We did something this year that we have never done before.
We closed on Black Friday.
It was not that long ago we were making large, expensive TV purchases preparing for the sacred retail event, hoping to claim quick sales. This year I sat down with my team and asked if they wanted to stay home with family or gain extra hours by working on the Friday after Thanksgiving. The answer was a resounding yes to closing our doors. If I knew the day would be profitable, I would not have given the option.
After monitoring the phone system that day, can you guess how many calls we missed?
Want to guess how many client emails I received that day needing our services?
Perhaps you’re thinking, uh-oh, that business must be in trouble. Just the opposite, this was our best year ever. We understand that the market is changing, so we are changing with it. This past summer we stopped opening up on Saturdays, and we are open only one night until 7 p.m. I sometimes consider closing the retail portion of our business entirely, but we are here working, so why not be open? The scenario reminds me of chef Gordon Ramsay (you know, the guy who yells all the time on the Food Network) who states that if a restaurant is preparing food for dinner, employing people, they too should be open for lunch. I have the same philosophy.
Early Black Friday statistics are coming in, and according to Forbes they show weak foot traffic and strong virtual traffic over the four-day sales event.
What we did this year to allow our clients to grab those Black Friday deals was to offer them ahead of time. Still, some did run to the nearest big box store to snatch up a deal, and then called us to install it. If we are honest, we all know we are making more off the install than on the TV anyway. I have met a few AV companies that encourage their clients to purchase TVs on their own, and then they install them. No guessing what to stock. No attempting to price match. No training credit paperwork.
In this age when more and more retail stores are closing or filing for bankruptcy, what can we do?
1) Stop relying on products for profit. Know what can’t be sold online? Service. For our industry to move forward, we had to keep our focus on the solution and let go of the product.
2) Sell online. If you can’t beat them, joint them. We do not have an online presence, as I do not want to travel in that direction, but with more and more of the public researching online, this is a way to grab some of those sales.
3) Omnichannel. This is a combination of the two thoughts above. Home Depot does this by selling online but allowing you to pick up in the store. If one were to “hold” a flat panel from your company online, and then had the option to stop in your store to experience it, then you would be omnichanneling—hitting both markets.
4) Find another market to conquer. Networking is growing (hello, IoT), light commercial is growing, as are emerging markets. Pick one that you have a passion for and go after it. We started more than 30 years ago as a Hi-Fi shop, and then we became a satellite install company, then home theater, and now we specialize in light commercial, and solutions-based residential systems.
Change happens. Stop fighting it and run with it.