When hurricanes are threatening, every meteorologist seems to use the phrase hunker down. I think that is what many retailers have done and are doing in this current economic time. They are hunkering down. Hunker down has come to mean: to hide, hide out, or take shelter, whatever position you choose to do it in.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines hunker as: “squat, with the haunches, knees, and ankles acutely bent, so as to bring the hamstrings near the heels, and throw the whole weight upon the fore part of the feet.” The advantage of this position is, of course, that you’re crouched close to the ground, presenting a small target for whatever the universe chooses to throw at you, but you’re also ready to move at a moment’s notice.
Yes, the overall flooring market is down over 30% from 2006. Yes, times are tough, and we had better watch our expenses and our cash flow. We have been doing plenty of hunkering down; I think it’s time to get moving, to spring to action.
Recently, I spoke at the FIANA Convention in San Antonio, Texas. I shared the podium with Jonathan Trivers. He is the author of One Stop Marketing, and a former president and coo of Abbey Carpet Co. from 1991-1995. He mentioned that in this recession, 16% of the retailers have closed and that there is a huge pent-up demand.
Trivers continued: The number one home improvement product that customers say they have deferred (they will buy later) was floor covering. He claims that there is $5.75 billion in residential sales alone that are up for grabs.
How much can you grab when you are hunkered down in a squat? I think it’s time to roll. “Are you guys ready? Let’s roll.” Do you remember those immortalized words? Wherever I am, when I state those words, most of the audience to whom I am speaking knows who or when those words were first spoken.
Those two sentences were uttered by Cranbury, N.J., resident Todd Beamer, an account manager for the Oracle Corp. He died at age 32 shortly after uttering those immortal words. Beamer was on United Airlines Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001. He spoke those words when he and some of the plane’s passengers decided to overwhelm the hijackers in the cockpit and crash the plane, so it wouldn’t reach Washington, D.C.Beamer chose not to stay hunkered down, in one of the worst situations imaginable. The courage he showed should be inspiring. However, I have felt that most of us have been getting used to being in the squat, hunkered down, accepting where we are, and not challenging the status quo.
You can’t do much in the squat. You have to be rolling and taking action. And don’t confuse action with results. Your focus is on result-producing activities. All activities should be centered on these key questions:
What can I do that will drive more shoppers in the door profitably? How can I turn more of those shoppers into customers and still make a profit? How can I maximize the purchase amount of each customer? And how can I maximize sales and profitability while at the same time creating happy and loyal customers?
Everywhere I go I find a few retailers doing really creative things to drive traffic and improve their numbers. Hunkering creates worry. Worry is the misuse of the imagination. Creativity is thinking about where you want to go; hunkering is about weathering the storm.
Sit down with your team and brainstorm. What actions can you take that are out of the box? What can you do to make the customer feel compelled to buy from your store and guilty if they buy somewhere else? What can you do to make the customer feel that they are the most important person in the world? What can you do to make the experience in your store and with your team more memorable? What can you do to sell more to each customer? How can you get more customers to use your finance offering? (The use of financing definitely increases all the key measures.)
When you are focused on what you want instead of what you don’t want, your mind will generate ideas. Let the ideas roll. Refuse to judge them. Ask the question, “What if we…?” Creative solutions multiply in direct proportion to the difficulty of the problems.
What can you do differently? Refuse to let your product and services become a commodity. Make sure the customers see the value (differences that are important to them) of buying from you.
You can’t see opportunity if you are in the squat and hunkered down. Look around you; opportunities abound. To hunker or to roll? The answer is clear: “Are you guys ready? Let’s roll!”