Many of you who have read my past articles know that I love to look at parallel industries to see how they can relate to pool and spa retail. The industry model I love most is grocery, mainly because it is one of the most evolved businesses there is. With single-digit net margins, they must take advantage of every little detail to become profitable. But this time is different. I’m in the middle of doing extensive renovations to my home and, while up on a ladder, raising a brush toward my hallway ceiling, I had an epiphany: Everything I know about retail can be related to painting. It sounds funny but let me explain:
Before you begin any project you have to create a budget so you know what you’re getting yourself into. In your business, not only do you need to budget for expenses, but you also need to set individual product line and product category sales goals so you and your staff understand what you need to sell to meet those goals. Many of us are focused on the expense budget, and rightfully so, but don’t forget about setting a budget for your sales goals.
So what color or colors are you going to paint? How much paint are you going to buy? This relates to the product in your store. What automatic pool cleaner will you sell? What about a new chemical line or a line of maintenance equipment? And how much of it are you going to buy? This is all in the pre-preparation stage before the season. These decisions need to be made BEFORE the season happens. You wouldn’t just pick up ANY can of paint — you need to make sure that the colors match your room. In your business, you need to make sure the product and product lines complement what you are currently doing. Take your time to pre-prepare.
3. Prepare the surface.
In painting you need to make sure the walls are clean, all the holes are filled and that you tape off any unpaintable areas before you put the roller to the wall. In your business you need to make sure the store layout and design flows. Prepare your store for product by making sure you departmentalize the space. Place fun items in the front of the store, so they’re the first thing customers see when they enter your store, and put chemicals in the back. The pool should become more “work” the further you walk into the store. So start with fun, then transition to ease of use and finally the work of the pool, which would be chemicals and maintenance equipment. Along the path to purchase, feature roadblock items that would appeal to the consumer, such as polycarbonate glassware or even doggie swimsuits. Make it fun!
4. Paint from the top down.
You obviously need to start painting the ceiling before moving on to the walls, or those “oopsies” will require a lot of touchups. In your business, you need to think about how the customer feels the moment they lay eyes on your business — which is no longer the storefront, but actually your social media, Google reviews and your website. Just like painting from top to bottom, you need to have a plan in place and execute that plan from your social media all the way through to the flyers you hand out in your store. Don’t do some of your plan; you need to do all of it. You would not be satisfied if you just painted one wall or part of the ceiling. It is the culmination and completion that gets you the results you want!
In the event that the roller first hits the wall and you instantly cringe — when the mint green you were after looks like 1970’s avocado green (not based on actual events!) — you need a contingency plan. Your business will have ups and downs, too. It might rain all summer, you might have a late start or maybe a drought with water restrictions. You need to have a plan to alter your business on the fly if necessary. Maybe you will change to focus more on hot tubs or outdoor kitchens. Maybe you’ll increase your marketing campaigns, or possibly call the customers that have not been in your store for a year or more. Just like the moment you discover you do not like your paint color, stop and evaluate your next move.
6. The little things matter.
Painting is very detailed. The smallest mistake can make a great paint job look like your two-year-old did it. It’s just like your business, where the little things matter the most. Look at your store, really look at it. Are the windows clean? Are there dead bugs in the hot tubs? Stains on the ceiling tiles, spots on the floor and burned-out lights? All these little things need to be addressed because they matter to the consumer. Today’s customer is pickier than ever before, and it doesn’t take much for them to move their business to someone else, so keep your game up! Make sure those lines are painted straight and no drips land on the floor.
7. One coat or two?
As any contractor will tell you, two coats are better than one, but one is a heck of a lot faster than two. Not many people like to do the same thing twice, but if you load up the paint and try to do it all in one coat, your walls tend to look sloppy, runny and inconsistent. How many times do you stock your shelves? Do you bring in your entire early buy on one order, put it out on the sales floor and deplete the inventory? Or do you put out enough products like salt, liquid chlorine, sand and D.E. that you need for a day or two? Less is more and it is always OK to re-stock the shelves. It takes more time, but your store will look more professional and less cluttered — just like painting two thin coats are better than one thick coat.
8. Put the room back together.
After the paint is done and dry, you move the furniture back in and hang those pictures back on the wall. As the season winds down, make sure to front shelves, spread out the inventory and make sure the store is back together and in order. Many stores I have visited in the off season look like they could be gone in 60 seconds. Keep an ample supply of inventory on the shelves or even reduce the amount of shelving in the off season.
After many days of painting, it is good to rest, sleep in or get a massage for your aching neck. By the same token, it’s important to reward yourself for a job well done at the end of the season. Go on a vacation, take time for you and your family and remember they are the reason why you do all you do. We all need a break; make sure to take one.
10. Start another project.
You think you’re done painting, but you’re never really done. Sooner or later you will look at another room, decide it needs a facelift and you start the process all over again. After the season is over, look forward to the next with the same vigor and moxie your gave this one.
Keep these tips in mind and you’ll turn your store into a masterpiece, just like those walls you painted at home.