7 Tips for Managing Cash Flow in September
Caution now can lead to success during 4th quarter
Retailers have always been at the mercy of the yearly calendar. As the seasons change, so does the climate of the market, which can mean that your cash flow varies drastically from month to month.
That means the potential for less cash in your wallet.
Retailers are likely to see spikes in cash flow at some points throughout the year — particularly as the holiday season draws near and people are preparing to celebrate the stretch from Halloween to Christmas with friends and family.
Depending on the specific type of retail store you run, you will face different challenges throughout the year. For example if you are a retailer that sells snow blowers and you don’t have a cold winter, your Q1 of the following year will be lean as sales did not materialize, and no matter of promotions will get them off your hand.
Likewise ,a garden center with a rainy spring, an apparel retailer with a hotter summer than usual, a Halloween store with the holiday coming mid-week – all of these events will impact retailers’ cash flow differently.
September, however, is a particularly difficult time for virtually all retailers. As the summer draws to a close but the holidays are still a bit off, shopping slows. Fortunately, there are ways that you can maximize your cash flow in September by addressing common issues that arise during this time.
Now is a good time to really look at your open-to-buy and clear out slow sellers.
Get Over Back to School
Many retailers fall into the temptation of clinging to the back to school shopping season late into September by pushing items such as school supplies, items to outfit college dorms, and late summer-appropriate clothing. Back to School sales and promotions should have ended by the last week of August. The shoulder month of September is when you should be preparing your store for the rest of the fall and for the holidays.
As the holiday shopping season approaches it will be crucial that your store is well stocked with the most popular items. Making huge orders during September, however, can be devastating to your cash flow. Instead, make small periodic orders so that you are building up your stock without a tremendous cash outlay.
Avoid Slow Billing and Payments
September is not the time for extended flexible credit or offering layaway. Retailers should keep cash flow up by insisting on timely payments from all customers.
If you find yourself dealing with low cash flow during September try bartering instead of paying other small businesses with cash. Determine what you can offer them that they may need in exchange for services that they can provide for you. This can help you to get through the tense month a little stronger. I once bartered an entire sprinkler upgrade for a retailer using gift certificates.
(Learn more about bartering here)
Reduce Your Payroll
You are likely going to need extra help during the holidays, but with the slower shopping month of September upon you it can be extremely helpful to your cash flow to cut down on employees' hours while it is slow.
Cut Down on Inventory
The shopping season is coming, but fewer people shop during September as they, too, are preparing for the expenses of the coming gifting season. Offering a slimmer, less diversified inventory during this month will help to reduce the money you spend on your stock so you can prepare for the heavy ordering to come. Consider doing a physical inventory at the end of the month to get accurate counts for re-orders.
Focus on Specific Wholesalers
You are much more likely to spend more money if you work with several different suppliers. During the slim month of September limit your ordering to one or two strong wholesalers or suppliers so you can consolidate shipping charges and take advantage of combination offers.
A lot of retailers don’t give a second thought to their cash flow – until it is lacking. Use these six tips to manage your cash flow and financials in an orderly way.
Bob Phibbs is the Retail Doctor®, a best-selling author and speaker who has helped thousands of independent businesses compete. His new book, The Retail Doctor’s Guide to Growing Your Business has received praise from both Inc. magazine and USA Today and can be found at your local bookstore or ordered at http://www.retaildoc.com/guide. He and his work have been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Entrepreneur magazine. Questions? Contact Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org. This article was reprinted with permission of the author, Bob Phibbs, aka The Retail Doctor®. Read more articles by this author
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