Move your Store Forward with Stop, Start, Continue


We are going to talk about how NOW is the time to move your store forward and the best way to start. But first, a story.

It was 1993. I was managing Ann Taylor at City Center Mall in downtown Columbus. This mall is no longer around unfortunately but in its heyday, it was amazing. Three department stores flanked the entrances – Marshall Fields, Jacobsons, Lazarus. All three floors were filled with high end restaurants and specialty shops (think Gucci and Ralph Lauren boutiques). If you worked in this mall, you were the premier manager for your brand. High standards were expected if you wanted to run these high volume stores.

The Good Old Days as a Store Manager

My store was one of the highest volume Ann Taylor stores in the market. The Regional Manager’s office was in my backroom and to this day, she stands out as one of the best leaders I worked for in my retail career. I learned so much from her and looked forward to the days she was in her office working. Her image, her style, her way of engaging with store leaders – all behaviors I wanted to emulate.

We consistently beat our sales results (on down traffic I might add). It wasn’t easy to do and we had to get creative. In case you think down traffic is new to the 21st century, I have to tell you…each decade has had its own unique challenges for brick and mortar stores, even before eCommerce hit the scene. In 1993 no one knew who Amazon was and yet there were stores who struggled and even closed their doors. You have to keep up with customers changing expectations and always, always provide consistent, remarkable experiences. If you are running a mediocre store, it is hard to win.

Set the Standard

In an effort to create more sales, I designed a new wardrobing program for my customers. I would go to their house, sort through their closet advising what to keep and what to donate/pitch. Then we made an inventory list of what they needed to buy to update their wardrobe. The list was placed in the client book so when customers shopped, we had the list handy to ensure they purchased items that rounded out their wardrobe. Customers loved this free service. They edited what they owned and selected a few new pieces to refresh their wardrobe. The goal was to teach customers how to build wardrobes, not just buy pieces. We didn’t want anyone saying with a closet full of clothes that they had nothing to wear. This was one of the keys to beating our sales results. Why am I telling you this story?

Without Fail, We Assessed

Three times a year, I would complete a “Stop, Start, Continue” activity with my management team. We would evaluate all aspects of how our store operated from the windows to the cashwrap, fitting rooms, backroom, visual displays, even our client books. We discussed the client experience and how it could be better. Every detail was reviewed. We wrote down all the things we needed to STOP doing individually or as a team. Then we wrote down all the things we wanted to START doing to maximize our opportunities (& prioritized accordingly) and lastly we wrote down all the things we needed to CONTINUE doing in order to experience ongoing success. I did this for EVERY brand I worked for throughout my career.

This was relevant 26 years ago and it is relevant today. Thing is, you don’t have to be in retail to benefit from this activity. Whatever field you are in, this activity is vital to continue to grow as a leader, as a team, as a business. If you are in retail, this is an impactful way to improve your customer experience, store operations and achieve the sales results you desire; to move your store forward!

Time to Jump In & Complete your Stop, Start, Continue

In my last blog, I provided a Reflection Worksheet. This was a dual activity with a personal component and a reflection of your store. That activity sets the ground work for this one. If you missed it, click here for the worksheet.

Click here for the Stop, Start, Continue worksheet. Once you have completed the lists, prioritize and set specific actions along with timelines.

I have confidence in you. I know you can do this. It will not only grow you and your team; but when executed, it will move you forward. I am giving you the rest of January to complete this activity before launching more content! These can take time to thoughtfully complete. If you get stuck, email me. I am here to help…

With Joy,


p.s. if you like the post, please click “like” at the bottom of the blog! And remember, sharing is nice. If you know someone who can benefit from the content, tell them about Running Great Stores.

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