Talking shop with Brad Leyden is to really understand how he, in his own words, puts the “pedal to the metal” in running his own business. His enthusiasm for retail is undeniable and he loves to share his experiences in the hopes of helping other retailers. Just four years ago, Brad found himself newly divorced and at the helm of a business he hadn’t wanted in the first place but couldn’t bear to part with. There was a pivotal moment when something clicked inside him and he realized his business not only affected his own livelihood but that of his employees. He decided right then to go all in and hit the proverbial gas pedal. The goal: conversion of all visitors and social media viewers into customers. Audacious right? The results, so far: a recently-opened second store that’s beating expectations and a 300% increase in sales over three years in a bad economy.
“I look at retail as a big engine and there are all these different parts to the engine. And each part has to run efficiently and to the best of its ability. Every-time you can do that in a different aspect of that engine, it just kind of contributes to the overall performance and the horsepower of that engine. Whether it
‘s promotion and marketing, or your buying, or your staffing, or your inventory management… there’sall these different parts of that engine and we really break it down and dissect it and treat each part like a scienceand really try to get the most out of it.”
Part of what’s allowed Brad to go all-in at high speed is his dedication to hiring the best people to work with and his openness to continually learn and try new things—as long as they pay off.
“I really look at everything from an ROI perspective. I’m happy to put dollars into things that have a return.”
Brad even looks at staffing through an ROI lens, which means that he is willing to pay more to salespeople because he knows that they’ll give him the best chance at a greater ROI. To get the best, he utilizes a staffing philosophy he learned in his previous career in the auto industry: focus on salespeople with great charisma, energy, and the ability to quickly connect and engage with people. Then do what you can to keep them—to keep them with the team and help keep them great. To that end, Brad conducts continual sales training with his staff.
Being a natural salesperson, Brad tries to impart his experience and customer service philosophy to his employees and it seems like the lessons fall into one of two categories: attention and intention. He tells his staff to give 100% of their attention—no matter what they’re doing—to customers when they walk in. Every opportunity to engage, build rapport, establish trust, and make a friend of your customers is critical in converting a browser into a customer—and a returning one at that. His aim is to get his team to converse with a customer as they walk around, never straying too far so that he can offer a suggestion before the customer completes a lap in the store, which is the point at which he believes that a sale is going to be less likely.
“[Conversion is] absolutely crucial to my business. I can spend all the money in the world and drive half the city to my store, but if we’re not converting them to buyers, then it’s all for naught. It’s just a waste of money.”
Conversion is the only thing the Revolution staff has to manually keep track of throughout the day. It’s something he recently started in an effort to try to understand why a customer might leave empty-handed. They keep a running tab of walkouts and at the end of the day, they compare it to the number of receipts, total net, and the average receipt total. Their total number of receipts and walkouts equates to total traffic. They find their conversion rate by dividing the number of receipts by total traffic. To find their average receipt sale, they divide the total net sales by the number of receipts. These hard numbers offer a great, sales-oriented way to gauge a store’s success. For Brad, a 50% conversion rate is barely a passing test score, while 80% is wonderful.
“At the end of the day, we gotta move product out the door. [When I hire] I don’t want anyone to misconstrue what it is. It’s a sales business and it’s a sales floor and it makes sense to have salespeople. So whenever I’m advertising for a position, sales is always the first word in the job description. We’re not cashiers. We’re salespeople.”
“Sales” is not a bad word! Brad has the same sales mentality as New York Times best-selling author, Daniel Pink, who says (in his book, To Sell Is Human) that sales
“When the sales process is done properly in a savvy, finessed way, it doesn’t come across as pushy/aggressive. It comes across as helpful.”
Brad believes that we do the customer a huge disservice when we haven’t done our selling properly. He can’t fathom how, in a store with $200,000-$300,000 worth of amazing women’s clothing, a customer could walk out the door empty handed. With excellent customer service and salespeople taking the time to ask questions, they’ll find out what problems the customer needs solved. And if a customer is trying to decide between two items, he allows his team the flexibility to offer a small discount, say 15%, to take both. Then, not only does he make the sale, but his customer leaves with two items and a story about a great offer/customer service experience that they’ll talk about with their friends. Spoken like a true fan of the late, great salesman and author, Zig Zigler, who believed that selling isn’t something we do to the customer, but rather, what we do for them. In the end, all these little discounts, the higher salaries, and all the customer service/sales training translate to 300% growth over the last three years despite a bad economic climate.
Of course, what’s customer service without customers? Brad’s salesmanship feeds his marketing strategy, which includes email and social media. He uses both—mostly to promote new arrivals and to create a sense of urgency. Their customers are trained to think that if they don’t come in every 1-2 weeks, they might miss out on something special. And it’s true. Brad buys wide, but not deep and his inventory is constantly changing.
Interestingly enough, although his social media focuses on new inventory and there’s a constant influx of new items, he puts sales focus on the floor on items that are hard to sell… older items or those that don’t have the best hanger appeal. Every week, they pull slow-moving items out, do an evaluation on their inventory and sell rate, and decide if the items will do better in the other store or if it should be marked down. Then he talks strategy with his team on how to move those items out the door, whether it’s a question of remerchandising, finding a matching piece, etc. This strategy helps him maintain margins, so selling something at a small discount is better for him than making an even bigger markdown later. This also makes space for something that will sell at a higher margin. Sound familiar? Our last Shop Talk covered just this issue. Clearly, it’s striking a chord with shop owners!
“Dan Holman is my merchandise planning consultant and he works with Management One for all the data analytics and reporting. So while I don’t deal directly with them, they certainly have a huge role in my inventory planning/management, which, as I said, is absolutely crucial to any retail business. Planning is all about having the right amount of goods at the right time, to maximize on opportunities and ensure positive cash flow. If we’re under-bought, we miss out on potential sales, but if we’re over-bought, we might have cash flow issues and find ourselves unable to pay our bills. One is no better than the other. You want to walk right down the middle.”
For Revolution Boutique, the faster-paced inventory rotation, social media, and email activity is a symbiotic relationship. The constant rotation of inventory keeps Brad’s social media accounts and email very active bringing the customers into the store. When new items come in, he gets photos from the brands and makes 2-5 collages for his emails and social media and boosts each one. But the real secret sauce is his signup button. In other words, his list-building strategy.
“That signup campaign… that’s a gem. I don’t know why more people aren’t doing it because it engages people and once they have that coupon in their hand for 20% off their first purchase, they’re coming, man. They’re coming in for sure. Then it’s just a matter of ‘Hey, let’s show them a good time when they get here’, right?”
Several years ago, he learned how to add a signup button on his Facebook page and website. With the incentive of a 20% off coupon, he gathers emails from potential customers and automatically emails them the 20% off coupon for their first purchase. Then he took it a step further and hired a consultant to help him with audience acquisition through targeted ads on Facebook. We’re not talking about “boosting” a post but using Ads Manager in Facebook to target his ideal customer by age, geography, gender, and so on. His consultant launched a Birthday campaign to target that same ideal customer in her birthday month offering a $20 voucher for her birthday. Isn’t that brilliant! These campaigns worked so well that they employed them for his second store opening in St. Albert and it gave them a huge leg up and instant traction. He has no idea why they don’t do it, but he hopes his competitors don’t because it’s worked so well for him!
Now that he has an email list that is roughly 6,000 and growing, what does he do with all those emails? He was speaking to the choir (me!) when he said that email marketing is still crucial because
Here’s a strategy he employs that you could do too. Each week, he selects roughly 700-800 emails to get a VIP coupon that week for 15% off a regular-priced item or 10% off a sale-priced item. This set of people rotates until he goes through his list and then it starts again. The VIPs then get a second email later in the week saying their coupon expires on Saturday or whenever. Depending on whether or not someone is on that VIP list on any given week will determine whether they get 2 or 4 emails per week. Those VIPs get 4 emails and everyone gets the VIP treatment about every 8 weeks. It may sound like a lot of emails, but Brad makes sure that he has something of value to say each time they go out. With his fast-paced rotation of inventory, he can be assured he has no shortage of topics!
Part of the customer service mentality that goes into these promos involves thinking about their customers’ feelings and building loyalty. He offered three tactics that really struck me as inspirational. The first was that in order to protect a customer’s feelings, the first two days of a promotion are promoted in-store only and then on Wednesday in an email blast. In this way, he hopes to lessen the sting for any person who came in on a Friday or Saturday, bought an item, and then sees a coupon offer on Sunday. With a mid-to-late week email, the promo is far enough from the date of purchase that there’s less of a sting of missing out.
Second, his referral program. I love that it’s a win-win for the referring customer and the referred customer. Brad created a $20 coupon card that has the stores’ addresses, the promotion info, and a space for the referring person’s name and phone number. A few cards are thrown in the customer’s bag at check out to give to a friend and just like that, one card turns into two customers with discounts! Brad’s team uses the phone number to credit the customer $20 in their POS system for making a referral and the new customer gets 20% off their first purchase!
Finally, in order to further boost his online presence and share stories of great experiences, Brad solicits online reviews by using reputation management software that automatically sends out emails to anyone who made a purchase that week. Revolution Boutique is able to solicit reviews and ask customers if they would recommend the store on various platforms like Google, Facebook or Yelp. He went from four Google reviews to about 150 for their Sherwood Park location.
On the Revolution Boutique website, there’s a video that gives just a taste of the wonderful things customers have to say about the store. What they experience as great customer service comes from the well-oiled sales machine Brad is so adamant about maintaining. Brad is energized by spreading positive vibes both to his team and his customers. These vibes are also integral to Brad’s own success. Although he didn’t initially want or have any interest in a career in women’s clothing, there came a moment when he could’ve walked away, but he didn’t. He fell in love with the business, became grateful for what he had and firmly believes that his business took off the moment he learned how to be grateful.
“Ask for it, expect it, let go of how it comes to pass. It’ll manifest.”
What do you think? Let me know by commenting below.
How to find Revolution Boutique
975 Broadmoor Blvd. #24, Sherwood Park, Alberta, Canada
#335-140 St. Albert Tail, St. Albert, Alberta, Canada