Stylish Visionary : Ambitious Multi-tasker : Retail Junkie
Margo Kopman lives, eats, and breathes all things retail. With over 15 years of retail consulting experience as the President of Project Retail, she is extremely passionate about inspiring clients with her vision and authenticity when tackling the complex business of the independent retailer. She believes that you can achieve the highest levels of success if you work hard, believe in your dreams, and stay focused on results. She grew up in a family that instilled a strong work ethic and a character built on integrity. Soon after graduating from Southern Methodist University, she followed her dreams and opened Byrd, a contemporary women’s boutique in her hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. As an owner & buyer of an independent retail store, she understands the ins and outs of the business, having experienced it firsthand.
Michelle and Margo chat about her passion for the science of retail-which led her down the path of consulting independent retailers like herself. Because of her ability to simplify complex data & analytics paired with her strong critical thinking skills, she coached her clients to maximize the opportunities while facing the challenges head-on.
In her free time, you can find her soaking up the Los Angeles, CA sunshine. She loves being outdoors, surfing, cooking, traveling, and spending time with family & friends. Margo is committed to the pet rescue movement through animal rescues and shares her loving home with her little white dog, Bubbie.
Michelle: Hey there. I'm Michelle Sherrier, and this is the retail whore podcast, the stories and Lessons from the Life and Retail. Hello. Hello, guys. We have made it. We're at the tail end of 2021 and I don't know about you. I'm pretty ready to just close the door, say goodbye. Thank you so much. Sayonara. You were nice to hang out with you. Caused a little drama. You were super extra, and you were kind of a Karen. And guess what? 2022 is right around the bend. I'm super excited to close this chapter. I'm more excited to start the new one, especially for the podcast. Here we have so many fun things that were planned, so many new interviews, great stores, great retailers, great creatives. It just it's I'm super excited. I'm about to explode. Can you tell? I've talked about the numbers and the science of numbers on this podcast a ton of times. I believe there is a science, the numbers in the sense that you need to know them, you need to understand what your inventory levels are, you need to understand what your sales drivers are, and you need to understand when to buy merchandise and when to not buy merchandise. We had Dan Gibbins on a few weeks ago today. Margo Kopman is coming on with us. She is also an open to buy planner, but to be honest with you, she's seriously going to be your best friend. I know. I freaking love this woman. She makes you feel so comfortable, so excited, and that is pretty much how her journey started. She loved her job, opened a store on a whim, and when I say a whim, she seriously drove by us for lease sign and signed a lease. Within weeks she quickly realized, well, she didn't know what she was doing, but she quickly realized that she needed help. She found a mentor. Her mentor taught her the science and numbers. She actually fell in love with the science of numbers, so much so that she sold her business and now she's doing it for others. And when I say you are going to love this chick, you are going to love her. She's amazing. She's warm, she's funny, she's friendly, she cusses. So it makes her my best friend and she's smart as hell. So without further ado, here's Margo Kopman with the project retail. Hi Margo. Welcome to the Retail Whore Podcast. Actually, for a second I was like, Where am I? Hi, welcome back. We tried to do this before and we had some technical difficulties. And here we are again.
Margo: Yes, hello. Thank you for having me.
Michelle: Thank you. I'm going to put the blanket statement out now. You have dogs? I have dogs. So there's quite possibly going to be dog barking somewhere in between this. It's what real life is. You have dogs as children? Yes, we.
Margo: Have dogs as children that are misbehave sometimes.
Michelle: Peanut's, like, drugged up in her bed right now, resting, so. But she still is. Get off my lawn. And if the mailman comes, she's going to just go bananas just so.
Margo: She can serve them. So you can smell him.
Michelle: I don't know what it is. He turns around the corner and she can hear they both. I mean, luckily Mouse is at camp, so when she gets home, it's going to be a whole thing. But she they will hear him go around the corner and they start losing it. This has nothing to do with the podcast, everybody. I'm just letting you know that.
Margo: Before we even really start.
Michelle: Okay, so tell everyone about yourself and your brand.
Margo: Okay? So I am a retail junkie and have been in the business about, I think at this point about 25 years or a little under 25 years. And I own a company called Project Retail, which is a consulting firm that helps independent retailers, you know, be their best selves and is successful as they can be through goofy numbers stuff and touchy feely marketing stuff. And, you know, every once in a while, brand suggestions. So we're really kind of one of those. We try to be a one stop shop, although I don't do everything perfectly. I'm more of the numbers person, but we really basically want to create an environment for independent retailers to come and feel comfortable with sharing and airing their dirty laundry and really looking for a partnership to grow and thrive and succeed in today's world.
Michelle: I love that. I I've already heard your story, but I want you to tell it again because you have been in retail. So tell everybody about how point A to point B where you are now, how that came about, because I love this story.
Margo: Oh, my gosh, I love it. So I basically was one of those bright eyed and bushy tailed early 20 somethings that thought owning a store was the most magical thing on earth at the time, was selling advertising, and was driving to work one day and saw it for lease sign a for rent sign in this cute little strip center in Saint Louis, where I'm from, where I grew up, and basically called and was just like, Hey, what's this about? And 911 had just happened. And what I think essentially happened to the space is the person who was going to open something there wound up not opening it. So that happened to me and the landlord was amazing and he was so friendly and he was like, Oh, you know, we live in your the neighborhood you grew up in and all these things. And then like three or four days later, maybe a week later, I was at a networking event for my job that was paying my rent. And I met a banker that, you know, announced himself as the number one Small Business Association Lending Bank in the Midwest. So I was like, Oh, this is crazy. So I went up to him and I was like, This has nothing to do with what I do today and why I'm here. But and so we started talking. He said, Well, he gave me his card and he said, Let me know when your business plan is done. So I bought a business plan. Software at that time wasn't even online. Yes, it was online like Retail for Dummies and did this whole thing. He hooked me up with a guy from the Small Business Development Center that's tied to the SBA to help me with tweak things like banks like to see and things like that. And I basically quit my job and hit the ground running and open a retail store. So then about four years into it.
Michelle: Well, wait, wait. I have to unpack something for a second. You are doing a completely different job and you drive by and see a sign for lease. You rent it and you've never. I have so many questions. So. Are you selling apparel and gift or just apparel? And how the fuck did you figure out how to buy?
Margo: Okay, so well, that's a really great question. So basically I was like I wanted to be my tagline was beauty accessories apparel. This is how long ago was apparel accessories experience? And I essentially kind of wanted to be a mini Fred Segal and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I just knew that I loved clothes and everyone was always like, Where do you get what you're wearing? And that whole thing that you hear a lot from independent retailers that open stores. But I really I really knew nothing.
Michelle: And you just went to the like so you just like show up at the what mart were you buying from the Chicago?
Margo: Well, no, I actually came out to LA.
Michelle: And did women's market.
Margo: For my first market.
Michelle: And you just walked in like.
Margo: Okay, you're going to laugh because you're you're a Fred Segal gal.
Margo: So I'm Fred Segal. I come in with like like two days early and I'm a Fred Segal and I'm like, okay, I want to check out like the latest and greatest all the happenings and I start talking to the sales gal and because she had to stop me because I was taking pictures.
Michelle: Big No, no. Anyone who shopped at Fred Segal. No, no photos, right?
Margo: That is not okay.
Michelle: You would get tackled by Isidora and Hermosa in Santa monica store, right?
Margo: Like I literally like she was like, you can't do that. And I was like, oh, well, I'm opening a store and saying, like, I'm so like, I'm just going to tell her what's going on and going to be totally fine with it.
Michelle: What was her reaction?
Margo: She was like, Really? She goes, Oh, the people, those reps at the LA market are really they're not that friendly. And so then I'm like, okay, like, what does that mean? And I truly, when I tell you I didn't have an appointment, I didn't have anything, I was just showing up to the California Market Center. And this is before like even the Cooper didn't know the new Marc Cooper didn't even exist. The new mart was there, but it was it was minimal. So a lot of the stuff was was in the California market center.
Margo: Right. So I wind up on the fifth floor and I'll never forget her name was Jana. She she repped AG and splendid and a bunch of lines from back in the day and it was like the best experience ever. I love that is so great. So like, my first buy went totally seamless. I was like feeling really good about it. I open the store like sell out of all this stuff. So then the next buy with no guidance whatsoever. It was like a kid in a candy store. Like when you tell the kid you can only have one piece of candy. Well, no, I was going to have ten. Right. So I bought and bought and bought and bought and bought to the point literally to the point where I started to have to build new furniture, new fixtures in the store because as the stuff was arriving, right, like I didn't have anywhere to put it. And so, you know, like seriously, this went on for three and a half years until finally I started talking to people that had other retail stores in Saint Louis and was like, What's your secret to success type of thing? Because, you know, nobody really likes to talk to anybody.
Michelle: They really don't. So it's I think that's why I love this podcast, because people get to hear other people's stories because no one talks about it, right?
Margo: It's like, oh, everything's fine, everything's great, life is good. And I mean, I was like wanting to throw my hands in the air and, like, you know, have my old life back selling ads, seeing ads for the local newspaper, which is so not my jam, you know. And so I wound up like getting a referral to this woman who was going to help, could help with open device. And when the retailer was like, Well, who helped you with your OpenTable? I was like, I don't know what that means. I had I mean.
Michelle: I knew well, I didn't either. I mean, that's partly why I don't have a store anymore.
Margo: Right? I mean, who who? No one tells you that the reps aren't telling you that, you know? Nobody's telling you that. So, you know. And she wasn't taking on new clients. And so I had to beg her. I was like, listen, I don't like I'm not high maintenance. Other people might tell you differently, but I don't feel as though I'm high maintenance. I need your help desperately. Please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please let me be your client. And it kind of changed my life overnight. And it was it was really magical, just and and I don't know, sometimes, like, I've been thinking about it, actually, since last time we talked, if it was just one specific thing, like the guidance on like the budgets and like that kind of stuff and really understanding how much to buy against your demand. But more so that like I actually had a human to talk to that wasn't in the four walls, you know, to like bounce things off of because that is invaluable and it's really hard to find.
Michelle: It's almost like a therapist.
Margo: It is almost like it's people literally send me emails after we get off calls sometimes and they're like, Did you mean to get into the therapist business? And I'm like.
Michelle: Yeah, I wish I had somebody. It's so true. Because, you know, I have to wonder what I mean. My accountants were kind of that. I mean, my accountants were like these big time. I still one of them is still my accountant. This is like 30 years later. But, you know, it wasn't like they're talking to you about business and they're just like your your registers are short on this date and, you know, like accounting stuff, like make sure you get your your because it was like you ran the reports and you folded them up and you put them in envelope and you sent them to him every week. I think how archaic that is now. I'm like.
Margo: Wow, right. Like nothing was streamlined. Nothing. And I mean, I want you'll you'll think this is hysterical, my banker, because I would have so many overdraft fees. My banker would be like, can you quit spending money? And I'm like, No, no, no. But you don't understand. You don't have the inventory, you won't be able to sell anything. So like, no, I can't. I'm like, No, next week it's going to be really amazing, you know?
Michelle: Oh, man. So how long did you have your stores for? What? What was the final decision to close them?
Margo: You know, so I had my I sold my store in June or July 31st, 2008, right before the bottom fell out. And the big decision there was was I knew once I started to implement the science to the art, the science part to the art, I realized that I really was good at the science part. And the fact that I was also fairly decent at the art part really I thought was powerful because where I got real warm and fuzzy was I was like, I just want everyone else like me to know that this is available and it's not expensive and it pays for itself tenfold. And I wish I would have, like someone would have coached me as a young, you know, early 20 something that this was available. I mean, it just it really it was just so powerful. So initially I wanted to do both and just have somebody run the store. But I got too many phone calls about I was having period cramps and you know, and my dog ate my homework stuff. So. And I'm not a good manager of people. Yeah.
Michelle: That's always the hardest part. Your employees are your best thing ever and also your biggest nightmare ever.
Margo: Yeah. So, like, I just wasn't good, and, you know, it was just me and one other or two others. So I was just like, you know, I wonder what it would look like if I sold my store. And, you know, I had got my mom was was really instrumental in helping prop me up and become a businesswoman and all of these things. And she and I think the biggest thing for me was, was if no one wanted to buy it, what would I do with it? Right. And, you know, it was one of those like moments of it will look like it's a failure if I if I close it, right, if I don't sell it. And it was really pretty powerful because, you know, I have actually worked with some clients that have decided to close their stores over the last 15 years that I've been consulting. And it's not a failure. I mean, when it's time to move on, if it's ever time to move on, if the end doesn't look like what you expected it to be, right? Well, most of the time, it doesn't ever look like what we expect it to be. It's still okay because, you know, you you got to. Your dream and learn and be a part of the community and make a difference in all of those things. So I was fortunate enough to actually sell it so I could then focus on the consulting full time because you know that it was hard to have two jobs, you know, and try and build the consulting and have the store at the same time. Because I'm kind of an all in person.
Michelle: And I don't know how people do it. I've got I've had several people on here. They have a a main hustle and then they have the side hustle, which is the store. And I'm like, how? Yeah, I mean, they're very, they're like, they have to do something all the time. And I'm like, When do you sleep? Is always my question. No. So when you said the the bringing on this consultant was life changing, you know what's funny? Is it until we had Dan on a couple of weeks ago and until Dan reached out to me like I you know, I've been in retail forever. I was so naive. I didn't even know this is a whole business. And now you're the second person. It's so cool because I, I had more people reach out as well as reps who have who rep major, major lines. And one of her things is like, I'm going to be sending she goes, It's fascinating listening to this. I'm going to be sending everyone their information because. I said this last time, I don't think any. There are very few people that know what they're open to. And I think part of it is there's a there's a control factor that people are very hesitant on giving up control. And the other part of it is you you are going to be telling them you can't. You have to stop spending like or you need to spend more, which is what you want to hear. But I think more by far and large, people are more afraid of hearing they're going to get their wings clipped. And it's like, Oh, nope, you're not going to New York. You can't do the show. You can't. I think that's what people are really afraid of, as opposed to like your experience where it's like life changing and you love the math part of it.
Margo: Yeah, yeah. And it's what's a bummer is and when we talk to people, when they initially call us and I'm sure Dan feels the same way, you know, it's it's always easier to have the open dialogue when people reach out directly to you. I'm not real salesy. I don't I've been so fortunate that I've been able to build my business off of referrals. But the biggest thing is, is it's like it's almost like you don't want anyone to know. And I felt the same way too, because from the outside, this business looks glamorous, right? You go on buying trips and you have fabulous clothes and you get to see all the new cool stuff. But what happens is, is what happens basically behind the scenes, right? It's almost like you just don't because you don't know what you don't know. But you know that something's amiss, right? Meaning you don't have as much money in the bank that you want or you weren't able to open that third location because the the two current locations aren't generating enough cash flow for a bank to, say, give you another loan or whatever the reason is. It's like they don't you don't want to feel like you've done something wrong. And it's not even that you're not doing anything wrong. If you don't know, you don't know. So you can't do it right or wrong, you know? And I think that's where, you know, when you're talking to someone is it's like this isn't about changing who you fundamentally are and what your dream is. This is about learning and having the knowledge because the knowledge is the power. So if you don't have that knowledge, you're not going to have the power to get to where you want to go. Right? So it's like it's all these athletes, Kobe, Michael, Jordan, all these guys. They've got guys or girls that help them get to be where they want to go, trainers, money, guys, all of it. Right, to keep it in check to actually let them actually do what they are best at doing, which is play basketball. Right. Play football. Be the biggest be Lady Gaga, you know, an amazing musician. You know what I mean? So I think it's it's it's really powerful once you know where to direct your attention on what's actually working instead of. Right. What isn't, because I think that's another thing, too.
Michelle: God, it's like a.
Margo: It's right.
Michelle: It's a horrible when it's not going right. Yeah. It's, it's I still vividly remember that kind of stress especially, you know, all the shit you have on net 30 and it's like, I mean, that's what finally took me out was I had all this net 30 from January buys that have been delivered. I think I think the Northridge earthquake was in February. I think I don't remember, but I just remember I had all this like net 30 stuff, net 90. I was like stoked. I had net 94.
Margo: I'm like.
Michelle: Oh my God. Yeah. And then the earthquake comes and half of it is broken and you can't sell it to pay it back in 1939, 15 days. And that was the ultimate that was ultimately what closed. I was so overextended. But the stress of the stress of that big giant because I did my bills old school like I would get the po I, I staple it to the invoice and then I would date, I'd put in a big sharpie marker. My, my old mentor taught me the sharpie marker was like, you know, the date 30 days out. So we received it. 915, 1015 was what? And we filed them in Chronicle. But I mean, that file was so fucking fat, like.
Michelle: And you're like, I'm dressed in a payroll. And then, I mean, thank God I was young then because God, I can't even imagine I'm up now, 2:00 in the morning thinking about striking Bristol Farms Christmas stuff like can you imagine if I. I would not. I don't think I'd sleep ever.
Margo: No. I mean and you know, I think when you're young, certainly, you know, you just kind of go for it. And it's it's funny you say that, because I get a lot that people ask me. I'm sure people ask you this is like, well, what, what, what, what, what was going to happen if it didn't work? And you're like, you know, like you failed. And I was like, oh, I didn't actually really ever think about that.
Michelle: I didn't it's like I still don't even when I started this, I was like, fuck it. I'm just doing it. Like, I, I think that's that that's an inherent quality. I think of a lot of hustlers where yeah, I mean, so it doesn't work and then whatever. But I think by far and large in my head is I just do it. Just, just, just you'll figure it. You'll figure it out. I mean, thank God I have people behind me, the Elise's and Catherine's that know the rest of the stuff that I don't know. But I don't really I never thought about family. It was just, like, just junk, like good, bad or. Yeah.
Margo: And I mean, if something doesn't work or like, I mean, if you have to close your A store to, like, what? It doesn't matter. There is always a lesson. So you're never failing, you know, like you just aren't like there is always a lesson, period.
Michelle: Oh, my God. I love that you just said that because I still say everything that's happened to me has brought me to this point. Yeah. And it has been a lesson. And like I may have not liked a lot of the lessons. Going through bankruptcy at 27 was not a fun lesson, but they thought I did because now, now I have. I mean, it's so weird to think about it that way now that it should be appreciative. So tell me. Okay, so now this is my favorite part of your story. So you close your store or you sell your store, and now you're going to open up this thing. And I had asked you, so how do you get clients at this point and talk about just jumping? You tell me like.
Margo: Yeah, so so I was like, okay, I am from St Louis. It's a small, you know, big town or little big city or whatever. And I was like, I am going to send out a little marketing thing to like ten stores. And it was this cute little I don't know if I told you this, like this little flower pot and I put like a sticker. I had stickers made like little just like ceramic flower pot stickers made, and then I put a packet of seeds in there. And then the little postcard said, Help watch water your business to watch it grow or something like you. You didn't tell me that this is like this cute, kitschy thing. And so I like I basically had this, this gal, her name is Jojo, and I'm going to totally send her this podcast because she's like one of my favorite humans. And I was like, Jojo, I'll pay you, I think like ten bucks an hour. It's going to cost you a cup. It's going to be a couple hours of your day. So she probably made like 20 or 30 bucks and go drop these off at these stores. And so she did it. And then crickets. It was crickets. And then one of my very first client, who actually is one of the consultants with Project Retail, accidentally friended me on Facebook accidentally.
Margo: Like one. You know, we're not like the we're of that age where like Facebook came when we were like in our late twenties, right? So like, I think she like accidentally hit the select all to my contacts. We were friends because of that. We both had stores, right? And so she, she liked it all. And so I was like, Oh my God, she wants to talk to me. So I reached out to her and I was like, Oh my gosh, it's so nice to meet you. I've heard such great things about you, blah, blah, blah. And and meanwhile, come to find out, she totally obviously accidentally friended her or friended like her entire contact list, email list or something and wound up doing this. And she didn't actually want to talk to me. And so this is hysterical. So the gal that actually hooked me up with my consultant. Right. Kind of made like a warm intro. And so the three of us went out for drinks, and then Natalie realized that, like, I was a normal human. Like, I wasn't what she thought I was going to be. Right. Which, you know, I mean, whatever. So, so literally. I mean, we became like best friends. She is still to this day, like one of my very, very, very best friends. So she took a chance on me. Right. And I mean, I used to our meetings were 5 hours long. I mean, she'll tell you, we she would be crying all 5 hours, you know. I mean, like it was like she and and she was actually using some sort of planning through something, another company, but it wasn't really working. And, you know, she very bright, very numbers oriented with the art part, too. That's why she's an amazing consultant as well. But I mean, she really took a chance on me and then it just started to sort of like spiral. Right. But the funniest part about it, too, which is your favorite, is that I thought I was going to hit up like Intermix in school and like all the big players, you know, and Lisa Klein and like all of them and I.
Michelle: Didn't reach out to Fred Segal.
Margo: Yeah. And I was gonna be their person. And when I went through training with Dan actually, and the guy that owns the company literally said to me, he goes, You need to walk before you run. And I was like, No, I don't. What do you think I am? Like, I can you.
Michelle: Can see your face, right? So I'm like.
Margo: You are an asshole, you know, like, who do you think I am? Like, I'm not here to play around. You know, this is going to I'm going to be like, you know, flying on private jets off this gig, you know, type of thing. And truly, he goes, No, no, no, I'm serious. You have to walk or you run. And I'm like, What does that mean? He goes, You're not calling Intermix. And I'm like, Oh, well, can we call can I call Intermix with another consultant? Like, can we do it together? You know? And he's like, You're just not ready, you know? And I think it's just it's parallel to almost everything actually in my life is that I have these big bright eyes and as like an entrepreneur and just I mean, I've never I've I've had one well, two bosses, I guess, one of which I work with now. But, you know, I just it's like I can do it, you know, I can I can make this happen. But I think what's important and also this goes with my what I do now is, is like we have to we all have to be realistic, you know, we all have to, like, walk before we run sometimes and learn, right? Because there is no possible way I could have even if Intermix was like, Yes, we're hiring you, I would have like been fired like within the first like 90 days, probably because I had no fricking clue what I was doing and not so much on like the numbers. Right, because I'm a little idiot savant with that. But and obviously I learn something new every day. I'm a big that is a big thing for me and very important. But like I just didn't know how to be a consultant. I didn't know how to listen. And you know, you just have to really know how to listen.
Margo: When you're when you're when you do what we do, you know, you have to hear people that doesn't mean you agree with them or you don't have like something to share. Right. I get that all the time. It's like, oh, are you ever going to not tell me I have something to do? And I'm like, No, why are you paying?
Michelle: Like, you always have.
Margo: Something to.
Michelle: Do? I think that the listening part of it, it's true in the beginning is really hard because I think you are. It's so ego and it's so about like what you know and what you're going to do and like what? Like all the things you're great at. It's like, as opposed to what it's like now. When I go to stores, it's like, What? Tell me what is not working? And then let's take a look at the floor and see what I can tell is happening. But like, let's hear first what you think is not.
Margo: What you want.
Michelle: To work on. But I never asked that question until like five years into it, right?
Margo: Yeah. You don't think about it, you talk instead of and I think it was pretty powerful when I finally learned it that it took me a pretty long time to actually realize that I needed like it took someone to tell me that to say you need to listen better. You need to be a better listener over and over and over again. Know my mentors and my own coaches on the floor to help me with the consulting side. Because, you know, you forget that this is people's livelihoods, like you said. I mean, you know, people that have a full time gig and their stores are their part time gig, right? So this is a lot of people's livelihoods in their dreams. So if you aren't in tune with the listening, you are sure that it is a sure way to get fired. I mean, there's no way to accomplish things together when you can't you can't listen. It was just it was. Yeah, that it did. And they said 3 to 5 years, it'll take 3 to 5 years to build your consulting business. And it was absolutely 110% the truth.
Michelle: My mom just made me think about the thing I was told all the time. I worked at a restaurant, Gino's Pizza, I think it was, and I had a really bad habit of when I got corrected, always saying, I know, I know, I know, I know. And finally the manager said, If you fucking know, then why do you keep doing it? You just when you're saying that, I'm like, Oh my God, my lesson. I don't think I ever said I know again. Yeah. And you know, a sideline.
Margo: Well, it's true, though. And I mean, it still happens to me. I mean, I had a client a really you know that I mean, I love. And she pulled me aside. When when did I see her last? I think in September in New York. And she was like, I just want you to know. And she gave me some constructive feedback. And the truth is, is we have a relationship, which is my goal with my clients is that we have a relationship that's strong enough for her to be able to communicate if she's frustrated and if she thinks that I could be better, you know, because I do that for them all the time. But they have to be okay with being with with sharing their feelings if they feel like I need to be a better listener or I need to slow down in my delivery or, you know, please stop being 5 minutes late because you book everything back to back to back to back because now everything is on Zoom and you can you know, you can do that, you know, I mean, there's just there's just always room for for better listening.
Michelle: That's great. I love that you said that. So how so? Take me through. Like people coming to you. Take me through or take us through how you work and what like is it? Is it single project? Is it in looking at your company, you have a lot of people working and they all do different jobs. Like you're kind of like a full service thing. Take me through if I'm a new retailer to you.
Margo: So if you are, we do new OC. So if you're a brand new retailer and you don't have a store, we do a new store opening package and that basically starts from scratch and we work with them on basically building a break even off of the big metrics or not metrics I'm sorry, expenses that they're going to incur, which is payroll and rent, right. Forget the inventory for a minute. So we kind of understand what kind of revenue do they need to do to actually break even that off of industry standards? Right. So rent should be X percent or should shouldn't exceed X percent. And then your payroll, same thing. And just to kind of get an idea of what that would look like for that on the top level sales, right, net sales, what they would need to do. And then we build a merchandise plan depending on whatever type of retail store you are, we build one from scratch. I use a technology company slash consulting company called Management one. And we we basically are it's like they're like Toyota. They build the car, right I service and I sell and service it. And, you know, essentially what we do is we start from scratch, don't and leave no stone unturned. So the foundation of every retail business should be a merchandise plan. It will absolutely keep you in check as far as understanding when your peaks and valleys are of cash. Right, how much inventory you should buy to keep up with the demand and organically watch your business grow from actually measuring the demand. So we want to set it up. It's not it's nothing is perfect, right? But knowing just sort of the basics coupled with what kind of store you are, we can really build a solid plan to say, okay, here's how much your initial inventory investment is going to be. And then we get, you know, we get into like here are some branding people. If you're looking for a guy to do your logo or your logo, here's people that can help you with your website. Here's Bookkeeping Services, which is like super, super, super important. I rarely these days take on clients that don't have bookkeepers because if you do not have financials that are current, that is an issue total.
Margo: But we really just kind of like people ask us with the new stores, it's like, well, you know, do you charge hourly? And no, I mean, we do a flat fee. It's the flat fee up until you get open. And we just make we want to make sure that you're set up for success. And then the goal is, of course, is to move into the consulting, which we do with the existing retailers that call me. It's like, Hey, I have a store and it's booming. I want to know where the growth is coming from or Hey, I have a store and I have no money in the bank and I need your help. I'm desperate. Which is was what? Where I was. Obviously, the stores that are booming and want the help and want to know where it's coming from, it's magic right off the bat. Whereas the other people like me and when I found someone was it's a little harder because sometimes you don't have the cash to be flexible in making new buying decisions because you have inventory that's sitting there that you need to liquidate. So it's pretty much though the same thing is we essentially go through the expenses, build a break even and and build a merchandise plan to really understand how much inventory do you have? Do you need that much? Do you have too little? You know, there's a lot of people these days, especially because the supply chain stuff and this crazy hyperinflation, you know, there's a lot of people that are overselling on low inventory. And it was funny, I was having conversation today. I mean, that could very well stop and sooner rather than later. I mean, we don't know. But here's the thing. If you actually have a sales forecast in a plan together and you're working with someone like me or you're doing it internally or you're working with someone else, it doesn't matter. You can actually see in the numbers if the demand is starting to trickle away. And so that was actually one of the really cool things when I was when I implemented my first plan, it was in 2006 and the bottom fell out in October of 2008.
Margo: Well, sure as shit in 2007. Business started to change and very slowly. And you could see it in the numbers. Right. And most retailers don't know how to find it in the numbers. Right. It's it's more of like, okay, well, I need to buy more of this or I need to buy more of that. And you don't really know if you're not measuring it right and looking at it top level from 40,000 feet above and super, super, super granular. Yeah. So, you know, so we we I basically I don't charge hourly. I'm just not into that. I'm just kind of like we build this plan. We can talk once a week, we can talk five times a week, you can text me. I try not to work on the weekends, but, you know, I really am touchy feely in that I want everyone that I come across who's an entrepreneur to truly. Live their dream and know that there will be these crazy ass ups and downs and there will be money in the bank one day and none the next. Like that is normal and you have someone to talk to and it's all possible, you know, and you do sometimes have to put your ego aside. And myself included, as an entrepreneur, I mean, we all do just to learn to then make the moves to kill it, because there's no there's no way really to fail in retail because if you're measuring it. But if you're not, yeah, but if you're not measuring it, you don't you just you're winging it. And we don't live in the world in like the early nineties, you know, whenever. Well, actually, I don't even know when was the like hype or hype or like, retail was crazy and like.
Michelle: Indies, man, it was like that's when I was like the phrase, the phrase at that time was stack it high and watch it fly. I mean, I'm talking like I was ordering like 12. I mean, I'd order sixes on things now. I was like 12, 18, 24. I mean, it was and we'd have people come in and it would be gone in two days. Yeah, crazy those days.
Margo: And we just don't live in the world of the spaghetti method anymore. Yeah, we just. You can't just throw a bunch of shit at the wall and see what sticks like. You just have to be a little bit more calculated and have information to make it happen.
Michelle: So I asked Dan this. So like I have a philosophy because during when I was when I had my stores of breads he had at that time and this is like I was 27, 28, it was once a year sale, once a year, which meant anything you got in December that didn't sell you would eke it out as long as you could until it started getting warm. And then you'd have to pack it up, pack it up, pack it up. And then you dragged it back out in, I think, our sales in September. So you drag it back out in September again and it would start off at 50%. Obviously that that theory does not work because that's sitting inventory that you could essentially sell and have some dollars back. What what is your philosophy on sale and when do you tell? Because I have the other extreme as I have stores that have had something and they keep holding on to it like, you know, it'll sell. We're holding on to because we'll sell it next season and we'll and Dan was like, okay, each time you do inventory, the longer you hold on, you're actually paying taxes on that. So tell me your philosophy on sale with retailers.
Margo: I mean, I, I believe that, you know, if something hasn't sold through and and luxury is a little bit different, but, you know, not not really, but it is like high, high end luxury because there's a lot of rules around markdowns with that product. But if you haven't had a sell through of 50 or 60% in the first 3 to 4 weeks of having it on your sales floor, you know something's up. So I'm not I don't like to slash prices immediately. I'm like, oh, do we need to move it? Should we re merchandise it? Can we do an RTB? Does it fit? Funny is the color yellow ugly like watch.
Speaker1: Tv, go back to our TV. What is that? Just a.
Speaker2: Vendor. So if you've got a good relationship with the vendors, ask them nicely. Listen, this isn't selling. These other five styles are, you know, can we work something out? And I'll get back into another style because it just doesn't do the vendor any good either. If something that just arrived goes on to the sale rack, right? There's something really wrong with it. Fit color, or even if the customer just isn't into it. But I like I like a good maintenance, maintenance markdown, which is essentially it's not a markdown like what you're talking about, where it's the end of season sale. Right. I think that is very specific and it should be done only twice a year. But I do feel like maintenance markdowns to like what Dan was saying is, is you actually most retailers are conditioned to watch their gross margin and that's not what pays their bills. And you wind up getting this false sense of security of saying, oh, my gosh, I've got this amazing gross margin, right? This is how much money I made off of what I bought and sold. Well, that's just it. It's off of what you bought and what you sold. Not a or. Yeah, not of what? Not everything that you bought that you haven't sold. Right. So when you're looking at these financial statements. And saying, here's the health of my business. You do you pay taxes on on things that the income right which is often inflated. If you aren't actually taking timely markdowns to get out of the product. I mean, you just want to turn it because it is better to sell something at 30% off than to sit on it for six months. Those are like rotting dollar bills. And and your customers, frankly, you're in the business to actually service. Most people I mean, retail's destination. I mean, yes, you have a store in New York City. You have stores in high traffic areas, but those aren't you're not servicing. It's the 8020 rule. So, you know, 80% of your business right on destination retail comes from 20% of your shoppers. So those 20%, if they see the same shit for six months, they're going to be like, what's going on? Yeah, now. And it's subconscious. Sometimes it's not even like they can identify it, you know, it's almost in their subconscious. So I'm, I'm a maintenance markdown. Work with your vendors and at the end of the day, if you got a price things at what you think you can sell them for when it's not an end of season sale, do it because the cash in the bank is more valuable to you as a retailer than the frickin dress that's sitting on that rack for six months.
Michelle: Yeah I with my stores will because I believe in merchant re merchandising and turning your floor and reinventing what you own often, especially if you have the same customer coming in and out every week and there are going to be times where she doesn't see that dress.
Margo: Yeah, you had it.
Michelle: And then you move in. Nine times out of ten. Well, not nine times, but seven out of ten time. It will they will end up buying it. But a dog is a dog and it's like dog.
Margo: Is it dog?
Michelle: You moved it like six, seven, eight times. It's like, okay, this is the time where it's like it ain't going anywhere. Like it's time to and for the people, because I have this one of my clients, like I don't want to have sales all the time because and this is just a rack that is wherever I don't want have sales all the time because we're training the customer that we're putting on sale. Like, you know, the people that know Gap's day and Anthropologie's day, they do markdown they for the people that are afraid of training their customer for a sale, what is your philosophy?
Margo: I think that there are certain circumstances where people absolutely do that and I wish that they wouldn't. But I think that there can be strategic business moves that you do as the retailer where you can mark it up to mark it down. Yeah, right. And so if you are that constant promotional retailer and you feel as though your customer is price conscious, right. That's a that's a better strategy. Now you need higher margin goods, right? You can't go to just to you can't have just a 54% markup or a 2.2 markup. You can't live in that world if you are going to be highly promotional, even if you are turning it super fast because you're just always having to replenish it, right? You just always have to keep going back. So you need to be really strategic about it. And having a sale rack all the time, though, is not being highly promotional. And I think that's sometimes when retailers think that that's like how like what it feels like to customers, but it actually doesn't. So like I started this thing, I don't remember how many years ago it was one of my clients in St Louis. I still does it actually. And instead of for the stuff that's been around, that's had the lower sell through, or if there's a bunch of one Z's, like instead of putting it on a sale rack, tie a ribbon around the the hanger or like put like a pirate ship on the tag, on the price tag. And, and those are like 30% off or whatever markdown you you want them to be. So a.
Michelle: Pirate ship.
Margo: Like, I don't know, like go get some stickers at the Art Mart or or the dick licks, you.
Michelle: Know, the pirate ship coming up with I am 80.
Margo: They totally got like the pirates like stickers. I think it was like the only thing that was real. And I was like, what are these? And I was like, it's not really like a great idea.
Michelle: Like, without calling it out. Yeah. And then your customers like, you know, they know what they're looking for. And then I just when things get down to like the onesies is where it's like everything looks so chopped and broken. They're right. Like, let's clean house, like. All your one's like, let's get it out of here. Because I know Nordstrom started doing that. The last ones and I.
Margo: Actually learned that from Intermix Girl and I will never forget it. I was in I didn't live here, but I was I forget my friend Sam's wedding at the Intermix in Beverly Hills on Robertson. And I was in the dressing room and there was a onesie rack and it was like, Last dude. I don't think it said last chance, but it was it said something to identify it like this shit was hot, right? And like this was all that was left. And I loved it. I mean, I absolutely loved it. I mean, 99.9% of it, it was either a size, it was too small or too big, but it actually made me like go through it. Whereas, you know, there's no way people would have found, like you said, it just gets so piecemeal. You're not finding the one diamond in the rough black T-shirt in the middle of a rack with full size runs of everything.
Michelle: You know, scarcity factor.
Margo: Yeah. And so I was like, wow. So I scream it to the mountaintops, to everyone, because I think I think you have to have a separate onesie rack. And you know, it also when you when you think about it and you as a merchandising expert aficionado, you know, for real, though, when you look at a onesie rack. Right, in a store that has an assortment issue. Yeah. And then you're looking around the store with all the other SKUs that are still there with full size runs that actually helps the retailer realize, hey, I'm actually I might have a 5000 budget in dresses in the month of February, but guess what? I might have bought 50 styles, individual styles, but you really only needed 30 and you needed to go a little deeper in ones that you were behind, because otherwise all those onesies basically add up and there's tons of cash sitting in it.
Michelle: And I'm not going to say names. I'm not going to say, but there is a retail consultant that took out a store and had them purchase like ten different styles of white t shirts and they are not a large boutique. And I was like, and guess what? They're still there. And it's like, it's, it's so. I don't know. I found that so frustrating. I was like, I can't believe they did that. Like, that's that. Did, you know, good as a retailer that never had apparel before, she literally just took you down the road of, like, buying the way she bought. And it's like, talk about not listening, like, wow.
Margo: Yeah. And who knows? It could have worked for an all apparel store. Yeah, something like it's situational, but you know, that assortment thing, you know, it's almost like the it goes with the vendors too. Like that happens with denim a lot, right? Like and especially when you're a new store and you're, you want to get started. Yeah. And like, everybody's like, okay, well, I need these five brands and I'm like, okay, no, you are not the denim bar. Those don't exist anymore because denim, we don't own that right now. Denim is on fire. So like I should preface by saying, but you know, if you're $1,000,000 store and let's say denim is, you know, 10% of that business, you don't need ten vendors because then you won't. Train your customer to have vendor loyalty, right? It's really about finding the 2 to 5 vendors, depending on how big your store is and how much denim business you're going to be doing. But you don't want to over assort with vendors because then nobody catches on. It's like, Oh, well, I can only buy one style every other month from vendor A and then I can buy one style every two months from vendor B and there's never a consistent amount of product that's brilliant.
Michelle: I didn't even think about that. I always just think about like, because my biggest nightmare with denim is the size run and how much you have to buy in order. It's like shoes. It's like, yeah, case pack shoes guaranteed. You are going to end up next time you reorder that case pack, you're going to end up with double the amount of sizes that don't sell. And in denim to me is the same way. It's like you had to buy so deep in sizes and then you start talking about four or five, six lines.
Margo: Hell no, hell no. That was the big kicker when I actually had my store, you know.
Michelle: I had the life that you have.
Margo: I had to build. Oh, my God. What was when, you know, in the early 2000s when denim the mid 2000 when it was like that was it like you needed all of it rock and roll public you needed John Citizens Hudson's you needed Paige you needed all of it, right? Blue. There was a blue crush at one point J brand. I mean, all of it. I mean, I probably at one point had ten, ten different vendor lines. And I am telling you, I had to build a denim wall. Take out like the hanging because I had I had bought so much. I mean, it was like it was underneath some of like I can't like I have nightmares about it, actually. But like go back to the size things is like people also think that you need a lot of styles in denim. Well, no, we don't. I mean, I'm not walking into is women even men think about I mean, men are worse than they're easy. Well, right. But like their basic right. So we like we like the same jean in multiple washes with like a whole maybe and like a black and a gray and a light and a and a. And then every once in a while, we'll try a new vendor, you know, so you can always bring in the fashion pieces, but you always want that tried and true. So the other trick that I love to do, it goes it's the same the onesies, just like you said, once you have two or sometimes three, it depends on the style. If it's a fashion E style, but if you have two or less of a size run of a of a specific style in a specific wash. Right, let's just say it's a boot cut in a dark wash if you only have two left and it's a size 25 and a 30. Well, guess what? It's luck at this point. If some gal walks in, there is going to be able. And is it 25 or 30, right. So Markham is 50 bucks and put them on on the sale rack and get your cash out of it. Thank you. Even if it's a little less than what you even paid for, it doesn't matter. Those things will sit there and then you'll have a big stack of 25 and thirties, you know, or whatever sizes you don't sell. I mean, it's crazy. The men love to do that, too. And the men's business, it's very interesting. They love an assortment of bottoms.
Michelle: Well, I mean, guys don't have that much to choose from. I, I had on somebody Mindy was brilliant because Mindy loved selling men, and it was like it was true. Like, they they want to come in. They don't want to look around. They want you to tell them, like, get this, get this. You know, they're sizes. That's I mean, it's true. I didn't even think about that. They are not men are not like Rome. I mean, I take it back because my husband loves to shop. Shop, and I always joined.
Margo: The diamond in the rough, though.
Michelle: Girl like shop manager Max. All right. So he loves to go through. I'm like, I can't handle shopping like that in those rounders and bullshit. Like, no way. But he's the only person I know that will go in and go through. Like all the guys I dealt with at Fred Segal, it was just like, Just show me what I need, you know, my style, you know, blah, blah. And you're like pulling things straight. They don't even try it on. I'll take it. I'm like my perfect client. Yeah. Yeah. Tell me about some of your successes, because I read one of the quotes that one of your stores said. She said Buying on math truly translates into dollars.
Margo: Well, that I mean, I love it. I love those testimonials. I'm like, people are so nice to me.
Michelle: Yeah, you're great testimonials.
Margo: Thank you. You know, the science part to the art really is the magic, right? And so you can't have one or the other. You just can't. I don't feel that you can have one, one or the other, however you decide as the retailer to make it happen. But you know, I mean, we've in the last year, I mean, gosh, with COVID, I mean, the success stories are pretty incredible. I mean, just just seeing the amount of business and this is obviously a function of a pandemic happening and.
Michelle: Every business increased during the pandemic.
Margo: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. And I have a lot of people that are looking to open new stores because stores went out and there's vacancies.
Michelle: That's the crazy part to me, which I think is it's I've said this before, it's almost like the universe is casting out the people that wouldn't change their ways. And they were old school retail and, you know, they weren't they didn't have sites that were e-commerce. They didn't they didn't have someone younger doing their social media or they didn't want to do social media. It was like universally it just all sudden it swept all those way and it is now pushed out all these new retailers, which I love and especially now, how what a difference of how retail is being done for some of these YouTubers and for people that are I mean, I was at Magic and people are going live from this show for talking about something they're buying, talking about in retail, pricing at retail and fucking selling out like and then they're turning around. I'll take ten packs of that. It's crazy like this. Pandemic, how it's changed business.
Margo: It is completely changed business. And so there have been tremendous successes for the retailers. And the word that comes to mind when you were just talking about the ones that were weeded out, is that the ability to pivot? So we actually, as the independent retail people and community and stores, you know, big boxes don't have the option to pivot. They can't pivot, you know, with the snap of their fingers. Well, guess because I mean, they had their huge corporations or publicly traded there. They have, you know, a bunch of hoops and boards and things that they have to jump through. Right. So we are actually fortunate where we can pivot and quickly. So the ones that forget the pandemic, the retailers that aren't. Open to learning and pivoting where necessary. Because another thing that I think one of my clients that has been a huge success story so we grew her her sales in the first year that we and she had been using plans and working with a different consultant but and for 15 years or I think something around there it's yeah we've been working there five years anyways she, we grew her business by $1,000,000 and nine, ten month period of time.
Michelle: Single store, multiple store it.
Margo: Multiple stores, three stores. And we so all three together and one of them is a seasonal store and and we reduced her purchases what she bought in that period of time.
Michelle: She increased her sales. Wow.
Margo: You increase your sales by $1,000,000.
Michelle: That's great. So she was overbought before.
Margo: You know, it wasn't necessarily that she was overbought. It was that she wasn't identifying opportunity. So one of the things that I am like a big is a big thing for me because, you know, we all live in a world of like what is going wrong and what do we do about it? Whereas I like to flip the switch, especially in the beginning of working with someone and is like, know what is going very right. Because if we can perfect that and nail it, that's actually going to pay for us to figure out how to get out of what is not our opportunity and what is either sitting on our floor or is on order or is a shitty sales person and we need to let her go or whatever it may be. Right? Because the opportunities and knowing and understanding what is actually working is actually what pays for all the the things that aren't that really aren't because not everything is always going to work. Yeah, you know what I mean? And so if you don't know how to pivot and actually focus on, okay, here's the five things I got to do today because I mean, I don't know about you, but I'm the kind of gal that it's like, I can't have 20 things on my plate to cross off. Every single day because those five things on the bottom of the list will never get done. So if I start the week with with five major things that are important right by the middle of the week, a lot of times for a lot of my clients, it's they're done. So it's like, okay, let's move on to the next set of opportunities and then you'll wind up getting to the things that are not necessarily in your favor.
Michelle: But I love that. So because you said something and I because I know you guys do a lot of numbers and I know you have people, other consultants that work with you. So you had said something about is is because the in the bad salespeople are part of what drives your business. So do you guys get involved in that? Like does it does does your client bring it to you? Like, I don't know, it's wrong. And you're standing there watching Susie Q behind the register on her phone, like, well, that's part of your I mean, is that part of it or is it do you wait for them to ask you that? Or is that just something that you as part of the deal?
Margo: You know, it's funny because that is usually always so like if something isn't going right, right. Like and let's say like they're not selling as much as they want to or whatever. There's always the reasons why. Right. And it never has anything to do with the inventory, right. Or like the operational processes that are in place. So it most often kind of goes into the weather was bad, the traffic was down or my sales people suck and you know, and the truth is, is if you don't empower them, right. And train them from the get go and and help them understand what your expectations are, it's going to be very, very, very difficult to get them to change. Yeah. You know, and some people are just bad eggs, but a lot of times if someone is actually willing to work in retail and I say willing, it's not funny so bad. But I mean, some people are like, Oh, I'm never going to work in retail. Why not? I mean, you get to meet people, all them. It's not for everybody, but you know what I mean? But like if you don't set it up from the get go, right, then they don't really know that. It's frustrating for you. Like I had this gal who worked for me and all she did when there was no one there, not all, but like she would read magazines and she would sit because is like before cell phones had like text messaging in the internet, you know. So like she would sit on her stool behind the counter and read the magazines. Well, then when people would come in the store, she would acknowledge that they walked in. Right. But she would still sit there and read the damn magazine. And so every time I told her, hey, can you can you not read the magazine while people are in the store? I don't even mind if you're sitting like that doesn't actually bother me. And she just couldn't ever get there. And it was because I just never set up an expectation of, you know, downtime is for sweeping or folding.
Michelle: My God. Thank you. You have time to leave. Time to clean is my I have stores that they don't understand why the employees you know why they keep getting bad employees or they don't understand why the employees aren't doing certain things. And I'm like, do you have a job description? Did you ever. Because people. Including myself. People want boundaries and you may not want to tell them, or you may tell them what to do. And you're going to have people that push back and like you're constantly saying it over, but by far and large. People really want boundaries. But if they don't know what the boundaries are, right, they're not going to know. And it's it's I don't know. It's crazy because it's like more than I can count on my hand that that I that have that that challenge and it's like and now trying to go back and retrain employees that have been there for years with no job description and just like no boundaries and just like. So do you get involved in that part of it or do you.
Margo: I get more involved in how do we empower them and get them to sell and do what you want them to do, which is basically sell. Right. So like the touchy feely stuff, exactly what you said. What's the job description? What's the expectations? I love to create a checklist. It's like, here's what you do before you open.
Michelle: Oh, my God. Check. What's our my favorite.
Margo: Or my favorite? I mean, but it's so old school and you know, that's one of the issues these days is people don't like it's like a checklist like why would I have to do that? You know? And it's like, no open. It's like I turn the lights on, check, you know, I replenish the bags check or whatever it is, or I end the day. I replenish the sizes that sold out, check like whatever it is. They're store opening procedures in their store, closing procedures. You know where for my bigger clients now because I have a decent amount of larger clients that the real like employee like management stuff that's internal that really should be internal. They they all kind of handle it. Where I really get involved is like again, how can we empower them to sell more and incentivize them, right? So I am a firm believer in commissions and I.
Michelle: Just going to ask you.
Margo: Yeah, and I think it's bullshit when a retailer says to me, I don't believe in them because then it's not a team effort and then they're going to be fighting over customers, what I call bullshit. Because here's the truth. Two people can work one customer together. I mean, it doesn't have to be a contest. And I'm going to push Sally out of the way, you know, and strong armor. Like, it's like if, you know, like it's about creating the relationship, you know what I mean? It's like, you know, it's kind of how even as a consultant that does what I do, Dan and I are very similar, right? But like, there's enough business to go around. Same thing with customers. There's enough business to go around. You're not you're not strong arming. There are more merchandise they might not do. It is, you know, as as good as you do for certain things. I mean, there's all everyone has their their niche.
Michelle: I always say there's enough room at the table forever. So the other question I always get is it, well, if we do commission, what percentage do you think we do?
Margo: Yeah, that really is directly related to the percentage of payroll. Right. So sales people and not to give away the house here, but you know, sales people depending on in the company, you know, should be should be just their their base salary and hourly should you know, they should be selling 10% of that. Right. Or I I'm so bad at explaining this. Like I'm terrible at explaining essentially if they're making $100, right? If their base salary for the day is 100 bucks and they need to sell 1000 to for you as the business owner to break even. Right. So they wouldn't get a commission on that $1,000 unless they sold $1,001. Does that make sense?
Michelle: What percentage do you say?
Margo: You know, I think it depends on the retailer. It also probably depends on it depends on what their payroll is right now as a percentage to their sales, because, again, that's a really important metric, especially when you have a multi store with like a back office because those back office salaries are still a part of payroll. But your payroll winds up being higher as a percentage of sales because you need the ops people, right? The people who are receiving, the people who are allocating whatever it is. So that is kind of wishy washy. But I would say anywhere the payroll that the commission percentage, you know, can be anywhere from 1 to 5%, depending on the type. The business you are. Or it could be like some people get loony tune and I used to do this. I don't do this anymore where it's like you can have 5% of the difference above what you did and you're like, your head starts to spin everything now, right? That's how I kind of was shitty and explaining to sell 1400. But you get you catch my drift. So I think that, you know, when you're if you you have to have sales people period like you know they're if sales people are not paid to sell. Right. They're just paid hourly. That's what they're going to be they're going to be warm bodies in your in your store.
Michelle: I have I, I keep having to say to a few people, you really need because they can't keep help and they can't find help. And Mike, you need to pay more. Well, you know, I need to make money. You will make money, but you need all the time you just spent training that person and they just laughed. It's like now you don't have to do. If if you pay people well, I mean, you don't overpay them, pay people well, give them something to work for a commission monthly price so that give them something to keep them with you because it's the that no one counts the time that that you spent training that person like how much payroll just went out the window that's completely wasted. No one thinks about that. They're just like, But I only want to pay this much. It's like, okay, you keep doing that and let's see if you get a I mean, you haven't got, you've had the same, same response every single time. Yeah.
Margo: And you know, if you're not a big operation where the like convoluted commission, like where the commission would kick in once you pay for yourself, right. Type of thing, you know, there's other creative things to do like, you know, 1% commission for the everyone, right? If they hit l y, you know, 2% commission, if they hit the sales plan for the month, 3% commission, if they and it's divvied up between everyone based on the percentage of the hours that they work. Right, that everyone gets thrown in. But the problem with that these days is that you don't really ever want to compare anything to l y anymore, you know? Well, it's not I mean, it's just not relevant. I mean, last year in December, we were, you know, like.
Michelle: But in general, though, I mean, not not counting the the pandemic year. Yeah.
Margo: I mean, I'm just not a gal who lives in the past, you know. I mean.
Michelle: You said do you go by goals then.
Margo: You know. Yes. So basically the the power of the the sales forecast and the merchandise plan is that it's actually measuring your demand. Right. So the demand today is different from the demand that it was five years ago. So to look at comp dates and let's even act like last year there wasn't a pandemic to.
Michelle: Look at comps.
Margo: From l y to this year. You know, the trends are different, right? The buying patterns of people are different. So if you're measuring your successes in the demand along the way, you're naturally and organically going to grow your business. But like in times like we are right now, where we are in this super hyper inflation situation, right? Well, guess what? Like it's going to plateau, business is going to plateau. Business could go down. I mean, we don't obviously, again, know when this could possibly happen. We will see it happen in the numbers. If you are measuring it, nothing happens overnight. You know, it's like when your boyfriend dumps you, you know, it's like I didn't see it coming really, really, like, you know, coming from the ultimate single woman. So, like, I, you know, whatever, but, like, really, you know, so, so, like, it's one of those things where you just, you you just have to live in the moment of where your opportunities are today because. Last year or the year before isn't going to tell you how to win today. Now, there are certain things like when does the Jewish holiday fall? For some of my clients that live in heavily or larger Jewish communities, or when is when do the all the girls go back to college? You know, like of course, things like that. You need to know. But what I mean, what does that have to do with last year? Because it happens every year, right? There's always Christmas, there's always Rosh Hashanah, there's always Memorial Day. There's always life for it. There's always back to school. You know, there's always all of that. So it's always going to happen. Where is your opportunity today so you can kill it tomorrow?
Michelle: Oh, my God, look at you. I love that tagline. So I am going to redirect you and ask you because you're a shopper and because you because you've had stores, what are some of your favorite stores?
Margo: So, you know, my favorite retail store right now is is and this is not an independent store. But I think that they are doing a very good job of the lifestyle concept and the assortment, keeping it like really almost limited. Like the limited, narrow and deep is aritzia. I think that company is is amazing the customer experience as far as like you know how they merchandise it sometimes can be questionable depending on the store you go in but the concept of it and of what's going on in the world today I think is incredible. I also I'm not a big Internet shopper like I listen. I would love to be able to be like, yes, I can fill my cart with all of these things and then it's going to show up on my doorstep. I'm the girl who has filled the cart, has been and this happens to me when I'm ordering takeout to fills the cart. Right. And is it and then is and it's been like 3 hours, right? And then I'm like, Oh, I don't need any of that.
Michelle: It's almost like like an exercise of, like feeling like you're shopping or feeling like you're going to eat all this food. It's like, Yeah, yeah.
Margo: I'll get the mac and cheese or I'll wear that sweatshirt with the holes in it like we're good. So I think, you know, in the corporate world, that's really where I live. I try and support specialty retailers, my clients obviously as much as I possibly can. One of my favorite stores in L.A., I actually don't work with a lot of really any stores in L.A. is Jo Roberts. I think she Jill, has done an amazing job. And over the decades I've been shopping her. When I had my store was one of the stores I would always go into. It makes me really sad, like the general LA community, like, you know, I don't find the Fred Segal experience like it to be how I remember it.
Michelle: No, I mean, it's a lot changed, obviously, because it's been his name, it has been sold and it's run by a major, major corporation. And it's you know, I often wonder, like, who's because I forget who I had on that. We were talking about that and it's like I, I don't there was a, there was a feeling in an experience about going into those stores. And also it had a lot to do with every store was separately owned and operated and every every owner had their own style and personality. And there and now, you know, as a company, there's buyers doing it. So it's not it's not as eclectic. It's not I don't know. It definitely has a very different feel. And especially obviously now the franchise ones, they don't.
Michelle: Specialty anymore and I'm sure I'm going to get railed on that. But, you know, for for those of us who came out of it, I don't know. I mean, knowing knowing what it was like in its day with Jennifer and Robin Co that had sentiments and Janine who had flair and the girls who had Fred Segal fun and Michael Campbell store and like all these amazing stores and all these owners that had this eclectic, amazing taste, that's what made that I feel like.
Margo: Yeah, and it was the experience like, you know, when you walked in, you know, it's almost as if, like, you felt like it was a mall, but it wasn't a mall because it was specialty. And it was an amazing environment where you felt like you just it was the one stop shop, you know, that everyone always tries to recreate. Now, you know, the one retailer that I always remember. And she's not around anymore, but. You remember Tracy Ross on Sunset? Yeah. And, you know, I was so obsessed with that because not because I was like, oh, my gosh, I love these clothes. But it was the fact that he walked in there and you were like, Oh, I can get my nails done. Yeah. I thought that was the coolest thing.
Michelle: That's what that's what Nordstrom's starting to do now. Did you hear like their new flagship stores or lifestyle stores? Like there's like not like. I forget where he used to be able to go to a department store and get your hair washed and get your hair done.
Margo: They used to do that. Saks Fifth Avenue.
Michelle: Yes. Both spas, though. Now, I haven't they're building one up up north by one of my clients and I'm waiting to go see it because she said it's supposed to be amazing, but it's yeah, there's something about one stop. Let's go have lunch and then I'm going to go buy some shoes and then I'm going to buy some bath stuff. And I mean that. I do. You're not wrong in thinking it feels different.
Margo: Yeah, it just feels different. So I think a lot of retailers these days, and I'm sure you see this too, because of your merchandising, is that people really do want to kind of be something for everyone. And it doesn't translate when you're one store. Right, with four walls. Right. Not that Fred Segal wasn't a four wall thing, but it was this massive space where you knew that there were differences without the walls. You know what I mean? Meaning different owners and things like that. And different, more like perspective. It goes back to the art part, you know. But I think it's like I was having a call last week actually. It was one of my clients that has been a client for since I've been doing this. They were my second client and they've actually gone through this is the third owner. And basically they tried to bring in beauty products. And I mean, I told them they were like, What do you think about this? I was like, You're going to lose your ass. But listen, if you want to try it, great. And if and even if you can prove me wrong, because I think, you know, like I hope I hope you can you're going to make an investment that can be a huge investment, but still you're going to make the investment. I hope you can. But like nobody's going into a store that has always been primarily apparel goes back to your t shirt example, right? You don't throw a bunch of apparel into a gift shop overnight.
Michelle: You know? Well, I've always said, like because I I've for the pharmacies that I buy for spas, I can't get spas off the fucking ground. And it's I've come to the conclusion it's because I can't buy deep enough in it. It's like there's not enough selection. And it's like when I tried to do because all these customers came in, we want kids clothes, we want kids clothes. I'm like, okay, we'll try a couple of things. Okay, well, you try a couple things and it just is like it's only going to appeal to a couple of people and it's like, am I wrong in thinking that we just if you're I would have to get rid of a whole other department because I look at our numbers and our sales and it's like, I can see what's driving the business and it's like, something's dead in the water. Then it's like case that we're stop buying for that. We're just going to get out of that and or, or dumb it down like baby, baby bombed for a while. So it was like, I'm not dumping any more money in a baby right now. Let's put it towards another department that is doing well. That's I cannot and I just started realizing it just because there's not enough of it. Like that's all the spotlight. Jennifer and Robin Coaster that sentiment for sentiments.
Margo: Yeah it was.
Michelle: Massive and it was every sign it was so yummy. It was like candy you want and it was like, that's why Sephora so. Well, I would literally walk out with baskets. I still do it. It's really bad habit, but I still go and buy because it's all about like the selection and it's all yummy. And and when you're looking at something that's only this which little amount and am I right. And that's what why it's not doing well.
Margo: Yeah I mean you like and I think in is it in in this specific like is it in a spa like an actual spa.
Michelle: No, it's the pharmacy. So the pharmacy.
Margo: I have pharmacy.
Michelle: So I have men's women's kids. And then we did specialty spas and it was like. The number one department is apparel in a pharmacy. Yeah, the spa. I'm like, fuck this. Like, I don't I.
Margo: Well, and you know, what happens is you don't really have anyone either that can, like.
Michelle: Talk about it.
Margo: Talk about it.
Michelle: We, we had a girl and it did sell well when she was there and now she's gone. And guess what sales are like?
Margo: So, like, I have a client actually, you actually just nailed it. And I didn't think about this because I have been thinking about it. Why is it working so well in her store specifically? And the size of it absolutely has something to do with it.
Michelle: Yeah, I just think that.
Margo: You can have this blended abundance because even when I tried to have I mean, I bought like a makeup line like out of New York because when I, I moved to New York right after college, whatever, I was only there for about 11 months, but did beauty and accessories PR. So I was like, Oh, this great makeup guy, right? And these awesome beauty products. And when I tell you I had tens of thousands of dollars sitting on shelves that I mean, they also expire here.
Michelle: We got mine just got home.
Margo: So I'm here. Oh, wow. Okay. So we see here's what happened to the community of the retail whore podcast. I rescued a job actually the last time I was on the call with Michelle and I rescued a dog and he has a bit of a mouth. But guess what? He has conditioned the other dog that didn't have a mouse.
Michelle: Oh, yes.
Margo: She has.
Michelle: One. Yeah, mouse. Peanut. Supposedly we got her, didn't quote bark and then we got mouse. And then Peanut oddly stopped working as much. And Mouse, who was relatively quiet, is the mouth. Now it's like and she's Mrs. Kravitz. She sits in the back of the sofa well they both use to until peanut start her legs situation but they would sit in the back of the sofa and like get off my lawn, freak out like complete. So we started like channeling them behind me like, like in the kitchen area because I realized, wow, they're really right. Like calm dogs that don't that aren't like, hyped up all day are calm dogs. Like, go figure.
Margo: Yeah, well, and now the one the non the old non barker, she now is barking at her reflection in the door.
Margo: Now. That is what she's barking at. And I mean like like she's going to get somewhere. It's terrible. I'm sorry I had to walk away from the thing.
Michelle: It's okay. Well, I know you've got stuff to do, but I want to. I. I can't thank you enough for this time because I said this last time. Like, I feel like I know you. I, I love talking to and I feel like every retailer you would be their friend but their best friend because of what you bring to the table. And you're like, fun and you're engaging and you're funny and you're not scary. A scary number person, which I think I always thought, you know, like when in my mind it was accountants that were like, don't spend this or you're in trouble. Like, I constantly feel like I was I, I feel like you're so not that so I really, I mean, because there's a lot of reps that listen to us. There's a lot of retailers. I really hope people reach out to you because I just hearing so much about what math does for your sales and your numbers and knowing how many people don't go by a true math system, I just feel like you will help just rocket people into success.
Margo: I mean, thank you. I so, so, so appreciate that. And at the end of the day, retail is what makes the world go round. You know, it's not it is not going anywhere. We are consumers, you know, to the nth degree. And, you know, it's a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful way to make a living, support your family, all of those things. And it's going to be okay. Here we.
Michelle: Go. Okay.
Margo: And on that note is.
Michelle: Going to be okay. Oh, my God. I love that. Thank you so much. And that is a wrap. Thank you all so much for joining me on today's episode. I really appreciate it. And be sure to tune in every Wednesday for more stories and lessons from a life in retail. And don't forget to follow us on Instagram at the retail whore podcast, and you can find us online at the retailwhorepodcast.com