We’re focusing on profitability within our business more than anything else.
It’s an easier figure to focus on compared with turnover. There’s a saying that ‘turnover is vanity and profitability is sanity’, and your turnover figures are meaningless without the context of profit.
Your profitability is largely coming from your purchasing, however, these can be driven up through efficiencies at work – making your staff work in better ways and implementing tactics that retailers might not think about. Wages have been on the lower scale for some time, but they’re rising now and we need to think about it properly. When it comes to energy, retailers are doing things they should have done years ago. Between energy and wages, which are our biggest costs, we have to ask how we can make our staffing unit more efficient.
How can we stop them going from A to F to R to D, when they should be going from A to B to C to D. Inefficiencies in how they move around the store can add five or 10 seconds to every journey. It might not sound like a lot, but eight staff members losing 10 seconds on a journey they make 10 times a day, that adds up to almost a quarter of an hour each day. That’s 81 hours a year, which is over 80 hours’ worth of time lost because staff were walking the wrong way. Wages are eating up more and more profitability, so we can either increase our prices, get better prices from wholesalers or look at how we make our staffing more efficient and our lives easier.
At the moment, electronic shelf edges aren’t worth the investment for me. But pretty soon, the price will be low enough to make it worth spending money on them compared to the cost of paying extra staff wages to change the prices in store.
I visited the Red Bull racing team’s factory before Covid-19, and the team were ecstatic because they’d found a way to make the paint thinner, and therefore lighter which increased their car speed by 0.00003 seconds. That drop in weight along with all the other incremental gains was how they were going to build up to having an incredible, championship-winning car. If you can do something slightly better and more efficiently, then everything else ties into it and you can get a really good profitability number. It won’t work right away, you’ll need to work at the system and staff will have to be trained, but it will be worth it.
Amit Puntambekar, Ash’s Shop Nisa Local, Fenstanton, Cambridgeshire
Read more of our expert opinion on the independent retail sector