You’ll enjoy this installment of Shop Talk Revolution Boutique. 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 he was at the helm of a business he hadn’t wanted in the first place yet 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’s all these different parts of that engine and we really break it down and dissect it and treat each part like a science and really try to get the most out of it.”
Hire the best people
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 key
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
“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 is something we all do, so we should just embrace it. Reclaim it as something positive. Do it with strategy and intention! Intention is the perfect word to describe the second part of Brad’s sales philosophy. It’s the assumption that when people come into his store, they intend to buy—in the same way that when people go into a restaurant, they intend to eat. He teaches his staff to ask open ended questions to fuel a conversation in order to learn more about that customer. When you ask a yes-or-no or close-ended question it ends a conversation too quickly and leaves little room for the conversion process.
“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.
Getting customers through the door
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.
Although his social media focuses on new inventory, 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 and do an evaluation on their inventory and sell rate. Then they decide as a team if the items will do better in the other store or if it should be marked down. Then they strategize on how to move those items out the door, whether it’s a question of re-merchandising, finding a matching piece, etc. This strategy helps him maintain margins. Selling something at a small discount is better for him than making an even bigger markdown later. This also makes space for something new 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?”
Email list building
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 for their first purchase, he gathers emails from potential customers. The coupon is automatically sent after they sign up. Then he took it a step further and hired a consultant. They helped him with audience acquisition through targeted ads on Facebook. We’re not talking about “boosting” a post. They used 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 with 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. 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 with it, no third party is going to algorhythm someone out of seeing your email or not. Whether it’s opened or not, doesn’t matter to Brad. He believes just seeing Revolution Boutique and the subject line is enough to keep the store top of mind. It isn’t an unfounded belief either. In the ad world, impressions count just as much as reach. As such, Brad is pretty zen about click-thru rates, unsubscribes, and the like. That’s not to say that anyone on his list wouldn’t want to open his email. There’s a chance it’ll contain another coupon from the stores.
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 will determine whether they get 2 or 4 emails that 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. 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. First, in order to protect a customer’s feelings, the first two days of a promotion are promoted in-store only. Then again 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. It’s 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 includes 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 referring customer $20 in their POS system. Then the new customer gets 20% off their first purchase!
Brad solicits online reviews by using a reputation management software. It automatically sends out emails to anyone who made a purchase that week. Revolution Boutique is able to solicit reviews and recommendations to 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 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 a career in women’s clothing, the couldn’t walk away. He fell in love with the business, became grateful for what he had. He firmly believes the 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