Don’t you just dread the P word – planning? It goes with this time of the year, with countless articles about New Year’s resolutions, time management apps and tools, procrastination tips and how to prioritise.

This is the first of 10 blogs on my Top Ten Tips for busy retailers. You are just about recovering from Christmas and the madness that is the January sales, when every other customer is looking for a discount on a discount! The last thing you feel like doing is starting over with a new plan for 2018. Why not start with some basics?

Sales targets
Look at your sales week by week for 2017. Do you keep a weekly record? You can print it off from your EPOS system or use a spreadsheet. If you don’t have one I can provide a simple-to-use template, (e-mail Looking at a full year you can see the peaks and troughs, the bank holidays, Easter and where the build-up for Christmas began. You can use this as a basis for setting your weekly targets for this year. Keep a weekly record of how you perform against target so that you can flex those targets during the year. That way you can keep on top of your sales performance and the figures don’t come as a big surprise at the end of the quarter.  This information will also help with your buying and promotional cycle.

Financial planning
Don’t leave this to your accountant! As a business owner you should have projected income and expenses and cash flow forecast docs to review weekly or, at the very least, monthly. I’ve already done my own cash flow forecast for this year, a bit scary, but at least I know where the skeletons are!

If you can’t face this then ask your accountant to produce monthly management accounts. Looking at the accounts at year end only shows you history. You need real time information to make sound business decisions. Don’t neglect the cash flow information. Most small businesses fail not because they don’t have a good product or service but because they run out of cash.

The next step
Give yourself a pat on the back for getting those two fundamental building blocks in place. You can then start looking at the bigger picture. This might sound counterintuitive as I would normally advocate starting with the big picture and then drilling down. But when you are in an established business and busy with the day to day, the whole planning process seems too big to contemplate. So start with sales and financial planning and, armed with this information, you will want to know more – believe me!

Be curious about how what those figures mean. Are there times when you ran out of bestselling lines? Do you need to rationalise or diversify your product range? Did you have too much stock and have to discount more than you had planned? Was there a really dead time last year that you can try and avoid this year? Plan a customer event for that time to reignite interest in your business. Were you well prepared for the busy times?

The list goes on and I’m sure you are asking your own questions by now.

This famous quote came from Winston Churchill who actually said, “He who fails to plan is planning to fail”.  A typical pithy sound bite from him but you get the gist.

Planning is pretty important to any business as it gives you direction and something to measure your success with.

I hope that, with this approach, you’ll learn to love planning as it will reignite your passion for your business and remind you why you started your own business in the first place.  If you’re like me it was because you wanted more control over your work; what you do and when you do it. You can only do this if you have a plan!

I haven’t mentioned marketing, branding, communications and PR as they are for future blog posts. Next month (yes I’ve planned my blog for the year!) we’ll be looking at another aspect of planning – how to weave it into the fabric of your business.

Happy retailing!

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