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Resalers Answer the Burning Questions
Here are the results of some of our polls offered in 2006 on Too Good to be Threw. 

 

What about a store web site? poll, 
Oct 27- Nov 3, 2006
The topic was:
Is your shop on the Internet?
Wow! 64% of those responding have a shop web site! That's terrific! Although I probably should have asked: How much do you promote your web site to your market area? which is, of course, key. Unless folks know that you have a site...you might as well not have. So to you almost-two-thirds, my congratulations, and a reminder to push push push your site, and use it for announcements, upcoming events, and all the sales promotional tools you can think of!

Another 31% would like to, if they could only find the time to do it, or to learn about how it could be done. Perhaps this might be a popular New Year's Resolution for those shopkeepers. After all, they probably know that they are missing out on a wonderful way to communicate with current and prospective clientele.

7% said they didn't think a web site would help their shops. Possibly they are located in an area where the public doesn't use the Internet? Maybe they never tire of telling phone callers how to bring things in, or how to get to the shop, or what they're accepting now? All these things, and more, can be on your web site.

Do you have a business web site?
Yes, and I'm basically pleased with it (24) 29%
Yes, but I need to work on it/ have it worked on (29) 35%
No. Wish I did but haven't gotten around to it (16) 19%
Wish I did, haven't a clue how to start or what it would cost (9) 11%
I don't think a web site would be of benefit to my shop (6) 7%

Total Votes: 84

 

Some comments from our resalers:

We push our website to everyone who calls to inquire about bringing in items, it is on our card and all of our advertising.

I love my web site, I have one for the store and a mySpace one for prom. both have brought me business, especially on the formal end of things. Although having the consignor info sheet and policy on line is great when people call, I tell the basics and direct them to the web for more details.

I need to keep it more current than I have been, however.

 

 

When did your shop start paying for itself? poll, 
Oct 20-27, 2006
The topic was:
Breaking Even

I can't think of a single industry that can boast of a BE point reached by the majority of its participants in the first year...yet here we are, the RESALE industry, with 56% saying they did it! (Well, the respondees to this poll are a very special breed of resalers: those who care enough to keep their education going on www.tgtbt.com !)

In addition, within the 15% of respondees who have not yet completed a full year, 80% are already usually covering expenses!

I think these figures deserve to be shown to the next landlord who turns up his nose at resale, don't you?

BTW: Those 5% who have never figured your Break Even Point: Why are you operating in the dark?

 When did your shop start consistently reaching Break-Even (covering all expenses 80% of the time)?
Within the first year I was open. (54) 56%
It took 2-3 years to consistently cover expenses. (18) 19%
We've been open 3+ years and struggle to cover expenses. (5) 5%
Haven't been open a full year yet but cover expenses usually. (12) 12%
We haven't been open a year yet ; seldom cover expenses. (3) 3%
I have never figured my BE point. (5) 5%

Total Votes: 97

Some comments from our resalers:

Open 6 months and starting to cover expenses just in the last 2. Yeah!!! Actually had to move & double square footage.

First year, never had to add money to our initial investment. Paid back our investment that first year also. We did not take a draw or salary for the first 2 years, leaving the money to grow the business.

In my second year, I revised my thinking entirely. Instead of planning Not to fail, I began planning to succeed.

 

 

What about Mondays? poll, 
Oct 13-20, 2006
The topic was:
Monday Holidays

I can't believe it... 25% of resale shops still close on Mondays? How do they manage to make the rent? What do potential consignors do with the pile of underloved items they've gathered over the weekend? (I'll tell you what they do: they take them to a charity or toss them in the trash.)

And on Monday holidays, those days that office and government workers get off, but most retailers are open? You know, MLK Day, Presidents' Day, Columbus Day... a majority, 51%, of resale shops are closed? What about all those potential shoppers who have been meaning to get to your shop, except their working hours are pretty much the same as your shop hours? You willing to forego their enthusiasm?

And what about "traditional" retail: you think the malls and the chains and the big boxes run Columbus/ etc Day sales because people don't shop on Monday holidays?

Sillier still, in my opinion, are those shops who are open but don't shout it from the roof tops! Unless they need the time to vacuum, why would they assume that people would think of them? If you want to be part of the over one-quarter of the open-Monday-holidays shops who say "business is better than average", let people know that Columbus Day is a day to DISCOVER MyShop or I cannot tell a lie: Resale's the REAL Sale!

And if you want to be able to afford a staffer, so you preserve your two days off? Better be open Mondays. Even if Mondays weren't so important for take-in and customer service: an average Monday will increase income 20% over a 5-day-a-week shop. That right there will pay a salary, right?

How do you do on Monday holidays?
We're open, we advertise it, sales are okay (1) 1%
We're open, we advertise, sales are better than average (7) 9%
Open, don't advertise, sales okay (19) 25%
Open, don't advertise, sales better than average (11) 14%
We close. It's a HOLIDAY (20) 26%
N/A, we're always closed on Mondays (19) 25%

Total Votes: 77

Some comments from our resalers:

MOST Monday-holidays are definitely worth being open. I have never advertised, though - might consider that next year.

Oh, it's so tempting to close on those days, but for us, it's wise to be open especially when the holiday means the kids have a day off school.

Although we've always been closed on Mondays, I've been considering going to being open M-Sa. I need my two days off, though, so I need to be in a position to hire more help first.

I have tried opening holiday Mondays, but my best sales were about $30. and worst were no sales and no customers.

When I worked in an office environment Monday holidays were for shopping! So, now as an owner I stay open - bring those sales on!

 

What makes you do it? poll, 
Oct 6- 12, 2006
The topic was:
Why are you a resale shop owner/ manager?

How far we have come! I'm bustin' with pride on behalf of all of you, the Professional Resalers of the World!

I ran this exact same poll in August 2001. The results were:
"like Christmas"69%
"help folks afford" 20%
"keep closets clean" 2%
"ecology" 9%
and (drum roll here!)
"good money" ZERO %.

What do the changing results mean? That resale is evermore a VIABLE business: now 17% acknowledge that they make good money. And most of those folks "graduated" from the "like Christmas" category. Now, looking forward with glee to what comes in the doors is a joy to us all and makes the hard work go much more easily, but at the end of the day, metaphorically speaking, you want to see that stuff go OUT the door, and the money go in the till. Right? So "good money" SHOULD be "what you like best about having a shop."

Take a look at your comments and you will see another wonderful aspect of the industry and again, I'm bustin' with pride over this. You're HAVING FUN! You LIKE what you do every day (well, almost every day) and THAT is what life is about. I like to think that my Products for the Professional Resaler have helped many shops here, by showing them the easiest, most effective way to run their shops. Easier = more fun = more profitable...it's a circle just like the ecology symbol!

Yes, I should have put a choice about liking the clientele, but since this is a re-run of the 2001 poll, I didn't. But I think that we can agree, resale shoppers are some of the nicest, kindest folks in town.

What do you like best about having a resale shop?
Never know what will show up: every day's like Christmas! (58) 59%
I help folks afford things (17) 17%
I help keep the closets of my town clean (0) 0%
I believe in the ecology of recycling (7) 7%
It makes me good money (17) 17%

Total Votes: 99

Some comments from our resalers:

This was hard.....because I truly believe in the recycling aspect of Consignment shopping....But, in the end...for ME....the variety truly is the spice of life...

this was a tough one since my original mental answer was that I enjoy working with clothing and I enjoy people who enjoy good clothing. But since I had to choose-it was actually a toss between (b) and the recycling thing

I like all those reasons - but having to choose one, I went with the $!

I am a shopoholic. With owning my own shop, other people bring their stuff to me instead of me having to search it out. I get my shopping fix without actually buying anything because my shop works on consignment. What a better way to spend the day than finding fabulous things and getting to know new people everyday.

Kate, why don't you add a radio button for "all of the above".? That would be my choice if you did!

The real reason is that I enjoy the day to day activities of consignment. It is a very social style of shopping and I like the kind of people it attracts. It was an affordable business for me to get into and has provided an excellent income for me. I can afford to buy what I want from myself whenever I want and I am proud of the way people comment about my shop.

I do have some of the strangest things show up - items I'm ready to pull off the floor cause I think it will never sell and someone buys it that day. What I really like though is helping those less fortunate. There are individual who can even afford to shop @ a resale store despite the low prices - so those items I don't carry in my store get sent to the local Help Center. They really like to see me coming - so I get to help recycle in that respect even more.

 

 

Mistakes poll, 
Sept 29-Oct 6 2006
The topic was:
What makes resale shops go under?
Location, location, location: Sad but true for those folks who think saving on rent will make their business succeed. Location does count. And if you think that an inexpensive rent is a deal, wait until you encounter the reality of how much advertising you have to do to make up for it! Out of sight, out of mind applies to any retail business, especially a resale shop, where the shopper cannot be assured of finding specifically what she came for...it's not like she'll go out of her way on the chance you have something great.

A close second, respondees thought, for failure was not carrying what people want to buy. The trick here is, of course, that the shopkeeper has to pay attention to what people want. How? By watching what, how fast, and at what price things sell; by rearranging categories to feature various items; by finding out why someone is leaving empty-handed. It's no fun asking someone "What did you hope to find here today that you didn't?" but it can be a business-saver. Assuming you write it down, and ask often enough to get a feel for a trend. I, personally, have never been asked this question. 

Only 8%, though, thought that lack of variety or selection was the cause of shops going out of business. That's the answer I would have checked. Why? Because whenever a shopper, loyal though she may be, has a no-hit shopping expedition, it's a black mark on the business. A few more visits with "nothing for me today", and your shop has fallen off her shopping radar. Making sure that your shopper finds something each trip, involves variety and selection.

I'm proud of you all: no one fell for my "trick answer" of "I never pay attention to what other shops do"... because you should. Not to slavishly copy or dismiss without a thought, but mostly to see how the public reacts to whatever it is the other shop is trying.

Think about shops you know which failed. Based on your observations, why do most resalers go out of business?
Merchandise not what potential customers wanted to buy (25) 29%
Prices too high &/or never marked down (21) 24%
Lack of variety/ selection (7) 8%
Bad location (28) 33%
I don't know, they were never open when I tried to shop (5) 6%
I never pay attention to what happens to other shops (0) 0%

Total Votes: 86

Some comments from our resalers:

The one shop I have in mind was mismanaged financially. She didn't pay her consigners or her rent... We pay on demand and are very honest and transparent with all our customers and consigners.

Another reason is unrealistic expectations the first year. The people I talk to who closed expected an easy million!

Most of the shops I see close, close within the first year or two, having gone into business expecting it to be easy and the money to pour in ... 

So many reasons! I think the previous shops in my town failed due to many reasons - no new inventory (so only attracted those wanting to buy used, and not friends/grandparents/etc.), not enough initial capital committed at the beginning for advertising, not selective enough and not pricing at competitive to the nearby city, buy outright and fell into the trap of not marking down because of concerns of cutting profit. I could go on!

Bad location is probably the main reason, but I think lack of focus is another.

Two specific examples come to mind, one was a less than desirable looking shop, one was a very nice little shop, but both were in off the beaten path locations. The nice shop was in a very quaint location but people just forgot it was there.

Unrealistic expectations--thinking it's "easy money".

 

Income poll, 
Sept 22-28 2006
The topic was:
That jingle in your pocket
Well, I personally am flabbergasted. 89% of respondees feel like it's at least a living. And I would guess that most of the 45% who chose not feeling justly compensated yet were looking hopefully ahead to the time when they will be, and thinking it's within easy reach. I am willing to bet that a large portion of the respondees who checked the third option, haven't even been open a year yet, so we'll all anticipate bigger- than- expected smiles come December 31.

Good for you! The 44% who earn a comfortable or more income does my heart good. You've proved to us all, that yes, it's possible to make a good living in the industry.

Of course, there's one thing to keep in mind. Shops which are struggling are probably under- represented in our on-line survey sample...because, maybe, they don't use TGtbT and Auntie Kate the Blog to refine their shops. And might that be the very reason they are struggling?

With the profitable season upon us, how do you feel about probable yearly total income from your business? (Please, only participate if you opened before Jan 1 2006)
I am very pleased with my effort/income ratio. (13) 19%
My personal earnings are comfortable if not spectacular. (17) 25%
It's a living, but I'm not feeling justly compensated yet. (31) 45%
I doubt it's possible to ever make a good living off this business. (3) 4%
Cash in pocket isn't my motivation...I do this for other reasons. (5) 7%

Total Votes: 69

Some comments from our resalers:
I'm sheltering as much profit as I legally can for my retirement and drawing a comfortable salary after 16 years.

At the moment, employee expenses are eating up any profit I might make--my kid's pre-school and elementary school schedules are restricting a lot of my time. Yet, I will continue this business as long as it's wisdom on my to continue doing so because I know I can be profitable, perhaps sometime soon.

I love this business! There are so many ways to make money. The obvious - from consignors. But, also from garage sale/thrift items I find on my own, and also new jewelry & accessories. 

Last year I was very pleased, but now i want to up my goal and make/sell more!!! always aiming high.

 

Appealing poll, 
Sept 15-21 2006
The topic was:
Why do they choose you?
Interesting results again in this poll. Our respondees seem to be saying one thing and doing another.

What do I mean? Whenever resale shopkeepers gather, a lot of talk goes on about how to price things, even going so far as to ask about specific items. Yet only 8% indicated that pricing is what brings you the most customers.

Valuing something, but not going out of their way to GET it... 42% of respondees said that "selection & variety" is what is most important in driving traffic to the shop. But alas, in my personal experience, a tiny fraction of shops have professionally designed and written, motivating "How to Become a Supplier" information available in their shops. How can a shop maintain selection and variety without a constant influx of NEW suppliers? And how does a shop get new suppliers, without developing them?

For what it's worth: I totally agree with our results on this question. Selection is most important, pricing LEAST. 

If you have the suspicion that a nice how-to trifold brochure would build your selection and variety easily and with minimal expense, develop one. If you'd love to have one, but your time and tools are limited, check out the selection & variety of TGtbT's Customer Service Brochures.

Which of these brings you the most buying customers?
Pricing (7) 8%
Selection & variety (38) 42%
Look of shop (15) 16%
Quality (9) 10%
Service & honesty (22) 24%

Total Votes: 91

Some comments from our resalers:

I think it's a combination of our look, selection, and service. We go the extra mile. Women want to feel pampered when they shop and we try our best to provide!

The shop is located next to an Antique Mall, We carry everything and people always comments first on the displays. I combine clothes, toys, antiques, jewelry, fabric, furniture and tell a story with my displays.

Great brand names under one roof--what could be better. Well, yeah, if I sold gourmet chocolate. Hmmm

 

IMPROVING poll, 
Sept 7- 14 2006
The topic was:
What could YOU do better?

What terrific results! This has been the real eye-opener poll so far, in my opinion. 

Over a quarter of the responses were for "handling incoming and bookwork more easily"...and that is the simplest thing on the list to learn. So those people will be having an easier road to profits simply by brushing up on acceptance routines and finding better ways to track...

And over half realize how important building each sale is. You know there are 3 ways to sell more: Sell to MORE people, sell to them MORE OFTEN, and sell each person MORE. Add-ons, suggestive selling, and adjacencies are key here.

But what REALLY blows my mind: Only 2% feel that they could learn to make my selection more desirable. That, to me, reveals a real problem. Because the sad truth about 90% of the resale shops I visit is: they could use a whole lot more professional pizzazz, major merchandising, and sometimes, just plain arranging.

Does YOUR shop shout WOW ?
Tip to test if your merchandising and presentation is all it could be: Do shoppers consistently choose too much to buy? Do they say Oops, I guess I picked out too much today? If not...

The first step towards increasing the amount each spends is to make your selection look more desirable. Get out your copy of Shop Sizzle and review what you can do, quickly and inexpensively, to make your merchandise so irresistible that your buyers will complain:

"I always find too much in here, every trip!"

What one thing do you wish YOU could do better?
Handle incoming and bookwork more easily (24) 26%
Figure out where to spend my advertising budget (6) 7%
Create more compelling ads, fliers, etc (9) 10%
Make my selection look more desirable (2) 2%
Increase the amount each buyer spends (50) 55%

Total Votes: 91

Some comments from our resalers:

My feeling is, from reading the posts, that I am not selling enough to each customer....and I don't know how to change that....I wish I did.

Taking new items stresses us out every season. There has got to be a better way.

I'd like all of the above please!

Each of the first 4 choices leads to the 5th choice, so I go with that. Because overall, isn't increased sales what we are all looking for.

 

 

Outshining the competition poll, 
Aug 31- Sept 7 2006
The topic was:
What makes your shop better?

Kate goofed! Of course one of the major reasons suppliers bring you their items is because it's easy. (See the comments from our resalers, to the right...) And the easiest way of all to make dealing with your shop easy is by not having appointments and not setting limits on numbers of items brought in. Goodness, that's how my shop thrived...how could I have forgotten?

Possibly because it is so "old-fashioned" to try to bend clients to your will nowadays. Way too much time-pressure and calls for their attention in people's heads nowadays. The shop that requires appointments every time, severely limits incoming hours, or sets numerical limits will never be a rip-roaring success. 

But yes, it's hard to cope with "on-demand" incoming. That's why I developed the concept of Drop-&-Run and offer the Drop-&-Run Kit.

Why do your SUPPLIERS (consignors, sellers, donors) come to you instead of your competition?
I pay a higher percentage (5) 7%
I have more customers so I sell faster &/or
 for a better price (11)
15%
I "put my name out there" more often: 
ads, promos, direct and email, PR (11)
15%
I pay out on demand whenever, any amount (14) 20%
My shop is in a better location &/or more 
visually appealing (30)
42%

Total Votes: 71

Some comments from our resalers:

More importantly; no appointment needed! Others in the area have restrictive receiving policies that make it difficult to consign with them.

The real biggie is: They can drop and run. Everyone else requires appointments, and sets limits on amount.

I believe I have "earned" a reputation of good return, organized business practices, easy procedures and customer oriented policies. I also have a big name in the local market through constant marketing.

I get a lot of great feedback about paying out a dollar or $200 in cash whenever they want - it makes it feel more like a buy outright shop

 

Investing in my business poll Aug 24-31 2006 The topic was:
If I were a rich man....

Overwhelming choice: The top 2 choices, advertise and remodel/move, got 64% of the votes. What might this indicate? That you should have a plan for these areas of expense, and put any extra cash there. For example: I made "extra" this week, let's double up on our ads... or Pull out the wish list, let's buy that jewelry case! Or Put it away for moving. There's, literally, a FORTUNE waiting for you in the many and varied Products for the Professional Resaler. A tiny investment here... and of course, using these Products to improve your shop... can make many, many more times $10,000 in your business.

One comment was: "Hmmm. A trip to Mexico wasn't on the list...." Actually, I did have a choice like this in my first draft of the poll, but after all...we're here to learn about our businesses, huh? Anyone call loll on a beach with no instruction whatsoever! LOL

My comment: 20% less people took this poll than the previous one. Is that because A: $10,000 was too small an amount to consider, or B: because $10,000 was unbelievably too much, and some of you couldn't imagine investing $10,000 more into your business?

 

If I had $10,000 to invest in the biz, I would

Advertise more (23) 26%
Remodel or move my shop (34) 38%
Buy new merchandise to resell (13) 15%
Spend it on several big promotional events (3) 3%
Hire more help (16) 18%

Total Votes: 89

Some comments from our resalers:
I'd turn it into about $30,000-$40,000 selling jewelry!

This was a hard one for me to answer because I would probably do a combination...Good question, Kate. Keep them coming and keep us thinking.

You don't know how important location, Location, LOCATION is until you've made a wrong move/choice

 

Making money poll, August 17-24 2006 The topic was:
Making more money in one simple step
And the winner is.... Over half the respondees realize the importance of encouraging repeat visits. That's good. If you'd like to increase your success in this area, 229 Promotional Ideas and Promote with Pizzazz will spur your enthusiasm.

But gee willikers! Don't forget you need to attract more customers constantly. Why? Sad but true: No matter how great your customer service, how happy each customer is with your selection, prices, hours, ambiance, on and on... 

You are going to LOSE them. For a thousand reasons. They move. They find a better way to spend their time and money. They get a different job and no longer drive by your shop every Thursday. And the biggest reason of all? They FORGET you. If you want to protect the business you have now, you need to attract new people constantly and remind "regulars" to come in. If you're not doing that, you're losing business. Advertising and promotion! Do it! Reread your Windows that Sell! and put those 65 AdStarters to work for you.

More selection was chosen by only 11%. Yet how many people who come into your shop to shop...leave empty-handed? Find out why and fulfill their needs. The Customer Survey Kit is your first step to finding out how to get more folks to buy, every time.

The single best way to make more in this biz is to:

Be open more hours (3)

3%

Carry more selection (12)

11%

Attract more customers with ads & promo (23)

22%

Build repeat visits & large purchases (61)

58%

Cut overhead & cost of goods (7)

7%

Total Votes: 106

Some comments from our resalers:
People need to hear your name again and again and again. Advertising & promotions do this.

Build repeat visits by spoiling your best customers. I usually give them free stuff, and also remember their name, and ask them about their family.

Offering something more than bankers hours expands business dramatically.

I try to build loyal customers - and it's paying off! They bring their friends, their coworkers, their visiting relatives - it all adds up. Remember their names, their kids names, ask about how such and such a product you sold them is working, be open with returns, upsell without being pushy!

We have a frequent shopper program that has been very successful! The repeat business is wonderful and they usually bring a friend so word of mouth gets more to our store. Then when they get in and see what we have and learn about the frequent shopper program they almost always get excited and sign up and come back for more!

 

Resalers' Poll, taken August 10-17 2006  The topic was:
Is it winter yet?

Our first poll. Many resalers cling to the idea that they MUST sell clothing for immediate use only, and therefore their incoming-season selection and marketing lags far behind the new-merchandise stores. 

This poll, taken mid-August, shows that almost half of the respondees do not plan to offer winter coats until October 1 or later. This, despite the fact that winter coats are introduced in new-merchandise stores in July, and will be discounted in most locations for the Columbus Day weekend, the second week in October.

What can we learn from this poll?
This reluctance to fulfill shoppers' desires as they are fed by new-retail displays, media focus on the upcoming season, and magazine and web advertising, costs resalers in many ways:

* Resale shops are not seen as fashion-forward, since they are showing the outgoing season's clothing.
* Suppliers, whether consignors, sellers, or donators, do not realize that they should bring in the upcoming season's items now.
* And worst of all, the resale shops who do not offer the incoming season's goods when customers are starting to buy, are in effect inviting their customers to shop elsewhere, and to spend too much...thus leaving less in the family clothing budget for spending at their favorite resale shop!

When will you put out winter coats in your shop?
I have them out now (22) 21%
By September 1 (33) 31%
By October 1 (42) 39%
Are you kidding? November! (5) 5%
It's not cold here til December (5) 5%

Total Votes: 107

Some comments from our resalers:

I have sold 1 mink coat out of the store and 2 on Ebay and this was in July! I always think the unusual is going to appeal to someone!

Here in Ohio people are already looking for them. We opened in September last year and they sold like hotcakes.

yes, it just seems WRONG to put winter coats out when it's 90 degrees, but that's when you want customers to know you carry them, so when it gets cold, they remember you!

We do not take winter coats, they just don't sell well enough to justify the space they take up

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