Very early in my retailing career we were hit by several things that negatively affected our business. First, after being the only game in town, the city decided to construct a redevelopment project mall and bring us tremendous competition. Second, there was a shortage of gas and the price sky rocketed. People were asked to fill up on odd or even days, there were lines, and it was a mess. Third, our nation’s economy was, due in some part by the fuel shortage, in the dumper. We had tremendous inflation and interest rates were rising which tended to slow things down while at the same time take more money from our wallets (these last two sound a bit familiar with exception of the interest rates, don’t they?).

I was eager and young, but terribly inexperienced. I watched my revenue and department margin sink. I tried so many things but we just couldn’t pull the numbers up.


One day our store manager came by and asked me how I was doing. I told him all I was trying to do to create some sales and he quickly asked me to come with him to his office. “Holy cow”, I thought, “What did I say?” I felt like I was going to the principle’s office.

Once inside his office, he closed the door and gave me a lifetime gift:

“Wayne, when times are like this there are only two things you can do. First, keep your inventory in shape. Stay within budget, keep the shelves stocked, keep your turnover at the right levels and ruthlessly manage your inventory. Second, treat every customer with tremendous care. Make them feel special, go out of your way to meet their needs and they will come back. Relentlessly do these two things and you’ll be fine.”

He was right.

We did continue to sink for about six months; however, after that we quickly rebounded. My staff and I stayed on point – we were never out of stock and managed to hit every inventory metric, plus we served every customer as though they were our last. Six months after we hit our low point we were having record revenues and profits. Retailing was fun again and I was promoted.

Bottom line, retailers, stay on point. I know it’s tough out there. It’s tough for your shoppers. They want to come to a store that is in stock with what they need and they want to encounter people who love and care for their needs.

Tough times will come and go. If you can train yourself to ruthlessly manage your inventory and serve every customer, every time I know you’ll weather the storm.

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Trust is the winsome wedding of faith and hope.

Brennan Manning

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