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A retail shop displays an open sign in their window.

How to Make a Budget for Your Retail Store

As you look to grow your retail business and ensure you can maintain long-term stability, you will need to create and follow a retail budget. It’s one of the most important tools in small business retail management and can guide you as you make decisions, navigate unexpected changes, and work towards increasing cash flow and optimizing your profit. 

Your budget is something you make annually and adjust regularly based on actual expenses. This is where a skilled bookkeeper or accountant comes in handy! They can help make sure your budget predictions are accurate, and assist you in adjusting it throughout the year.

Being able to handle unexpected expenses on the fly is perhaps a budget’s greatest strength. A small retailer might face anything from windows suddenly covered in graffiti overnight to a global pandemic that forces them to temporarily close their doors. Budgets can help you hope for the best while planning for the worst. Here are the most common expenses a small business owner should consider when making a retail budget. 

Staffing

Everyone knows that retail business owners must regularly budget for their sales associates and store managers’ compensation, but don’t forget to plan for the associated payroll taxes and employee benefits including their time off. Additionally, consider additional labor costs for marketing, graphic design, inventory buying, facility maintenance, and order fulfillment and shipping. Keep in mind that Xendoo can help cut costs here by providing retail bookkeeping and accounting at a lower rate than on-staff employees.

A retail store front with a bike leaning against a post in the foreground

Photo by Sherzod Max on Unsplash

Facility Costs

When you first open your brick & mortar retail business the list of expenses associated with getting your physical space up and running is long. Painting, installing new lighting and hardware, choosing merchandise fixtures, installing electrical outlets, and a security system. Landscaping, adding in new vinyl graphics for your doors and windows, and don’t forget about signs. And there are more costs to maintaining your facility than one might expect. You will need to budget for unexpected expenses like plumbing problems, roof leaks, and ongoing maintenance such as replacing lights, signs, and store fixtures as needed. If your business has a second location, you’ll need to make sure you budget separately for each space.

Marketing

Your annual marketing budget will change throughout the year. As you plan it out, keep in mind what times of year are best for sales – around holidays like President’s Day and Memorial Day, and as the seasons change. Plan to budget for paid social media and influencer marketing throughout the year, as well as any email marketing expenses you may incur. And don’t rely solely on digital marketing – your business may get great exposure by marketing through community partnerships, events, and even by mailing postcards to your customers.

Inventory

Inventory buying is one of a retail businesses’ most important and strategic costs to budget for. Retailers must prioritize inventory accounting, and keep a variety of things in mind like current trends, seasonal changes, and what sold well this time last year versus what didn’t. You’ll need to consider discounts and deals your vendors offer throughout the year, as well as freight charges. An excellent tool to consider using as you budget for inventory is an open-to-buy plan. An open-to-buy plan is an inventory management system that shows you how much inventory you can buy throughout the year.

Security

Even the smallest of retail businesses need to budget for loss prevention. Keeping your inventory numbers accurate will help you determine how much shrinkage affects your business. Do you need to increase your security? Perhaps you need to invest in security cameras or loss prevention training for your employees. According to the National Retail Federation, retail shrinkage is on the rise —totaling $61.7 billion in 2019, which is up from $50.6 billion the year before.

Technology

As you plan and review your budget, look for spots where technology might be able to save you money. Are the systems you are using, like an eCommerce platform, credit card machine, and merchant services, or your accounting software too expensive? Are there cheaper solutions? Spend a bit of time researching options and you might find better solutions. Some of your providers might even work together, for instance, Xendoo customers get a discount on Xero and Quickbooks software.

 

Trust us, we know that staying on budget is often easier said than done, especially for small business owners who are stretched for time. A quality bookkeeper or accountant like the team at Xendoo can help you plan and stay on budget, as well as find areas where you can save money through accurate, timely reports and advice. Become a budgeting pro with Xendoo today.

This post is intended to be used for informational purposes only and does not constitute as legal, business, or tax advice. Please consult your attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor with respect to matters referenced in our content. Xendoo assumes no liability for any actions taken in reliance upon the information contained herein.

Bringing Home the Bacon: A Profit Growing Guide for Restaurateurs

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in February 2017 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness. 

It’s no secret that the restaurant business is tough, even in the best of times. Really tough. Even before the COVID-19 shutdowns, industry analysts estimate the failure rate for new restaurants in the first year was somewhere around 60%, with another 20% shuttering the doors before the 5-year mark. That’s only gotten worse during the pandemic, with hospitality being one of the industries hardest hit by shutdowns and restrictions. However, as bleak as that reality may seem, the restaurant industry is still viable, and there are things you as an owner can do to help increase restaurant profits and make sure you stay in the 40% that do well.

Understanding Profits: Gross vs. Net

When discussing how to increase restaurant profits, it’s important to distinguish between gross profit and net profit. Gross profit for a restaurant is defined as the price of the item minus the cost of goods sold, i.e., food cost. For example, if your signature lasagna dish sells for $20 and the ingredients to make it cost $7, your gross profit on that item is $13, and your profit margin is 65% (13 divided by 20). Industry norms and best practices suggest that food costs should run somewhere around 30%, which means that if your total sales for the month are $100,000, you should be spending roughly $30,000 with your foodservice vendor. Food costs that run higher than that can often be an indicator of excessive waste or theft (often referred to as shrinkage), so it’s essential to know your gross profit margin.

Net profit is the amount left over after ALL operating expenses are deducted, not just food costs. That includes expenses such as labor, food cost, rent, utilities, equipment repairs or leases, insurance, etc. Because it consists of a much more expansive list of expenses than gross profit, net profit will necessarily be a much smaller number. Typical net profit margins have shrunk in recent years but typically hover around 3-5%.

It’s critical to stay on top of your books and know exactly what your margins to increase restaurant profits because if you’re playing catch-up bookkeeping, you’re flying blind. Generally, when discussing how to increase restaurant profits, most people mean net profit because it’s the one that keeps the lights on for your business. With that in mind, there are two ways to boost your bottom line – you can increase sales or lower expenses. So let’s look first at ways to boost your sales numbers and increase your average ticket price or cover the average.

View of a restaurant menus with prices set for increase in profits

Review Your Menu Pricing

As we noted above, your food cost should be around 30% of your menu price, so you’ll need to calculate the plate cost of each menu item to help increase restaurant profits. To do this, first, make a list of each ingredient required to prepare the dish. Next, choose which unit of measure your foodservice vendor uses for the items (e.g., do you buy it by the pound, gallon, dozen, etc.) and identify your unit cost from your vendor. There may or may not be a yield percentage for the item, which would be waste from trimming or peeling the item before use. For example, certain cuts of meat may require trimming away fat or gristle, which reduces its useful yield. These can usually be found in standardized yield charts available from many vendors. 

Finally, do a similar calculation for the way you prepare the dish:

1.  Select the correct serving unit, which is usually as simple as the unit of measure that your recipe calls for.

2. Calculate the serving unit cost by dividing the cost per measure by the number of serving units per measure. The cost per measure for items with no yield is the unit purchase price, and for items with a yield, the unit purchase price is divided by the yield percentage. For example, if you buy ground beef for $4 per pound and your serving unit is ounces, the serving unit cost would be $0.25 per ounce ($4 divided by 16 ounces to the pound).

3. Select your portion size, which is the quantity called for by the recipe.

A simple plate cost for a hamburger and fries might look like this, assuming four potatoes to the pound and six slices per tomato:

Ingredient Purchase Unit Purchase Unit Cost Yield Actual Unit Cost Serving Unit Serving Unit Cost Portion Size Portion Cost
Ground Beef Pound $4.00 N/A $4.00 Ounce $0.25 5 $1.25
Bun Dozen $6.00 N/A $6.00 Each $0.50 1 $0.50
Tomato Pound $1.89 N/A $1.89 Slice $0.31 2 $0.62
Mustard Gallon $13.00 N/A $13.00 Ounce $0.81 1 $0.81
Potato Pound $2.00 .81 $2.46 Each $0.62 1 $0.62
$3.80

So we can see that the plate cost for this hamburger and fries meal is $3.80. Sticking to the rule of 30% food cost, the menu price of this item should be $12.50. If it’s less than that, it’s probably eating into your bottom line.

Identify Your Menu Hits and Misses

Now that you know your plate cost for each item on your menu, it’s time to compare those to some sales reports from your point-of-sale (POS) system to see where your profit is coming from. Create a spreadsheet with four categories and label them “HIGH PROFIT/HIGH SALES,” “HIGH PROFIT/LOW SALES,” “LOW PROFIT/HIGH SALES,” and “LOW PROFIT/LOW SALES.” Then, put each item on your menu into one of those categories to see where each item falls. Dishes that fall into the “LOW PROFIT/LOW SALES” category are candidates for removal in favor of more profitable offerings. Also, consider running daily specials that combine high-profit, low-sale items with big sellers to help move those lower selling items to get that incremental revenue.

Up-Sell and Cross-Sell Effectively

It’s impossible to overstate the importance of staff training in proper selling techniques to increase restaurant profits. Train your service staff to offer customers an appetizer or cocktail before starting their meal, and train them to make quality recommendations. If you are a full-service restaurant and serve alcohol, educate your staff about wine types and selections that you carry. Distributors will often send a representative to do this training for you at no cost. Armed with that knowledge, the staff then knows that the new full-bodied cabernet that just came in yesterday goes wonderfully with a steak dinner and can offer that to a customer considering the steak. The result is a happier customer with a higher ticket who will tell his or her friends about your knowledgeable staff. Run contests to reward the servers with the highest average ticket for the week to encourage up-selling.

In addition to some general restaurant bookkeeping tips, let’s look at some specific ways to manage your operating expenses and keep your bottom line healthy.

Watch Your Invoices Closely

Food prices constantly fluctuate due to various factors, with some items varying wildly. It’s important to know exactly the current price of a pound of shrimp. If that price begins to rise due to an oil spill, hurricane, or another event that causes a shortage, it might be prudent to take the shrimp cocktail off the appetizer menu for a little while if the price gets too high. Also, some food service vendors will try to get your business by initially offering you low prices that they can’t sustain with the intention of creeping the prices up slowly in the hope that you won’t notice. This practice is called “speeding.” Be sure to regularly compare pricing from different vendors to ensure that you’re getting the best price when your food truck comes in.

A server sets tables at a restaurant.

Manage Your Labor

Along with food cost, labor is the other big variable expense that operators can control to increase restaurant profits. Labor is often a very fine line to walk. Too much labor during slow times is an unnecessary expense and may dilute tips among servers and affect their morale, while too little staffing can result in poor customer service and quickly land your business in Yelp hell. Many modern point-of-sale (POS) systems include advanced scheduling that uses sales history to predict how many servers you will need at any given time. Many POS systems can even suggest your best-selling servers on your busiest shifts for you. If you have such a system, take advantage of these features to keep your staffing lean and mean. If you don’t, it might be cost-effective to consider upgrading.

Stick to Multi-Purpose Ingredients

When planning out your menu, try to avoid items that require ingredients that aren’t used in any other dish. For example, if nothing else on your menu uses shrimp, you should probably avoid putting the shrimp cocktail on your appetizer menu because shrimp is expensive and has a short shelf life. But if your menu includes a grilled chicken salad and lemon pepper chicken, the chicken quesadilla pinwheels might be a better appetizer for you. By sticking to ingredients that are used in multiple dishes, you can cut down food costs and waste significantly.

Take Regular Inventory

Taking regular inventory is one of your best tools to detect waste and theft, so set a schedule to take a detailed inventory regularly. Compare it to your sales report to see if the sell-through rate matches what you expected from your sales report. That way, you know which items are moving and which are sitting on the shelf too long, and whether you might have some product walking out the back door at night. Have it conducted by at least two people to ensure that it’s done accurately and honestly. 

Get a Handle on Your Bookkeeping

Good bookkeeping for restaurants is essential, and as a restaurant owner, you probably don’t have the time to be doing your books. Your focus needs to be on doing what really matters – growing your business and improving your bottom line. That’s where a partner like Xendoo can help by offering a full suite of business bookkeeping products and services to help you know where every dollar is going. Outsourcing is more affordable than you might think, and it can pay for itself very quickly. Economists call it “opportunity cost.” It’s the hidden cost of foregoing one opportunity in favor of another because you don’t have time to do both. Yes, assuming you have the knowledge, you might save a few dollars in accounting fees by doing it yourself, but how much will your business operations suffer because you’re spending all your time on that?

This post is intended to be used for informational purposes only and does not constitute as legal, business, or tax advice. Please consult your attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor with respect to matters referenced in our content. Xendoo assumes no liability for any actions taken in reliance upon the information contained herein.

 

two people sitting at a gym

Five Customer Loyalty Tricks for Fitness Franchisees

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in October 2017 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

As a fitness franchise owner, you know very well the challenges of getting new members through the door, even in the best of times. It’s never been easy, but the fitness industry has been one of the hardest hit by COVID-19, with value brands representing the largest share of losses in the industry. Major gym franchises like Gold’s Gym have filed for bankruptcy protection, and others may soon follow. Polling has shown that as many as 60% of Americans either have canceled or are planning to cancel their gym membership due to financial hardship or concerns about safety. Simultaneously, the growth of digital and at-home fitness products has added to the pressure on gyms, with Peloton doubling its sales in 2020. 

So, in that environment, how do you get new customers through the door and convince your existing customers to remain loyal? We can start by taking a cue from one outlier in the value gym segment that has shown more resiliency than its competitors through the pandemic. The Anytime Fitness franchise rolled out a comprehensive COVID-19 policy to protect their members’ and staff’s safety and begun offering advance reservations to secure a spot when capacity is limited. When customers have confidence that you are genuinely looking out for their best interests, they are more likely to remain loyal.

But beyond just building trust among your members, there are some other things you can do to encourage customer loyalty in this most challenging of times.

Loyalty Rewards Program

Have you ever noticed that it seems like every store you go into wants you to join their rewards program? Well, there’s a reason for that – it works. Create a rewards program for your loyal customers with some nice little freebies to help keep them engaged. This might take the form of a free t-shirt after ten visits, or maybe a free post-workout smoothie with every 10 purchased. You can get very creative with this, so don’t be afraid to experiment. Never underestimate the power of free swag for customer loyalty. Everyone wants to feel special.

Frequent Customer Discounts

Many gym members, particularly in the value segment, care just as much about the size of their wallets as the size of their jeans, so giving them a discount on a product or service is a great way to boost customer engagement. This might be a discount on a personal training session within the next month, or possibly a coupon for deals on gym apparel. Gym apparel is a particularly desirable thing to encourage because, in addition to the revenue from the sale, you get the added benefit of free advertising for your fitness franchise every time the customer wears it.

Three women stand besides each other at a gym

Referral Rewards

Let’s face it – we all have that one annoying friend who can’t stop going on about how great his or her fitness studio or workout program is. Well, that’s exactly who you want to be your customer, so you need to create a compelling reason for that person to be your customer. Create a referral rewards program and offer a membership discount for each new customer brought in on a referral. You’ll soon find your membership roster – and your bottom line – growing steadily.

Premium Memberships

Take a cue from companies with the most loyal followings and offer VIP or premium membership packages. Do a little up-selling. The key here is to create a value proposition that’s compelling enough to entice your customers to pay a little more without eating into your bottom line. If a member is already paying $30 per month for a basic membership, he or she would probably be willing to pay $35 or $40 to add free tanning or a free monthly workout with a personal trainer. It can be tricky to find the right balance for your package, but this is a great way to reward your most loyal customers if done right.

A man holding onto rings tries to beat a record for a gym contest

Run Contests

Contests can be a great way to keep your members engaged with the club and create valuable rewards for members who participate. You might run a contest with a free gym t-shirt or duffel bag to the member with the most visits during the month, or possibly a “Biggest Loser” type contest with a free month of membership as the prize. You can also incorporate social media into your content strategy by encouraging people to share, like, and comment on your content. Give members who complete one workout and check in on Facebook during the next month a raffle ticket to a drawing for a free duffel bag or another prize.

Focus on Your Core Business

Business owners are notoriously bad at time management, spending too much time on things that others can do and not enough on what an owner should be doing – growing the business. Offload time-consuming administrative tasks to employees or an outside firm. Consider outsourcing your bookkeeping and accounting, which is one of the biggest time vampires in an owner’s day. By getting those off your plate, you can have time to spend on thinking up creative ways to engage with your members and drive loyalty at a time when you need it most. 

 

So what’s the best way to boost customer loyalty at your gym franchise? Start by taking your own gym’s advice and just do it. Set a goal and commit to seeing it through. Start with these tips, but don’t just stop there. Be creative and come up with other ideas, and then let us show you how Xendoo can help your fitness franchises become more profitable with a free trial. Let’s start building that customer loyalty muscle together!

This post is intended to be used for informational purposes only and does not constitute as legal, business, or tax advice. Please consult your attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor with respect to matters referenced in our content. Xendoo assumes no liability for any actions taken in reliance upon the information contained herein.

 

a hairstylist picking out color mixes

A Prettier Profit and Loss Statement: Up- and Cross-Selling Techniques for Salon Owners

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in October 2017 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

If you’re like most salon owners, the chances are good that you decided to start a hair salon because you love meeting new people and helping them feel more beautiful than when they walked in your front door. It’s only natural because everyone loves a rewarding job. Focusing on sales techniques, like up-and cross-selling for salons probably wasn’t high on your list of “pros” when you got into the salon industry.

But for better or for worse, persuading clients to purchase products or services that they didn’t initially come in for is an essential part of your marketing strategy and can boost your profit and loss statement. That doesn’t mean selling them products they don’t need. Cross-selling and up-selling are selling them products they need but didn’t know about. It’s part of your job to educate the client, so let’s take a look at how up-selling and cross-selling for the salon business can be less faux-pas and more moo-lah, and why salon owners already have a head start. 

Two women in pola dotted dresses work at a hair salon

The Difference Between Up-Selling and Cross-Selling

Up-selling is the practice of encouraging customers to purchase a more expensive item than they had initially intended. We do this by creating value for the customer in the more expensive product. Often, the customer just needs someone to point out the extra value. Depending on the type of salon, if a client is scheduled for a regular mani/pedi at retail price, check-in staff can create value for the customer by offering a deluxe spa treatment for just a slightly higher price. You might even be able to have your salon software automatically remind staff to offer the upgrade at check-in. If the customer is already spending $50, it’s easy to justify upgrading for just $10 more because it represents a good value.

Cross-selling for salons is the practice of encouraging customers to purchase other products or services that complement the original sale in some way. Sometimes customers don’t know what they need, and it’s your job as the expert to educate them about it. Effective cross-selling for salons might look like this: If a dark-haired client has decided to go blonde, you as the stylist know that those harsh chemicals can damage and dry out the hair, but the customer may not know that. You can explain this and encourage your client to buy a conditioning treatment to help offset that damage.

Why Cross-Selling and Up-Selling Are Important

 The bottom line is that up-selling and cross-selling for salons are critical to your bottom line in several ways. If you’re not doing it, you’re leaving money on the table. If you have a low-margin product that’s selling great and a high-margin product that’s not selling so well, an excellent cross-selling technique might be to bundle the two together and get that extra profit. But even more importantly, it allows you to create additional value for your customers, which is crucial to maintaining customer loyalty and trust. After all, value is why your customers come to you to begin with and what makes a successful salon. When deciding whether a sales opportunity is right, ask yourself, “Will this improve my customer’s life? Will it help them feel more beautiful?” If the answer is yes, you know what to do.

A woman hair stylist chats with a client.

So What’s This Head Start?

Salon business owners have a special trust relationship with their clients, which gives them an edge in ideas to increase profits. Stylists don’t just know their customers’ names; they know everything going on in their lives —their children, jobs, and health. They open up their entire lives to you, which puts you in a unique position of influence with your customer. To put it more bluntly, if they trust you enough to let you bring sharp blades around their heads and irreversibly alter their appearance (for a few months, anyway), they will trust your recommendation on special products and services. Remind your team that they have this superpower because it’s critical to your business, but don’t abuse it by selling customers things they don’t need. That will almost always backfire and damage your relationship.

OK, I’m Convinced. Now What?

Now that you know the importance of upselling and cross-selling for salons, here are a few things you can do right away to get the ball rolling.

  • Get effective inventory management and accounting system for your salon if you don’t already have one to know exactly which products are moving and which aren’t, and what the margin on each one is. Good accounting for hair salons is a must, and if you don’t have that information at your fingertips, you’re flying blind.
  • Create an attractive display with high visibility where customers can browse it easily. Never put it behind the counter because curious customers will feel like it’s inaccessible. Keep it organized, and well-stocked with the products that you believe are strong candidates for this strategy. Remember: eye-level is buy-level. Research has shown that products placed at eye level get 35% more attention than products placed at lower levels.
  • Ensure your staff is using the products you sell and posting them on social media. The best advertisement for a product is being able to see the results in real-time on a person’s natural hair or skin. Remember the trust relationship; if the stylist uses the product, it gives the customer confidence that it must be good. It’s almost like giving away a little trade secret. Purchasing salon-quality products that stylists actually use makes your customers feel like they have a leg up in their beauty routine.
  • Give your staff the tools to make cross-selling for salons easier. At a minimum, everyone in your salon should be familiar with every item you sell and be able to describe it to customers. But knowledge of the products is only a start. Your team needs to be trained in effective cross-selling and up-selling techniques and incentivized to use them. Be creative in coming up with ways to encourage selling, like contests with prizes, bonuses, or other incentives.

Remember, you may not see the benefits of cross-selling for your salon business right away. Sometimes the customer may be in a hurry or on a tight budget, and you have to respect that. Just remember that by maintaining the customer’s trust, there will always be another opportunity down the road. Do that consistently, and you’ll begin to grow your business and watch your bottom line trend up.

 

This post is intended to be used for informational purposes only and does not constitute as legal, business, or tax advice. Please consult your attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor with respect to matters referenced in our content. Xendoo assumes no liability for any actions taken in reliance upon the information contained herein.

 

9 Ways for Franchisees to Outrun the Competition

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in October 2017 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

As we’ve seen, there are a ton of fantastic, low-cost franchise opportunities out there that will give you a lot of advantages in starting up your new business. As a franchisee, you’ll still have the independence of owning your own business and being your own boss, but you’ll gain the name recognition, volume pricing agreements, and support services of an established brand. It’s the best of both worlds, and over 795,000 business owners in the United States have chosen this path. But as much as a good franchise can boost your chances of success, there is one threat to your new franchise which will always be present—your business competition.

 No matter the type or location of your business, whether restaurant, child care center, gym, or staffing agency, you will always have to know how to overcome competitors. Even if you start out in a niche that you have all to yourself in the beginning, you will soon get some competitors because success always breeds imitators. For every McDonald’s franchise out there, there is almost always a Burger King franchise across the street. If there isn’t, there soon will be.  

So how do you stay ahead of your peers in this horse race? Here are a few things you can do to outperform your business’s competition.

Know your business competition

If you don’t know all about your competitors, you can’t know how to overcome your competitors in business. The reality is that a lot of business owners don’t know as much about their competitors as they should. Make a list and call it “My Local Competitors Are….” Write down who you think your strongest competitors are, and then mystery shop them. If you sell widgets, buy a widget from your competitor and compare it to yours. Were the prices comparable? Is the quality as good as yours? Maybe even a little better? Does it have any features that yours doesn’t?

If your business is a restaurant, go and eat at the restaurant across the street. Pay attention to the cleanliness, the service, the food quality, etc. If your competitor is a hotel, spend the night and take a walk through their parking lot at night to look for fleet vehicles that can tell you which companies to make sales calls on. Now you know where you stand in comparison and what you need to do to win customers away from the competition.

Perform a SWOT analysis

If you’ve never heard of a SWOT analysis, it stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. In it, you draw a map with four quadrants using those labels and compile a list in each quadrant. First, define clearly and honestly what you believe the biggest strengths and weaknesses of your business are in relation to your competitors. What do they have that you don’t? What gives you an edge over them? Knowing that, you next identify the top opportunities you have to steal business away from your competitors, and which of your competitor’s strengths pose the biggest threat to your business. A SWOT analysis is essentially a high-level business plan because now you know which holes to patch in your ship and which to exploit in your competitors.

A customer interacts with a cashier at a small business

Solicit feedback from your customers

The most successful companies ask their customers to give them feedback about their experience. Have you ever eaten at a restaurant and received a code printed on your receipt for a free drink if you take a survey? Stayed in a hotel and received a survey? Visited a business and seen a sign that says “Tell Us What you Think!” with a QR code that you can scan? The ways to solicit feedback are endless, and you’re only limited by your creativity. You need to know what your customers like and don’t like about your business, and the only way to know is to ask.

Listen to your customers

Soliciting feedback is only half the job. The other half is what you do with it. When receiving negative feedback, many business owners instinctively become defensive and dismiss it as untrue, unreasonable, or uninformed. Sure, there are professional complainers out there and we’ve all run into them at one point or another, but they’re few in number and easy to spot. The vast majority of your customers are being sincere. If you don’t already, be sure to take the time to review and respond to your social media accounts for your business. These may be the first channels that your customers use to voice a complaint or offer a compliment. 

A complaint is a gift and should be treated as such because the customer is giving you an opportunity to fix a problem before going to a competitor. The worst complaint is the one you never hear because that customer just starts going to your competition and you’ll never know why.

Create a service culture around your customers

Do you know who your customers are? Be a “lobby lizard” and spend some time in the front meeting and shaking hands with your customers and getting to know them. It’s important to create a service culture around your customers because they are generally not as loyal to brands or products, as they are intensely loyal to people and relationships where they feel valued. Even in the face of fierce competition, customers are attracted to and will be loyal to companies that put them first.

Customers line up at a small business coffee stand

Sell the product, not the price

Try to avoid price wars with your business competition whenever possible, because that’s just a race to the bottom. Somebody else will always be able to absorb more loss than you until one of you is forced out of business. Instead, focus on creating value for your customer by providing a good product at a fair price combined with great customer service. Cheap isn’t always a bargain, and customers are often willing to pay a slightly higher price if they see a strong value proposition for their money. You don’t necessarily need to be the cheapest, you just need to create the most value.

Know your numbers

We’ve already established the benefits of outsourcing your bookkeeping and accounting to a professional accounting firm, and one of the most important is that you will receive professionally prepared financial statements that will give you an accurate and complete picture of what’s going on with your business. 

Do you know exactly what your margin is? Do you know your year-over-year performance in each category? If you don’t have that information at your fingertips, you’re flying blind. This is where Xendoo can help because we offer a complete suite of affordable bookkeeping and consulting services that can keep you on top of your business competition and help you make the right choices.

Prioritize your time

There are dozens of ways time gets away from us because it seems like there’s always a fire that needs to be put out. Being a business owner means everyone wants a piece of you, and you have to figure out how to balance everything and keep the wheels on the wagon. Start each day by taking five minutes to write down all the tasks that need to be done that day, and then prioritize them. In fact, studies have shown that just writing a to-do list can help reduce your anxiety.

Go down your list by priority and scratch them off as they get done. Additionally, by using technology, cloud software, and business automation, you can eliminate some time-consuming tasks, allowing you to focus on the big picture and beat the competition. 

Only do what only you can do

In addition to prioritizing your time so that the most important things get done first, you need to spend it as efficiently as possible so that you can complete the maximum number of tasks on your list. If you feel like you have to do everything in your business yourself, that means you’re a great employee but a terrible manager. Effective management is about delegation. There are some things that only the owner can tend to, but a lot of things – like accounting – can be either outsourced or delegated to someone else to allow the owner to focus on staying ahead of the competition instead of cleaning windows.

Business competition is a guarantee, but it doesn’t have to be a problem. Did you notice how many of these tips revolve around customers? That’s because, without them, you’re out of business. You may be the business owner, but you work for them because they can fire you at a moment’s notice and go to your competitor. Just remember that as a franchise business owner, you can choose your own destiny by focusing on your customers, creating value for them, and building relationships with them. 

 

Do that, and you will always stay one step ahead of the competition.

 

This post is intended to be used for informational purposes only and does not constitute as legal, business, or tax advice. Please consult your attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor with respect to matters referenced in our content. Xendoo assumes no liability for any actions taken in reliance upon the information contained herein.

 

a ecommerce store owner taping boxes

Cash Flow Management for eCommerce: 4 Tips for Smooth Sailing

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in February 2017 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness. 

Cash flow is a measure of your business’s liquidity and ability to pay its debts from sales revenue. Cash flow management can be one of the most challenging aspects of being an online business owner. Your business can be profitable but still have a negative cash flow because profit calculation takes into account assets like inventory that you can’t use to pay bills. 

E-commerce businesses have an edge in cash flow management by virtue of the immediacy of the transaction, but that doesn’t mean online retailers are immune to cash flow problems. The customer has to pay you before you ship the item, so that means you don’t have to deal with an accounts receivables ledger full of aging accounts. But you still have operating expenses that can deplete your bank account, and you might end up having a lot of cash tied up in inventory before being sold. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to smooth out the turbulence and keep your cash flow – and your business – on an even keel. Read on to see our cash flow management tips to keep your eCommerce business sailing smoothly. 

Minimize Inventory

If your inventory is sitting on the shelf for more than 30 days, you have too much. You can’t afford to have that much cash tied up doing nothing. Use stock-keeping units (SKUs) to track the sell-through rate for each item in your inventory. The sell-through rate is the ratio of inventory sold during the month to new inventory added. If you see that an item’s sell-through rate is too low, you need to dig deeper and find out why. Are you producing too much of it? Is demand for it falling? Maybe some of the cash tied up in that product can be shifted to a more popular item that’s selling better, or it might even need to be discontinued. Don’t be lured in by bulk discount offers from suppliers unless you know for sure the item will move quickly. The right inventory management software can help you make sense of what is going, out, coming in, and just sitting there. 

Shot of two boxes on a table about to be shipped to customers

Get Creative with Sales

At the risk of stating the obvious, one of the best ways to keep a positively manage cash flow is to get more sales from your eCommerce business. The big question, though, is how to do that. What’s the best way to drive traffic to your site and increase the conversion rate of your visitors, and maybe even do a little upselling in the process? Here are a few ideas you can try for driving website sales.

  • Offer free shipping on larger orders to encourage bigger quantities
  • Create a loyalty program for repeat customers
  • Offer Buy One, Get One (BOGO) on items with a high margin
  • Bundle high-margin products with best-selling products
  • Cross-sell by offering related add-ons at check-out
  • Offer a recurring purchase option for consumable products
  • Offer incentives to “abandoned cart” visitors
  • Use a human or automated chatbot to engage with visitors
  • Implement a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy to improve your site’s rank in search results.

If each of these strategies can increase your site’s average order by just 1 or 2%, that can quickly add up to 10% or more extra revenue coming into your bank account to help ease the cash flow. If you do go the free shipping route, make sure to read our tips on how to reduce shipping costs

Manage Your Payables

The other side of cash flow management is what’s going out to your accounts payable. You need to maximize the amount of time the cash stays in your bank account instead of going to your suppliers. When you set up contracts with suppliers, try to negotiate the terms. Standard terms will typically be 30 days, but some suppliers may be willing to go as far out as 60 or 90 days if you ask. Whatever the terms are, you should generally wait until the end of the term to make the payment so you can hang onto the cash as long as possible. Watch out for late fees, though. However, if your supplier offers discounts for early payment, they may be worth taking advantage of.

Consider an Inventory Loan

If you’ve done your best but still find yourself in a cash crunch and need to restock inventory, an inventory loan may be an easier option than a traditional bank loan. Lenders will look at more than just your credit history and will take into account your sales history and the stability of your business. Inventory loans can be either lump-sum loans or lines of credit with the bank that you can use over time. You won’t be able to finance the entire cost of your inventory, but you can expect to be able to cover around 50% of the cost through a loan.

Managing your cash flow wisely can be the difference between success and failure for your eCommerce business, even if you’re showing a profit on the books. Xendoo’s suite of products and bookkeeping services for small businesses can help you know exactly where your money is going so that you can manage it more effectively.

This post is intended to be used for informational purposes only and does not constitute as legal, business, or tax advice. Please consult your attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor with respect to matters referenced in our content. Xendoo assumes no liability for any actions taken in reliance upon the information contained herein.

 

a phone with product images

eCommerce Trend Report: 2020 Recap & 2021 Forecasts

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2020 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

For all the challenges the economy faced in 2020, it may come as something of a surprise that overall domestic retail sales saw their highest rate of growth in over two decades during 2020. What probably isn’t much of a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention is that that strong growth was driven entirely by eCommerce trends in 2020, with online sales accounting for 101% of that growth. 

The COVID-19 pandemic drove more and more shoppers to online retailers in lieu of brick-and-mortar stores, and the good news is that that movement shows no sign of slowing down in the eCommerce trends for 2021. The bad news is that sales tax compliance continues to be a thorny issue for online retailers as they struggle to keep up with state regulations. Figures represent US domestic sales unless specifically noted as global figures.

Consumer Migration to E-commerce

Overall retail sales in 2020 topped $4.04 trillion, representing a 6.9% increase over 2019 sales of $3.78 trillion. That was driven by a massive 44% increase in online shopping, nearly three times the previous record eCommerce year-over-year growth in 2019 of 15.1%. A significant portion of that increase was due to first-time online shoppers, as well. E-commerce market penetration leaped from 15.8% in 2019 to 21.3%, representing a sharp increase from its previous trend of 1-2% growth per year. In 2020, eCommerce transformed from being a convenient alternative to brick-and-mortar stores for some consumers to an essential part of daily life in an age of pandemic.

A person checks his phone for sales during Black Friday

Holiday Shopping

Following along with the overall trend toward online shopping, domestic holiday shopping showed similar rates of year-over-year growth. Out of $861 billion spent online in 2020, over $200 billion of sales occurred during the holiday shopping months of November and December. 

  • Thanksgiving Day online sales rose 21.5% to $5.1 billion 
  • Black Friday online sales rose 21.5% to $9 billion
  • Cyber Monday online sales rose 15% to $10.8 billion
  • Total Cyber-week domestic online sales reached $60 billion 

Hottest E-commerce Segments in 2021

Fashion and online apparel remained the largest segment of online shopping globally in 2020, followed by toys and electronics. 

  • Online apparel sales rose 15% to $760 billion globally, projected to reach $1 trillion by 2025
  • Toys rose 12% to $590 billion in global online sales, projected to reach $766 billion by 2025
  • Consumer electronics saw $542 billion in global online sales, a 28% increase over 2019.
  • Food and personal care items came in fourth at $468 billion
  • Furniture and household appliances totaled $362 billion globally.

Largest Retailers

Unsurprisingly, Amazon retained its throne as the undisputed king of online retailers, with a whopping 38% of all domestic sales, down slightly from its 2019 share of 43.8% share in 2019. Other online retailers like Walmart and Target managed to chip away at Amazon’s lead, but are still behind by a wide margin. 

  • Amazon – 38%
  • Walmart – 5.3%
  • eBay – 4.7% 
  • Apple – 3.7%
  • Home Depot – 1.7%

Smartphone Sales

Smartphones continued to increase in popularity as a platform for online shopping, representing 54% of online sales in 2020 and projected to reach 73% in 2021. 79% of smartphone owners have made at least one online purchase with the device, and 80% of smartphone owners have used a smartphone to look up product information or reviews while shopping in a traditional brick-and-mortar store. It’s clear that the prevalence of smartphones will continue to be a driving force in eCommerce for the foreseeable future. 

A man pays for an item using his digital wallet on his phone

Trends to Watch

Whether you have something like a Shopify store or sell through your own website, it’s imperative to stay on top of technology and predict online consumer product trends so that you can stay one step ahead of the competition. To that end, we’ve identified some eCommerce future trends that are definitely worth keeping an eye on in 2021.

BOPIS (Buy Online, Pick-Up In-Store) and Curbside Pickup

This was the trend that dominated much of 2020 because it combined the convenience of online shopping with the immediacy of in-store shopping. While some shoppers will revert to in-store shopping, this trend is here to stay.

Augmented Reality (AR)

Augmented reality emerged as a player in eCommerce in 2020, with, for example, some furniture retailers allowing consumers to upload a photo of their living room and see how a particular piece would look in it.

Digital Wallets & One-Touch Purchase

Many consumers have been hesitant to make the move to online shopping due to concerns about fraud, while others were put off by the inconvenience of having to enter a credit card number. Digital wallets like ApplePay and GooglePay have alleviated many of those concerns by making secure one-touch purchases from smartphones. However, most security concerns are pushed to the wayside for convenience, and this eCommerce trend is probably here to stay. 

Cryptocurrencies

Although controversial and not widely adopted currently, cryptocurrencies are poised to become a force in eCommerce in the not-too-distant future. Because Bitcoin is both a currency and a payment processor, it can facilitate secure transactions across borders at transaction fees of 1%, as opposed to the typical 2-3% merchant fees charged by credit card processors. Some large online retailers like Overstock.com already accept Bitcoin.

More Sales Tax Headaches

In response to declining state sales tax revenues from the move to online shopping, the US Supreme Court ruled in South Dakota v. Wayfair (2018) that each state had the power to individually tax online retailers to create a replacement revenue stream. Online retailers must now monitor and comply with 50 different sets of sales tax laws, creating an enormous amount of accounting overhead. 

This is yet one more reason to outsource your bookkeeping service and accounting to a professional firm like Xendoo as a cost-effective solution to this regulatory nightmare. Sales tax processing is just one of the many affordable services available in Xendoo’s suite of small business offerings. Xendoo can also make sure that you are getting all the eCommerce tax deductions that you are entitled to as an online retailer.

It’s clear that eCommerce will only continue to grow by leaps and bounds in the years to come. Consumers were already growing accustomed to the convenience of online shopping, and the COVID-19 pandemic was the impetus that pushed many holdouts to take the plunge. Many retailers struggle to understand emerging technologies and keep pace. The retailers that don’t will be left behind in the wake of those who do. Staying on top of technology and eCommerce trends is critical to success in retail in 2021. 

Experience the Xendoo difference with a one-month free trial.

 

This post is intended to be used for informational purposes only and does not constitute as legal, business, or tax advice. Please consult your attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor with respect to matters referenced in our content. Xendoo assumes no liability for any actions taken in reliance upon the information contained herein.

 

a person in a warehouse

Inventory Control for eCommerce: Getting the Balance Right

As an eCommerce retailer, you may not have a brick-and-mortar store, or even your own warehouse and fulfillment facility. But that doesn’t mean inventory control has to be more difficult. With the right mix of tools and strategies, you can manage your merchandise supplies and turnover efficiently and cost-effectively.

Decide how much stock to keep on hand.

Your goal is to strike a balance between too little and too much. In most cases, a one-month supply will be enough to meet any unexpected increases in customer demand, without tying up unnecessary working capital or warehouse space.

To calculate your one-month supply, analyze sales and fulfillment information from previous years. If you’re a new startup, research the performance of your product category as a whole.

Allow for variables in your stock-on-hand plan.

Depending on your business, you may need to adjust inventory levels for:

  • Seasonal fluctuations, such as the Q4 holiday shopping season
  • Shipping time from the manufacturer to your warehouse, import delays, etc.
  • Store promotions such as an annual sale

Apply the same variables to fulfillment planning.

During periods of higher sales volumes, you will also need more packaging materials as well as additional employees to do the order processing, packing, and shipping.

Keep a close eye on your inventory — digitally.

Real-time inventory software can save a ton of time and effort. By using bar code identification, it automatically updates your stock levels whenever an item is sold, alerts you, and website visitors when an item is out of stock and tracks delivery to customers.

Keep a close eye on your inventory — manually.

It may seem old-fashioned, but a physical stock count is the only sure way to know what’s in your warehouse. Do it weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually, whatever makes sense for your business.

Have a plan for out-of-stock incidents.

Your software should notify you in time to replenish stock before it runs out. But in case there are snafus at the manufacturer or in transit, be prepared to respond and keep customers happy:

  • Remove the product page from your website, or add an “out of stock” message letting customers know when it will be available again
  • Take backorders
  • Pay extra attention to stock levels of fast-moving products and reorder them farther in advance

Choose the right business management system.

A system that’s specifically designed for eCommerce is an invaluable asset. For example, it can show order processing and shipping costs in relation to revenues. Even better, it can link inventory management to other operating systems within your business, such as accounting and payroll, greatly reducing administration time and duplication of effort.

Organize your warehouse for a fast response.

Keep your best-selling items on the shelves that are easiest to reach. Slower moving merchandise can go in less accessible areas.

Consider off-site warehousing options.

The advantages of storing some or all of your inventory in other locations include reduced shipping time to your customers and saving on overhead. Check out:

  • Adding regional warehouse locations
  • Renting warehouse space from a national retail chain or postal service
  • Using Amazon FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) — you advertise your product on Amazon and they handle merchandise storage, order processing, shipping, and customer service

Stay on top of record keeping.

For both current decision-making and long-term planning, “knowing your numbers” is essential. So checking them at the same time every day or week is a great habit to get into. (It only takes a couple of seconds with the right software, just press a button to see inventory status, turnover, and associated costs.) You’ll always have a clear picture of your inventory … and your business.

For successful inventory management, every eCommerce business must find the right balance between too much or too little stock, online and hands-on tools, and on-site or off-site locations. Most important of all, accurate records will reveal what’s working and what isn’t, so that the future will be even more rewarding than the past.

 

This post is intended to be used for informational purposes only and does not constitute as legal, business, or tax advice. Please consult your attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor with respect to matters referenced in our content. Xendoo assumes no liability for any actions taken in reliance upon the information contained herein.

 

4 Ways for Retailers to Stay Out of the Cash Flow Black Hole

A potential pitfall for any retailer is the time gap between paying the manufacturer for the merchandise you sell and getting paid for it by the customers you sell it to. When that interval lasts too long, cash on hand becomes all too scarce. Here are four smart strategies for staying out of the hole.

Streamline your inventory.

If you have merchandise that sits on the shelf for more than 30 days, you have too much inventory. That means too much of your money is tied up on those shelves. A couple of streamlining tips:

  • Track your sell-through for each SKU, so you know which ones need to be reordered more quickly and which should be discontinued.
  • Don’t be tempted by bulk discount offers from your suppliers unless you have proof positive that those items will sell quickly.

Increase customer spending.

When your revenue per customer goes up, so does your available cash. There are many ways to encourage customers to buy more than they originally planned, including:

  • PWPs and BOGOs. “Buy this camera and get 20% off a camera bag” or “Buy 1 pair of sneakers, get another pair at 50% off.”
  • Upsell and cross-sell suggestions. “This TV has even better resolution than the one you’re looking at” or “Would you like the conditioner to go with the shampoo?”
  • Coupons for the next purchase. Include one in the shopping bag or mail/email it to customers who haven’t been in the store for a while.
  • Loyalty rewards for repeat customers. Accumulate shopping points to earn a discount.

Strategize your payables.

Shorten that gap between money going out and money coming in by waiting as long as possible to pay your supplier: 60 days, 90 days, or whatever it says in your contract.

Take advantage of early payment discounts. If you don’t know whether your supplier offers them, ask.

Consider an inventory loan.

If you’re short on cash but need to restock inventory, an inventory loan may be easier to get than a standard bank loan. That’s because lenders will look at your sales history, not just your credit score.

Paper profits may look nice, but good cash flow is the real indicator of a successful business. Being able to maintain it will improve your credibility … and your ability to take your business wherever you want it to go.

 

This post is intended to be used for informational purposes only and does not constitute as legal, business, or tax advice. Please consult your attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor with respect to matters referenced in our content. Xendoo assumes no liability for any actions taken in reliance upon the information contained herein.

 

Tonight’s Special Is: Sales Tax A How-To Guide for Restaurant Owners

Before we get started, keep in mind that sales tax laws vary by state and municipality. While this guide serves as a general rule of thumb, be sure to check on the specific laws governing your area before making any changes to your restaurant’s operations or accounting.

Restaurant owners face many complicated rules and regulations when it comes to running their business, and sales tax is no exception. This simple guide is designed to help you understand how sales tax works and what you need to do to be prepared and stay compliant.

What is a sales tax?

Sales tax is a consumption tax imposed by Uncle Sam on the sale of goods and services. In other words, it’s a fee the government requires you to pay in order to sell your delicious food.

Sales tax is paid by your customers to you so that you can, in turn, pay this amount to the government every month or quarter. Unlike a federal tax, sales tax is a sort of “pass-through” from your customers to the government.

Does my restaurant have to pay sales tax?

You’re required to pay sales tax if your restaurant has what is known as a “nexus” in a given jurisdiction. So if your restaurant has a physical presence, like a brick-and-mortar location or a food truck, you will definitely be required to pay. If you have a food business that is strictly online, you may not have to but should double-check with your local jurisdiction. Having an employee, an affiliate, or some other type of presence may make you liable to pay.

So when do I pay sales tax exactly?

Think of it this way: your customer is the end-user of the food you sell – after it hits their stomach, it isn’t going anywhere else (sort of). But before it got there, you purchased ingredients from suppliers. The tax was not due at that time, because that was not the end of the food’s journey.

It may seem for a moment like you’re getting a break, but there’s no such thing as a free lunch. You don’t pay taxes on the purchase of food supplies because you will be collecting taxes on the final product. It is your responsibility to correctly calculate the amount of sales tax due by your customers (more on that later) – you’ll be required to pay it whether you remembered to collect it at the time of sale or not.

So it sounds like I’m probably required to pay sales tax…how do I do that?

  1. If you haven’t done so yet, you’ll want to file for a sales tax permit with your local agency. A quick search online should help you find those forms.
  2. Determine your sales tax rate – they vary by state and municipality.
  3. Distinguish between taxable and non-table items in your restaurant – certain carryout items may not be taxable. Be sure to check on the particular laws of your area.
  4. Set up sales tax in your POS – charging customers correctly means you won’t be liable for sales tax payments out of your own pocket

I’m already charging customers sales tax and have collected the funds. What do I do with them?

First, make sure you’ve collected the correct amount of sales tax – because if you don’t, the government sure will!

Tally up the sum total of all taxable items sold in your restaurant during the month.

Multiply that number by your sales tax rate.

For example, your tax rate is 5% and you sold $1,000 in total taxable meals and beverages, the sales taxes due that month is $50. 

The final step is to complete the sales tax forms for your state, due monthly, or quarterly at a minimum. Xendoo’s sales tax experts prepare and file your sales tax accurately and on time so you don’t have to (you probably have a lot on your plate as it is). They also give you plenty of advance notice to ensure you have the funds available for payment.

 

This post is intended to be used for informational purposes only and does not constitute as legal, business, or tax advice. Please consult your attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor with respect to matters referenced in our content. Xendoo assumes no liability for any actions taken in reliance upon the information contained herein.