The British Retail Consortium recently reported the worst contraction in retail sales since their records began. Nick writes here about the challenges Sainsbury’s have been having in the first three months of 2011. Even the mighty Tesco have been feeling the chill, how has trade been for you?

I can report that January and February showed the worst year-on-year decline in the 22 years my wife and I have been running our village shop. An uncomfortable few weeks.

So what have we done to combat this downturn?

As a starting point we checked ourselves against last year’s Independent Achievers Academy ‘Guide to Better Sales and Profit’. Using their success checklist as an audit tool enabled us to have a firm base to check our store. Going through the 12 sections and comparing our performance is a good place to start. Although we have been running our village shop for more than 22 years the past 12 months has not been a time to be complacent. Some of the questions that the IAA guide threw up are as follows:

  • Is our shop layout still fit for purpose?
  • Are we stocking the right products?
  • Are we stocking the correct range?
  • Is our merchandising plan driving sales?
  • Do our customers see us as expensive?
  • Do we offer excellent availability?
  • Do we offer the services that our customers need?
  • Is our level of customer service good enough?
  • Does our shop ‘excite’ our customers?
  • Is our marketing working?
  • Do we have a high enough visibility in the community?
  • Are our staff trained well enough?

We have taken a close look at these areas and made changes. I know that there are still areas that we need to revisit and that we can’t say yes to every question. Can you?