insideKENT Magazine Issue 63 - June 2017 - Page 189

BUSINESS MI-5 RETAILING BY MARC FARMER, PARTNER AT WILKINS KENNEDY MAIDSTONE INFORMATION IS KEY IN BUSINESS, BUT FOR RETAILERS IN PARTICULAR, JUGGLING FORECASTS AND PREDICTIONS FOR STOCK LEVELS IS A REGULAR OCCURRENCE – ESPECIALLY IF YOU HAVE TO TAKE THE WEATHER INTO ACCOUNT AS WELL. Management Information, or MI, is used in business to help analyse and monitor trends and enable informed decision making. These trends can be in customer behaviour, spend, economy and so on, but they may be used by retailers to help effectively forecast stock ordering and availability. This becomes even more important during any major retail events, such as Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Easter and Christmas, but also for Cyber Monday and Black Friday. Then there’s planning for the unexpected – a tricky enough task in itself. But, if you can draw upon previous data, enough to allow you to make decisions and contingency plans in the event of bad weather, for example, then this should be your first port of call. Occurrences like this must be planned well in advance, often up to a year before the event takes place. MI is key to deciphering what it is retailers will need ahead of time – almost like a crystal ball. In other words, you need to be able to look into the future to decide what to stock in the present. It will also allow you to manage relationships with suppliers in the event that you might suddenly need more stock. It is not just bad weather that can cause changes in supply chain needs, but warm weather also brings with it a number of demands. For example, will your customers suddenly want to buy more summer clothing? Perhaps they will want to buy more cold drinks or cold foods? These sorts of things need to be considered in line with Management Information and the data that is available within. A VICIOUS CIRCLE FOCUS YOUR MARKETING BY USING MI No problem, you might think – we are ready to trade – we’ll use gut feel to forecast our stock and marketing spend rather than invest in MI. The software and professional advice needed to produce and interpret MI can seem pricey; indeed, the MI investment may seem like one that early stage retailers cannot afford. The thing is, can you afford to make decisions without decent MI? Without MI and professional advice, you will be using guesswork. Management Information can also be used for effective marketing. In the early stages of your business, you are likely to be marketing your business to a volume audience through blanket messaging. In the early days, this may seem fine, but you need to ensure that eventually you identify your specific targets so that you can focus your messaging. But think about this – if you invest in MI you can, as one indicator, look at your website conversion rates and measure interest in the product portfolio. Monitor customer buying patterns and direct your marketing spend accordingly. This will provide you with relevant sales data and help your decision making; and why? Because you are using MI. If you would like any further advice or support relating to your retail business, particularly MI, why not contact your local Wilkins Kennedy representative in the Ashford, Canterbury, Maidstone, Orpington and Sandwich offices to see how we can help. Local offices: Ashford: 01233 629 255 / Canterbury: 01227 454 861 Maid stone: 01622 690 666 / Orpington: 01689 827 505 Sandwich: 01304 249 997 189