Retail store owners' cash flow has always been at the mercy of the yearly retail calendar. As the seasons change, the climate of the market changes, which can mean that your cash flow changes drastically from month to month. That means the potential for less cash in your wallet. With supply chain interruptions, it can make it even more unpredictable.
You will likely see spikes in your capital at some points throughout the year—particularly as the holiday season draws near and people prepare to celebrate the stretch from Halloween to Christmas with friends and family.
Depending on your specific store type, you will face different challenges throughout the year. For example, if you sell snow blowers and you don't have a cold winter, your Q1 of the following year will be lean as sales did not materialize, and no matter of promotions will get them off your hands.
Likewise, a garden center during a rainy spring, an apparel retailer with hotter summer months than usual, and a Halloween store with the holiday coming mid-week will impact cash flow differently.
September, however, is a particularly difficult time. As the summer draws to a close, shoppers typically retreat, so you need to hone in on your cash flow this month.
Fortunately, there are ways that you can maximize your financials by addressing common issues that arise during this month.
Now is a good time to really look at your open-to-buy and clear out slow sellers.
1. Back-to-school has a limit
Many stores fall into the temptation of clinging to the back-to-school shopping season late into September by pushing items such as school supplies, items to outfit college dorms, and late summer-appropriate clothing long after school has started. Back-to-School sales and promotions should have ended by the last week of August. The shoulder month of September is when you should prepare your store for the rest of the fall and the holidays.
2. Order from fewer vendors
As the holiday shopping season approaches, your store must be well stocked with the most popular items. However, making huge orders during September can devastate your bottom line. Instead, make small periodic orders so that you are building up your stock without a tremendous cash outlay. Dating is also a welcome tool, but beware - it is not free money - you still have to plan to sell the merchandise before that bill becomes due.
3. Avoid slow billing and payments
September is not the time for extended flexible credit or offering layaway. Merchants should be insisting on timely payments from all customers.
If you find yourself dealing with low cash flow during September, try bartering instead of paying other small businesses with cash. Determine what you can offer them they may need in exchange for services they can provide for you. This can help you to get through the tense month a little stronger. I once bartered an entire fire sprinkler upgrade for a retailer using gift certificates.
5. Watch your payroll
You will need extra help during the holidays, but with the slower shopping month of September upon you, it can be extremely helpful to your assets to cut down on the number of employees' overtime hours. You are doing more with less, but that shouldn't be an opportunity to pay too much.
The shopping season is coming, but fewer people shop during September as they, too, prepare for the expenses of the coming gifting season. Offering a slimmer, less diversified inventory this month will help reduce the money you spend on your stock so you can prepare for the heavy ordering to come. Consider doing a physical inventory at the end of the month to get accurate counts for reorders.
7. Focus on specific wholesalers
You are much more likely to spend more money if you work with several different suppliers. During the slim month of September, limit your ordering to one or two strong suppliers so you can consolidate shipping charges and take advantage of combination offers.
A lot of retailers don't give a second thought to their cash flow - until it is lacking. Use these tips to manage your cash flow and manage your financials in an orderly way.
There's no magic to proper cash flow. The best way to improve yours is to drive profitable sales in your stores. The more you make their day, the more they will buy, and your merchandise will turn.
Selling your merchandise is singularly the most important thing you can do, and that takes going beyond product knowledge to train your crew how to sell.
As you focus on your own four walls and how you can create an exceptional experience, the more you will be able to raise your prices, your sales, and your profits.
To drive sales, check out my online retail sales training program SalesRX.