It's not sales you want to worry about, mate...

Laura Tennison.jpgNew figures revealed today by the Office for National Statistics have confirmed what business owners on high streets across the country already knew: retail sales are falling.According to the figures, sales growth during the three months to September was at its slowest since 2006, while overall, sales have dropped by 0.4%.Is sales the main issue retailers need to be worrying about, though? We interviewed Laura Tenison, founder of maternity and babywear retailer Jojo Maman Bébé, last week – and she said her sales had actually risen.“My biggest concern is not sales – our sales are very, very healthy,” she said. “One thing that does happen in a recession is people get made redundant and when they get made redundant they think well, I was a career girl but now’s a good time to have a baby so actually, traditionally, the birth rate goes up a bit in a recession.”Laura made the point that instead of concentrating on sales, retailers should be worrying about keeping their profit margins high – and that means keeping costs low.“We’ve got to look at the worst case scenario: How much of our stock are we forward buying? Could we limit our risk by committing to 2,000 metres of fabric, but only making up 500 pieces of stock? Because if that style doesn’t sell as well as predicted, then we’ve only committed to the value of the fabric stock and not the make-up. These are the types of things that you do need to spend more time on.”Retailers need to adopt the mantra of ‘little and often’ to prevent themselves from being caught short at a time when a good cashflow is more crucial than ever. To paraphrase an oft-quoted idiom: look after the margins, and the sales will look after themselves.

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