Time to take stock

It’s December – where did 2017 go? Hopefully you won’t have time to read this as you’ll be maximising what is traditionally our busiest time of the year, but post-Christmas this may be a worthwhile exercise. I’m firmly of the belief that if a product isn’t selling during this busy trading period, then it never will. So, when is there a better time than January to take stock (quite literally) and evaluate what we have still sitting on our retail shelves?

Sometimes brand reps can get it so wrong when reviewing your sales, admonishing you for products that aren’t selling. “Well done”, they say, when looking at their strongest selling SKUs (stock keeping units) but slapped wrists over the items that you aren’t reordering, and which are consequently gathering dust.

I’ve developed a stance of turning this firmly and squarely back on them. Any poor-performing products have me retaliating with a snippy “So, what are you going to do about it?”. It never fails to do the trick because it’s always up to them, not you or your team, to take ownership of the products you aren’t selling. Try this next time you cheekily get told how you’re underperforming for them or how much product the salon down the road is selling compared to you – it works a treat.

Slow stock

Any items you’ve bought in to retail that don’t sell need to be thought of in terms of cold, hard cash – it’s your money that is sitting on the shelf, so place the emphasis firmly back on them to re-think which products in the range are working for you and which aren’t; be mercenary about it.

For our hair care brand, I’ve been a supplier to several major retailers and it’s been enlightening. One that we work closely with has the following ethos: exit, decline, hold, grow. Every supplier hopes to fall into the latter categories, which mean that the product is secure (at least until the next six-monthly range review). If, however, the products you are selling are falling into the exit or decline areas, you’re in trouble.

So, what do they expect you to do? Well, as much as the big retailers regularly assess stock to decide what positioning each product will get in their outlets, a neverending, ongoing range review needs to be carried out by the supplier too.

Demand support

If a stockist has given you precious shelf space that you’re not fully maximising, it’s your responsibility to take ownership. Uplifting, swapping, trying new colours, innovating – it’s up to the supplier to continually assess their brand performance. After all, if you don’t optimise the space, somebody else’s product is just waiting to try and outsell you.

Maybe it’s something for your January to-do list; carry out your own range review on the brands you retail and tell your suppliers what you’re happy with performance wise, but question what they’re going to do about the underachieving products. Training, uplifting or swapping – it’s part of their job to treat your shelf space as precious. You don’t need to apologise for their sales; they need to find solutions to improving them. And if they don’t, find a brand that will.

Hellen WardHellen Ward is managing director of Richard Ward Hair & Metrospa in London’s Sloane Square and chair of Trailblazers for the hairdressing sector.

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