Blog: Rebecca Aughton

There's a reason why "customer" begins with "custom". Rebecca Aughton, owner and founder of Bra-vo intimates, discusses how retailers can tailor service to their clientele and at the same time unify to create thriving downtowns.

Forecasting Less Customer Frivolity (But More Pets in Pajamas)

Each year we try to improve on the holiday season and it's an ongoing challenge in downtown Royal Oak because we don't have a unified theme among all shop keepers in our area. This affects everyone in the retail and restaurant industry and we have to find ways to bring people in on our own.

We anticipate that fashion will always sell, but this year due to the economy basics were the biggest part of our sales. It was a practical year and we've noticed this trend for a few years. Customers are being less frivolous with their money and Christmas has become more and more practical. Couples are buying dishwashers and large TVs, not lingerie.

Our goal this season was to plan as much as possible to cut down on unnecessary merchandise, but as those in retail know, the tastes and needs change in the market all the time. In years past we carried nightwear and pet pajamas. This year we limited the night selection but kept the pet pajamas because our market loves to pamper their pets. We saw the amount of nightwear on the sale racks after the holidays and decided to cut back tremendously. We ordered the same volume without counting on sleepwear in order to reduce mark downs, then I crossed my fingers and hoped would it pay off. We had a 6% increase this December because we eliminated buying the extras. Our success this holiday season is due to the careful attention we pay to our customers' buying habits over time.

My advice to retailers just starting out and hitting the holiday season is to plan six months in advance and plant the seed when you have a captured audience. We create Holiday Hint Cards for women to give to their significant others. These hint cards can be placed on the dinner table, in a jacket pocket, next to the bathroom sink or anywhere it may be noticed. It's an easy way for women to tell their spouses, boyfriends or family members what they really want for Christmas.  If you hand these cards to people in the store while they are shopping or browsing they are more likely to act.

The key to improving your business is keeping impeccable records in retail. My secret weapon is the beat book.  If you don't have one, buy one, it's worth every penny and one more tool to help you navigate and predict retail behavior.

A beat book allows you to keep records for six years at a time.  You trace the day to see why you were or were not successful. Write down the date, weather, promotions, events, advertising and sales. With a beat book I can jump back to the last few Novembers to track sales and try to recreate or improve.