A: For many shopkeepers, mid-January to the end of February can be pretty desperate. Add rain and snow and retail trade becomes a nightmare.
It’s tempting to try to pick up extra business with special offers but you can’t stimulate a demand that doesn’t exist. In the thirties, my grandfather went on holiday for the whole of February, leaving clear instructions: "Don’t send me the sales figures. I know they will be bad."
There are some shops that totally rely on price reductions to stimulate demand, as I discovered many years ago when I ran a business specialising in fur coats.
But even with products like carpets and furniture, where customers consistently look for savings, continual price-cutting can become a drug that quickly erodes your margin.
Great retailers are good at what they do, not just good at offering low prices. The product range, window displays, shop layout, location and attention to detail all play a part in success. Despite the woe of winter, customers like to be greeted by smiling, knowledgeable sales assistants – they’re the biggest influence on performance. Read John Timpson’s agony uncle columns on the Telegraph website.
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