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Clearing the Clutter From your mind and desk

Eat that Frog: 3 tips that

helped me clear the clutter Page 4

Robin’s Picks: Proven best

sellers and what’s new for 2011 Pages 10-11

Connecting with Consumers: 4 retailers share their strategies Page 14

Check us out! Showroom #1305, Bldg 2 Gift coupon on page 4 for show order.

WINTER

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Robin’s Retailer Corner

Eat that Frog: 3 tips that helped me clear the clutter

T

he subject of the feature article Clearing the Clutter was inspired by my newest discovery, a self mastery book called Eat That Frog! where author Brian Tracy shares 21 ways to stop procrastinating and get more done in less time. Below are three strategies I adopted from my reading. The impact on my productivity and work satisfaction has been significant. Check out the feature article, Clearing the Clutter on page 6, where we asked a variety of retailers to share their tips for keeping their work life under control. #1 Eat the biggest and ugliest frog first. There’s an old saying that goes ...“If the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning is eat a live frog, then nothing worse can happen for the rest of the day!” That “frog” is the most difficult item on the “to do” list, the one you’re most likely to procrastinate about. If you eat that frog first, it gives you vigor and momentum for the rest of the day. If you don’t, that frog sits there on the plate, staring at you all day long, draining your energy, while you do a hundred less important things. If you have to eat a frog,

eat it quickly. Looking at it just makes it harder to eat. #2 Apply the 80/20 rule to everything. Work from a list. Maintain a notebook with an extensive “to do list” both personal and professional. But before you begin a task, ask yourself, “How important is this?” If it’s not important, stop doing it. Look at your list again. The 80/20 rule tells us that one item on any list of 10 tasks is worth more than the other nine items put together. Invariably, this is the frog that you should eat first. Ignore the trivial 80% and do the critical 20%. Productivity increases exponentially, as does your sense of professional happiness. #3 Pick three (ONLY three) priority tasks to accomplish. This is an extension of #2. Start each day by writing

down three tasks (frogs) you must eat. The workday is not over until these three tasks are completed. We all suffer impromptu interruptions that disrupt our workflow. The discipline is to manage to these three tasks. By constantly returning throughout the day to these three “frogs” and nibbling away at them, important work gets accomplished.

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SOUTHEAST MARKETING • winter 2011


Clearing the Clutter 6 from your mind and your desk

I

tips to improve habits and break free

n Robin’s Retailer Corner (page 4) I shared a few personal habits I’ve integrated into both my work and personal life to help increase my efficiency and effectiveness. To research Clearing the Clutter we contacted some highly successful retailers and asked them to share approaches they use to keep their business organized and in control. Without fail, every retailer I spoke to about “how to de-clutter your desk” responded with a laugh and said “based on how my desk looks right now, I don’t think I’m qualified to answer that question.” Yet each had valuable insight into creating a sane and efficient place to work.

Touch it once Do it

Delegate it

Karen Balsanek, manager of volunteer services and gift shop operations at Mease Hospitals in Florida, has the philosophy at work and in life to “touch it once.” Whether you get it done at that moment, or delegate it to someone else, you shouldn’t sit around thinking about it for long. This certainly fits with my favorite self-mastery book Eat That Frog. “The first rule of frog eating is this: If you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first. In other words, if you have two pri-

File it

ority tasks, do the biggest, hardest and most important first. Discipline yourself to begin immediately and then persist until it is done.” I remember reading somewhere that there are only four ways to deal with anything that comes across your desk; Do it, Delegate it, Ditch it or File it. I have trained myself to think this way and it works perfectly with Balsanek’s “touch it once” approach. “By the time you’ve said ‘I have to do ...’ three or four times, you could have taken

Attend to operations “Quickbooks keeps me straight, as does my CPA,” says Bill Vaught, owner of Kays Hallmark, which has two locations in Johnson City, Tenn. “I handle the bills and payroll, and the last thing I need is to be in trouble with the vendors or the government,” he says. “You’ve got to have the paperwork right behind the scenes.” Like any business, it’s the behind-the-scenes operation that will bring retail success or the store’s downfall. If operations are not your thing, get someone who loves the minutiae and is meticulous and systematic with paperwork. At Southeast Marketing, we also work with an accountant who keeps us on the straight and narrow. We send our CPA a full accounting monthly. Their office reviews and reconciles our Quickbooks’ records and sends us back official financials. We probably don’t need this much overview, but it keeps our documentation pristine and timely. Having a CPA looking 6

SOUTHEAST MARKETING • WINTER 2011

Ditch it

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care of one of the things on your list,” Balsanek says. The “P” word is not something she tolerates in herself or those around her. Balsanek encourages her staff’s independence by focusing on the end results. “They’re adults and they can figure out the best way to get there,” she says. And if there are things that you absolutely can’t stand, which for Balsanek is reconciling gas receipts, then train someone else and offload it. Believe it or not, there are people in the world who like to do expenses.

over your shoulder never hurts. In the office we have Nancy, the office manager. Everyone needs a Nancy. When it comes to systems or protocol I defer to her. She is someone who can consider the task at hand and figure out the quickest and most efficient way to do it. Like Karen Balsanek, she believes in only touching it once. As a result, I let her determine office procedure, set up office habits, and determine where everything lives. We follow her rules. Mail gets opened and distributed within an hour of it arriving. Bills get filed in their proper spot daily. When boxes arrive they must be opened and checked in within a certain time frame. Everyone takes out their trash on Fridays. All packing slips get handled a certain way. It is less important what the rules are but that they are clear, simple to execute, consistent and have time limits. The same way we put pressure on ourselves to perform our job at a high level, we need to set the bar with our employees.

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Old school organization - Write it down Even the most sophisticated electronic tools can’t always do what a pen and paper can do — keep information at eye-level and top of mind. MeLinda Vitale, owner of MeLinda’s in Picayune, Mo., can Facebook like the best of them, but chooses the old school pen and calendar to keep her invoices from imploding on her desk. “I have a desk drawer file labeled for each day of the month, a flip calendar and a pen,” Vitale says. “Whenever I get an invoice, I add it to my calendar a week before it’s due, put the

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name of the vendor and amount, and then file the paper into the drawer under the corresponding day.” It’s so easy, someone else could come in and know exactly what needs to be paid, when, and where the bills are. “Electronic solutions take too much time — I’m old school and it works for me,” she says. Karen Balsanek uses Post-its to write down her tasks. She’s found there’s extra gratification in ripping off a note and tossing it in the garbage after it’s been completed. Every business leadership book I have ever read says high achievers work off lists. Think on paper. Writing things down makes you clarify your priorities. Then make it a game to accomplish the tasks on the list. It feels great when you cross them off.

Be selective with your time “To be quite honest, we limit who we talk to,” Bill Vaught says. “We have a tendency to deal with certain people.” He communicates with owners of regional stores, reads the trade publications and looks for quality communication from reps to stay abreast of new lines and products. “We try to stay on top of things as best as we can, but knowing everything and seeing everyone can be a full-time job, so we set boundaries. ” One retailer went even further, saying “I don’t make vendor appointments. Vendors want to show you absolutely everything and suck the time and creativity out of you.” The few appointments she does make are with multi-line reps who she has come to know and trust and who are efficient and time savvy. They move quickly through the material, have their product knowledge at their fingertips and they can offer value-added information. Other retailers are more open to new relationships, but if they choose to take appointments with new reps or vendors, they do their homework by screening the products online and setting a time limit. Adrianne Weissman runs seven stores in Boynton Beach, Fla., but still likes to “see just about everybody. You never know what’s going to pop in. I see a lot of stupid things, but you just never know,” she says. “I’m busy, but what’s five minutes?” After all, one of the best parts about the gift industry is that it is full of serendipity and surprises.

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Get out of town, even if it’s only mentally When it comes to minimizing her mental clutter, Donna Stout focuses on her mindful commute home to her 7-acre property. “I get this wonderful cleansing of my head and soul on the way to and from work,” she says. “I have such a peaceful, wonderful place to live. At one time I thought about moving closer to work, but then decided no, I need this.” It’s “getting outside the box” that prepares Stout for her role as owner of six businesses, including the White Squirrel Shoppe in Brevard, N.C. “We try and keep this philosophy in mind with our customers, too,” she says. “Particularly around Christmastime we make an effort to help them de-stress.” Stout keeps a 20% discount card at each register and encourages employees to choose customers who seem to need a little extra. “Maybe her husband is in the hospital, or it’s her birthday and no one seems to have remembered,” Stout says. “We try to lift their day, and make it easier for them.” It’s those extras that not only pay customer loyalty dividends, but lift employee spirits as well. Bottom line, quality personal time matters. Do something that rejuvenates you daily. Steven Covey, who wrote 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, recommends entering appointments in your calendar with yourself for personal time and honoring them the way you would a dentist appointment. I do that with my workout schedule and it truly helps. I don’t treat it as a variable. I do my work and I get to the gym. It’s all part of the same appointment schedule.

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Technology matters A car can’t tell you where to drive, but a fast car will get you there faster. Technology is a fast car. If you upgraded your software in 2006, it may be time to have another look at it. Five years can be an eternity for technology. That’s what Lavergne, Tenn.-based Stockdale’s discovered when it upgraded its POS system recently. Stockdale’s is fairly new -- the first two stores opened in 2006 and 2007, and the third is due to open in 2011. Yet the company has managed some technological leaps in those short years. When the company started, the software’s reporting features weren’t as sophisticated and products had to be manually entered into the system. “When we opened our first store, all the product we bought outside our co-op system had to be manually entered,” says Douglas Adcock, marketing and merchandise manager at Stockdale’s. “And now we can take an Excel spreadsheet provided by a rep or vendor with 2,000 items on it and with a couple keystrokes, import it into the system. ” Technology improves daily and you just have to try to keep up with it. The most pronounced difference has been how easy it’s been to plan for the new store opening. “I can tell you without a doubt, this will be a breeze compared to the first,” Adcock says. “And it’s because of the software.”

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Robin’s Picks

Mark Feldstein introduced sock monkeys June 2010 and was sold out by the end of July! These bright, whimsical, retro monkeys with a contemporary edge are adorable. I gave one to my son for his college girlfriend and he told me “Boy did I win boyfriend points! The entire campus loves her sock monkey.”

5th Avenue Stretch Rings by Pacific Silver are designer inspired. All of the Pacific Silver stretch rings are top sellers. We expect these rings to be the new star in the ring category.

Designer-inspired multi-strand bracelets with crystal beads by Pacific Silver. We are particularly excited about this collection. Similar bracelets are featured in fashion magazines at over $100 retail!

Michel Design

continues to be our fastest-growing vendor. Their stuff is simply gorgeous. Upscale design, superb quality and GREAT prices. Particularly hot is the Grapefruit Collection. Biggest product hits: guest soaps, soy candles, address books, memento boxes, gift bags and glass soap dishes. Trays still rule as the No. 1 product!

Jelly watches are a guaranteed reorder. Our hottest item now has a new lower price! Pacific Silver carries the best selection of colors (great for collegiate sections), although white and black are still the top sellers. These are the best quality watches on the market (PC2 Japanese movement, 2-year battery, raised Czech crystals).

Betty Boop has fans everywhere. Westland’s No. 1 product is its magnetic salt and pepper shakers. Combine the two together and you’ve got a top reorder item. Fun, whimsical, retro and functional.

BEST OF BABY! Here is what we overheard one retailer saying to another at the ABC Kids Expo in Las Vegas in October. “I can’t keep them in stock,” she said. “Mothers and grandmothers love them. It’s the Soothie pacifier they all want. Plus they’re so cute.” She closed with, “Buy them, you can’t go wrong.” Wabba Nubs by Mary Meyer

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SOUTHEAST MARKETING • winter 2011


Robin’s Picks

Wire Dress Form display by Lady Jayne holds dress notepads, glitter purse notepads and fashion-themed stationery duets, which include a beefy 400-sheet note block, a coordinating 75-sheet sticky pad and matching pens. These accessories make note taking stylish.

Lady Jayne’s Polka Dot Tools encourage women to do repairs in style. Assortment includes scissors, hammer, measuring tape in metal bin. Display no charge. Also available in black and white pattern.

Light-Up Readers ™ from

JJI International uses

super-bright LED technology that lets you read in the dark! Perfect for reading menus in restaurants, reading in bed and for nurses reading charts in darkened rooms. Turn the LED lights off and they become stylish readers. Lightweight polycarbonate frames with optical-quality acrylic lenses. Protective case included.

To go with their expanding line of women’s accessories DM Merchandising is releasing a line of portable umbrellas. As always with DM, the pricing will be great! Under $20 retail.

DM Merchandising is expanding its line of Sidekicks and introducing Foldable Flip Flops you can carry in your purse! Introductory offer; Free display, free freight and 90 days dating. Available in four colors with a carrying pouch. www.southeastmarketing.com • 800-875-1155

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Ask the Experts

10 Tips For Connecting with the Consumer

W

hen trying to decide what to write about in our Winter 2011 magazine, I asked the question: “What qualities do the most successful independent retail stores share?” The answer is a connection to the consumer. Interestingly enough, the same quality differentiates the vendors. Vendors with the fastestturning product always design with the end consumer in mind. They don’t think in terms of selling to the stores, they think in terms of selling through the stores. We started calling around to retailers and asking them “What do you do to connect with your consumer base?” But the more appropriate question seemed to be “What wouldn’t you do?” According to the successful retailers we talked to, not much. When you let the customer lead, you don’t have to rack your brain to come up with new customer service programs. Ask them: What do you want? What do you need? And then ... give it to them.

Many of the customers who frequent Evelyn and Arthur stores are on vacation and on foot. So Weissman offers delivery service. “If they’re staying at a hotel, we will hand-deliver it to them so they don’t have to carry it around all day,” she says. Weissman also provides personal shopping services for people who need it. Whether it’s a demanding schedule, a personal health problem or just the inability to make a decision in the store, customers can have a selection of clothing brought to their homes. “I swear we’ll do anything for customer service,” Weissman says.

1. Have a good return policy.

4. Prop the door.

of the people who request it for a charity or a raffle,” Weissman says. If a charity needs giveaways for a goodie bag, she will work with them by giving a discount for bulk purchases. 3. Deliver the unexpected.

A lenient return policy demonstrates generosity toward Help customers get that first step in the door by keepyour customers. ing it wide open. Doris Brown, owner of This “N” That “We take back everything,” says Adrianne Weissman, Gifts and More in Vicksburg, Miss., doesn’t mind setting owner of seven Evelyn and Arthur stores in Boynton her thermostat higher or lower if it means her “guests” Beach, Fla. “If you go home and you feel welcomed. don’t feel comfortable, come back Avanti does it right Avanti is a vendor that understands “it’s 5. Try extended hours. and we’ll exchange it or replace it. all about the consumer.” To help retailers Brown has a simple philosophy on And if there’s a manufacturing-relatcreate a dialogue with their customers, store hours - “If I’m here, I’m open.” ed issue, we give you a 10% discount Avanti designed a Card of the Week program. Headers and signage are She tells her customers to come in if off your next purchase to make up free and can be personalized by the they see her car parked in front, even if for the inconvenience.” store. Retailers feature a new card each it’s early in the morning or on a Sunday week. Invariably, the sales on that card 2. Care about the things your cusafternoon after the store closes. She double or triple. It’s fun for the consumer, and gives the store staff something to tomers care about. parks her car, which has the store logo talk about. “Did you see the Card of the Weissman chooses to get involved on it, so it’s visible from the highway. Week? It’s my fave!” with charities that are important to “If you need something and you her customers “so that we become can’t come in until after hours, I’ll be part of their world,” she says. For happy to stay late,” Brown says. “It’s example, if a customer’s grandchild is one of the best things we do.” suffering from a disease, Evelyn and 6. Reconsider layaway. Arthur might host an in-store event What’s old is new again. Creditand donate a portion of their proceeds conscious customers are using layaway to a related charity. to pay for big-ticket items as well as “And we give gift certificates to 99% 14

SOUTHEAST MARKETING • winter 2011


long gift lists. Brown asks that the customer pays 20% up front and then has 60 days to pay the rest. When it’s time for pick up, the gifts are all wrapped and marked with the recipients’ names. For very loyal customers, Brown has also offered instore credit. “They’re very good customers and they spend a lot of money, more than they would if they paid as they go,” she says. “It does pay to do that, as long as you’re selective and you make it a 30-day thing.” 7. Greet everyone and keep the conversation going.

“We always greet every customer, just as if they were coming into our home,” says Ann Marie Ferro, owner of Annies Hallmark in Wellington, Fla. “If someone came through the front door at your house, would you greet them?” Once someone is greeted, that doesn’t end the conversation. In fact, according to Ferro, talking to customers takes up more than half her day. “Once we are on the sales floor, not much ‘work’ gets done,” she says. Stocking, changing displays and other business-related tasks are saved for before the store opens or after it closes for the day. “In some cases, we may be their only conversation for the day,” says Ferro. “I personally love to hear about their

families and stories they have to tell.” She says that many of her conversations with customers end with a hug and often some tears. 8. Lighten their load.

No one should shop with an armload of clothing or gifts. “You should always assist a customer by carrying their items to the register,” says Loretta Potapenko, store consultant at Museum Retail Solutions in Mobile, Ala. “It helps them and it helps your sales.” 9. Empower your employees.

You can have the best product mix, displays, location and customer base, but if you don’t have happy, motivated employees, you can’t provide good customer service. “You have to train your staff and make them feel good about themselves and that they’re valued,” Potapenko says. 10. Offer a heartfelt ‘thank you.’

Always, always thank your customers for coming into the store. “We tell them we know that they have a choice as to where they shop, and we are thankful that they choose us,” Ferro says. “We thank every customer as they leave, even the ones that don’t purchase, and always invite them back.”

www.southeastmarketing.com • 800-875-1155

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SEMarketing Magazine Winter 2011