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Taking inventory

If you're a retailer, you're probably still catching your breath from the holiday season. And, you should be -- because it won't be long before you're already going to be committed to whatever you strategy is for the next holiday season.

But it's also a critical time to take inventory -- physically and mentally -- for the year ahead.

I'm doing both this month. Between closing the books on 2012 and taking in a quick vacation, I'll also be refining my business plan for 2013 (which you should be developing and analyzing throughout the entire year) by taking a realistic look at what worked and what didn't in the past year.

I start with a simple, direct question: Am I relevant? (In other words, I want to know if my store is providing the goods, services and unique experience my customers want.)

And, I ask myself other questions, too.

Is my business focused on what it does best?

Where am I really making my money? (This is where I should be spending most of my time, energy and money.)

What can I better delegate and outsource to maximize the dollar value of my time?

What did I sell last year? And what didn't sell? (Seems simple, but many times we get so busy with the day-to-day tasks that we don't really take a good look -- we just reorder the same as we did last year.)

What inventory is just taking up space -- and how am I going to move it?

Is my website absolutely up-to-date and user friendly? And, am I making the most of what technology has to offer?

How can we improve the customer's experience?

What lessons can I take from other retailers, even the stores, while still keeping the uniqueness of my own store?

What am I going to do this year to increase my business-to-business sales?

Those are the smart questions to be asking no matter if you're a retailer or in any other profession. So, whether you're already back at work or still unwinding, the remainder of this month is the right time to take inventory of all your assets and obstacles to success in the coming year.

-Kelly Sharp


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