Our overwhelming economy is facilitating numerous businesses to close, even “brand name stars” such as Blockbuster, Best Buy and Starbucks; and hundreds of other famous stores are finding it necessary to close some or all stores. Ive noticed that nearly all are using professional store closing consultants. And, there are many from which to choose. For starters, a Google search is a good place to begin. For this article I did a search on all three of the top search engines, Google, Yahoo!, and MSN and The Waldoff Group, owned by retail veteran Milton Waldoff was consistently number the top ranked retail turnaround expert. Upon visiting his website I read a huge list of testimonials, all glowing reports from the current and previousretail clients, apparently all agreeing his pricing is reasonable, and is more than justified by what was “a happy ending” after all, when, at first, all seemed dismal.
Research, though necessary, does not change a situation where the retailer is scrambling each week to pay creditors, having to loan personal money to their business, quit paying themselves a salary, having to avoid creditors phone calls and behind on tax payments. Research shows that bringing in an outside expert with unemotional ties to the people, products, and actual store itself produces appreciably better results than merchants owners can do on their own. Apparently Waldoff understands this more than most experts in that he built, owned and operated one of the best mens and womans specialty stores in the south, producing sales and profits well in excess of industry standards. The store enjoyed a very enviable national presence for more than thirty years. During a very difficult economy when the store was in a dramatic expansion and not aware of retail turnaround experts he he decided to sell out his merchandise and close. Surprisingly, he didn’t surrender. Waldoff got into action and learned the business of retail crisis management from a veteran consultant and with his many years of operating a very successful retail business he has over the past decade become the company to call (according to Google) if you sense your retail establishment may be in trouble.
There are a number of other such firms. I called around asking questions, Waldoff had the answers that made the most sense. I shouldn’t have been surprised. Waldoff is a talented, creative merchant with a vast amount of solid experience who has platinum references and testimonials from seasoned store owners of smaller specialty stores to department stores. The more people I talked with the more sense it made that he would be ranked the best. Unlike the others I called Waldoff did not sugar-coat anything. He told me just what the logistics were and why a store owner who already has his plate much to full of day to day responsibilities and increased problems, depressed with the situation, often working 10 to 12 hours a day six and often seven days a week simply doesnt have the time or know how to properly plan and implement the plan so as to get outstanding results. Though it is not rocket-science, it is a great deal more complex and time consuming than meets the eye by the average successful retailer. As I thought about this I remembered hearing attorney friends saying a good attorney never represents himself. It is more often than not a matter of life or death for the establishment and Waldoff knows from personal experience and over years of working with well over a hundred store owners what must be done. Working with a level of empathy and experience that is not learned from a book or simply by being a former retailer Waldoff builds a strong relationship of trust and understanding with his clients.
While researching, an important lesson I discovered is that if it is necessary or the desire of the owner to close a store for reasons such as a sales downturn monthly loses, etc., or personal reasons like health, divorce, time to retire, etc., and one has to get as much money out of the business as possible, you want and need the best advice, counsel and guidance possible, it is a once in a life time opportunity to cash out. My research indicates these very key questions you need to ask yourself, some of which I talk about here. Have sales been decreasing? Is the store producing no profits. Is the business losing money every month? Is the business worth less each month because of loses? Have you stopped paying yourself a salary or decreased it greatly? Have you had to mortgage the house to loan money to the business? Are you scrambling each month to meet pay your debts? Are you avoiding creditors? Are you behind with the IRS or state taxes? Are you confused and not sure what is the “right next step? Are you losing sleep night after night?
Did you answer “yes” to three or more of these questions? If so, you should strongly consider talking to a professional. If you answered yes to five or six or more you should talk to a professional as soon as possible. One big thing I got out of talking to a number of consultants and their clients is good management knows when to call for help! Immediate action can occasionally save the business! Closing a store is not a one-size-fits-all event, Waldoff said every store is unique and require something other than cookie cutter consulting. Its easy to close a store, simply reduce the merchandise cheap enough and tell enough people and youll clean it out. That will not maximize your return on your investment, sure it will liquidate your inventory. What The Waldoff Group does is work closely with a retailer to maximize their return and that takes know how and planning. Many of the store owners who thought surely they would be closing, but after meeting with Waldoff did not; by allowing him to use his expertise to assist them in increasing sales, improving gross margin, improving customer service, and planning a much more effective ad strategy.
I sure wish I had known about him when I owned a store. Yes, I once owned a store and after four years I elected to close it and move to another city. I thought I knew how to close the store, seemed simple enough, put some signs up, notify the public and mark down the inventory. Thats easy! LOL! By the time I finished my closing sale and paid my expenses I had nothing left and still owed the bank and did not even get my investment out of the business! In speaking with clients of professionals that do retail crisis management, store closings, retirement sales, going out of business sales I learned The Waldoff Group had stores that ended with gross margins of 50% and more, occasionally with sales over a 10 to 12 week period that nearly doubled, tripled and often doing even better during the same 10 to 12 weeks as the previous year, some even equaled the stores sales for the previous twelve months. Thats know-how in my book! We all turn to professionals when we are ill, when we have legal problems, when we need tax advice, etc., so it makes sense to turn to a professional when your business is in trouble. I so regret not knowing about a retail consultant like Waldoff when I wanted to move on and it is this that motivated me take the time now to do this research and write this article.