Prepare for Opening Day
It's the day you've been working for: when you get to open the front door and invite your first customers in to shop. At this point, opening day may seem years away, but it isn't. It soon will be here. Your selection and stocking of initial inventory will pay off.
There are many things you can do right now to ensure that opening day is a success, with little stress and big profits. You can make sure the inventory you ordered arrives, that it is prepared and priced, and that it is displayed how and where it has the best chance of selling. Your store has been designed and fixtures installed, so all that's left is preparing the inventory.
Checking Incoming Inventory
Initial inventory has been received and any obvious damage claims were made and recorded. Now it's time to start unpacking the boxes.
First, establish a staging or preshelving area where merchandise can be moved before it is shelved. Depending on the design of your store and the location of fixtures, you may be able to place inventory boxes in the middle of an aisle and work it onto the shelves. Alternately, use a rolling cart or movable table to place inventory boxes. Also, set up an area where empty boxes can be broken down for reuse or recycling. (Some wholesalers ship in their own containers, which must be returned to them for credit.)
Work safely! Don't ruin opening day because you or a stocker is injured. Don't attempt to move heavy boxes without help; use a two-wheeled freight dolly. Lift with your legs rather than your back. Use a back brace to prevent spinal injury. Don't work when you're tired, and do take breaks every couple of hours. Play favorite music in the background and have some fun.
Preparing and Pricing
Most retail merchandise is prepriced in one way or another. That is, the SRP may be printed on the product, or there may be a universal product code (UPC) that is unique for each product. Each different size or color of the same product has its own unique UPC. The UPC is a 12-digit code. It has variations including UPC-A, UPC-B, UPC-C, UPC-D, and UPC-E. (Your wholesaler or supplier will help you identify the appropriate UPC code for your business.) The European Union has a similar coding system called the European Article Number (EAN).
The price is not included in most UPC coding. Instead, a scanner at the checkout counter reads the UPC code and looks it up in a database that contains product information, including the price established by the store. The default is the suggested retail price from the manufacturer or distributor.
If your store uses UPC codes and scanners (and nearly all retail stores do), you will need to load the product codes and pricing information into your store's computer to interpret and price the inventory. In addition, for each product you will print out a shelf label that will be located in front of the displayed merchandise so shoppers know the product's price.
Fortunately, your wholesalers and other store services can provide you with the UPC and pricing data on CD or online so you don't have to enter it manually. Depending on your business plan and the software you use, you can override the wholesaler's pricing by establishing your own based on target gross margin, markup, or other formulas.
Stocking shelves can be an easy job or a difficult one, depending on preplanning. If you're working with a wholesaler with startup experience, your rep may provide you with display maps, called planograms, that show the suggested location for every product you're offering. The map is based on the wholesaler's product placement research, suggested inventory levels, and knowledge of common buying habits.
Alternately, you can develop your own display map. The unknown is determining how many of a specific product to initially put on the shelves. That's where learning how to restock your shelves (Chapter 12) is important. Many small retailers purchase initial stock as recommended by primary suppliers.
Stocking shelves may mean placing boxed products on shelves, loose product in bins, or prepackaged product on pegs. Before you purchased fixtures and inventory you developed an approximate plan of what you needed and where to place it based on start-up inventory. Here is where you find out if you were accurate and where you need to make adjustments. Few small retail stores open up exactly as planned.