Many shops lack focus — and narrowing in on your store’s primary mission can make the difference between success and failure in today’s competitive market.  I was fascinated by the fact that a quiz sponsored by The Oprah Magazine a couple of years ago entitled “Who are You Meant to Be” racked up 2.9 million page views online.  So I decided to help you define your store by coming up with a series of questions around the topic of “What is Your Store Meant to Be?”

There aren’t any right or wrong answers to these questions — and no fancy scoring system at the end — but I think that if you answer them honestly you’ll learn something about your store than will make it more successful.

1.How would you describe your store in ten words or less?

2.How would your customers describe your store?  Hint: you need to ask them.  You may be surprised to find that the image you project is different than your vision.

3.How does your staff describe the store to their friends and family?

4.Can you name three other stores around the country that have a similar focus?

5.Have you divided your merchandise into categories to help you track what sells best? 

6.Do you have a way of recording customers’ requests and acting on them if they fit within your  store’s focus?

7.How well do your sales reps seem to understand your goals?

8.Can you name your top vendors and top selling items?  Do you devote more space and inventory dollars to this merchandise?

9.Are your buying decisions largely influenced by what other stores are carrying and what is the hottest  trend at the moment?

10. Do you regularly go to trade shows and visit other stores looking for ideas?

The closer you can come to defining your store’s focus, the more pleasing the shopping experience will be for your customers. They will know what to expect you to carry.  And the displays will undoubtedly be more aesthetically pleasing, because cross-merchandising happens naturally when all the goods have something in common.

Does this mean that you need to be very limited in what you carry? Not necessarily.  Our store has everything from baby gifts to coffee grinders, but we have an overriding vision inspired by the principles of Scandinavian design: practical but artfully made products with a contemporary bent.  And within the store, products are divided up by department. If a hot new product doesn’t fit into one of these departments, and therefore won’t have a “home” when it arrives, we don’t order it.

I hope that the questions above help you narrow in on what your store is meant to be — and makes you more competitive as a result.

Happy Retailing,

Carol “Orange” Schroeder