s business, Maybe*, which can easily help you to understand your social media performance, make it easy to engage with customers and benchmark against your competition.

Step 7: Analyse your competitors

We know retail is a competitive landscape. It always has been. But, who are your competitors. It’s likely that it’s not just the “usual suspects”.

Consider where your customers are actually spending their money and solving their problems. (Hint – you may have found this out in step 2).

Critique yourself and work out why customers would choose to shop at your competitors rather than with you. Bring in new voices to these discussions rather than falling back to the preconceived ideas that you already have.

At a later stage, you can look at what you can do to disrupt your competitors.

Step 8: Make operational and marketing quick wins

The proverbial “low hanging fruit” is important to make rapid progress.

Look at freeing up time in stores and other manpower heavy parts of your operation. Quick wins can come from reducing the frequency of repetitive tasks. They are almost instant to implement and can offer a great way to refocus attention for a short period.

Once you have freed up some time, look at how you can reinvest this to help connect and engage with your existing customers. What can you do to ensure they stick with you and don’t leave.

Also, what can you do to draw in new customers. How can you attract them and wow them into becoming a customer and in turn, into a loyal, repeat customer?

Use freed up time to generate a buzz around your stores and your business. This can help kick start sales rather than just reducing costs.

Step 9: Communicate to your teams

Whilst it’s never nice to tell someone bad news, your business will thank you for your honesty. Besides, it’s likely that they already know what’s going on! Look at sharing what’s going on… and what you’re going to do about it. Ask for help from the rest of the business.

Communicating your wins from step 8 can also be a great way of signalling that you’re starting to make a change.

You must motivate your teams and inspire them to join you on your adventure to overcome adversity.

Step 10: Start managing as a programme

It’s easy to go into “headless chicken” mode here. Running around with lots of energy but actually creating confusion, not follow through on initiative and even making things worse.

To counter this, start to manage this as a programme.

Use milestones to plot the journey and drive progress. Explain and track what’s going on and who’s doing that and ensure clarity between your teams. Keep control and keep consistency. Use this to focus in on key areas and opportunities. Not trying to cure world hunger. Prioritise what you do and fix the real problems.

Also, you could look at starting a “task force” with short daily / regular meetings to share findings and keep up a fast pace.

But, above all, be sure to do all of this in a pragmatic way. Don’t let it descent into a bureaucratic admin activity!

Get started

These 10 activities are designed to help you get under the skin of what’s going on. Use them to find the big problems or the big opportunities.

In turn, you can quickly find out what you need to do to overcome these. But, once you are clear on these, then you MUST do them. Taking quick action will create energy. You can choose to keep this energy up or if it gets distracted or unfulfilled. Nothing will destroy the momentum that you create like doing nothing – or appearing to do nothing.

So, what are you waiting for… let’s get started!

If I can help you through these actions or if you have questions, I’d be delighted to support you. Get in contact with me on LinkedIn or send an email to


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