In Retail Truths, Chip Averwater distills 40 years of hard-won experience into 380 highly readable pages
...instead of banal generalities, he offers specific and detailed suggestions that will resonate with anyone who has spent time in the industry.
Averwater acknowledges that all retail businesses are inherently fragile; modest profit margins leave a "frighteningly small" margin for error. Success comes to those who master a host of details. He explains, "Competition assures that differences between stores are small. Products are similar, sometimes identical; pricing is close; policies, methods, and hours are indistinguishable. Yet the shopper must choose. But on what criteria? With so much the same, little is left but details: location, decor, displays, signage, organization, cleanliness, knowledge and politeness of salespeople, speed of check-out, ease of return, and a thousand other mundane—but critical—details."
In the subsequent 380 pages, he provides an exhaustive list of the critical details that separate stellar performers from the casualties, and his insights are invariably on the mark. On the need for fiscal prudence, he writes, "A store needs profits, not so the owners or investors can winter in the Caribbean but to grow inventories, expand locations, add personnel, or upgrade systems." Are bigger stores better? He observes, "An abundance of space indulges our tendencies to disorganization. What we usually need isn't more space, but purchase planning and inventory management. Efficiency is seldom fun but always rewarding."
Based on long personal experience, Averwater concludes that a good salesperson can easily be five times as productive as a laggard, and says high-priced salespeople "are an expense we want." In a lengthy segment devoted to personnel, he offers a blueprint for hiring and retaining those top performers—from how to screen out undesirables in the hiring process ("Less than one in 20 job applicants is a suitable candidate") to maintaining high morale ("A manager's words resonate for a while then fade. Incentives speak with every paycheck.") Experience is valuable, he says, but he cautions against running a business on "gut feel." "The difference between profit and loss is almost always too narrow to sense without exact numbers. Trends become clear only when we make them numeric."
Averwater modestly suggests to readers that "As I pass my lessons on to you, you will have to test each one for yourself—truths ring true only with experience." We suspect that Retail Truths will ring true to any thoughtful practitioner of store management.
—The Music Trades, April 2012
Perspectives: Retail Truths
Chip Averwater has packaged 427 quick-hitting ideas into a book called Retail Truths: The Unconventional Wisdom of Retailing (ABB Press). It should become a dog-eared companion to anyone who hopes to succeed in this business. Each "truth" is no longer than a few hundred words, making the book an incredibly quick read. That is, if you don't stop to ponder, question and visualize how it applies to your company. In Retail Truths, Averwater makes you think with each and every turn.
I got stopped from the get-go on "truth" No. 2: "It's not whether we can do it; it's whether we can do it best." Simple enough. Of course, it's true. But in explaining the idea, Averwater delivers a hammer point.
"Each shopper chooses only one store for his purchase, the one he feels offers the best value — not just quality and price but convenience, selection, security, atmosphere, etc.
"The winner takes all. Second place gets nothing, no matter how great the effort or how close the race."
Retail Truths is packed with this kind of honest, straight-up assessment of the infinitely complex world of successful retailing — from selling to profits, from hiring and training to accounting and cash flow, from operating multiple stores to leadership. You can come back to it any time you've got a few minutes or when you've got a business issue you need to solve. Retail Truths is a book you'll be reading and adapting to your business for years.
—Music Inc, March/April 2012
A Reading List for Retailers
A selection of books guaranteed to inform, entertain, and enlighten
Retail Truths: The Unconventional Wisdom of Retailing, by Chip Averwater
Chip ... is a third generation retailer who has spent 38 years building his own stores while generously helping other retailers with theirs.
You really should get this book. It's got a ton of street-smart retailing insights and business savvy. It's 427 quick lessons straight from the trenches...
You don't have to read it all at once. It's in nice little bites that you can absorb easily. Buy it on Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com. You're going to love it.
—Bob Popyk, May 2012
Advice Gathered Over 90 Years Helps Antiques Dealers
Most available retailing information is boilerplate about accounting and management practices, which provides little help in running our businesses day-to-day. Consequently, we have nowhere to turn for help except the advice of friends, colleagues and Web forums. Ouch.
I recently had a nice chat with Chip Averwater, author of "Retail Truths, The Unconventional Wisdom of Retailing." Chip is a third-generation retailer. Ninety years of family retailing brings a lot of experience to the table, and with it a lot of wisdom. About twelve years ago, Chip started to write down what he considered to be the "truths" of retailing. A retail "truth" is something that can only be discovered through experience. You can't learn these truths in business school Learning these requires enrollment in the school of hands-on retailing.
... I can tell you that most of what Averwater says applies to antiques trading—and retailing in general, actually. The book lists 427 truths about retailing.
Let me share with you 10 of my favorite "truths," and let's see how they might help you improve your antiques business...
—Wayne Jordan, Antiques Trader, Feb 2012
Review: Retail Truths
I have a tendency to speed-read and skim certain sections when reviewing books. But once in a while you encounter a really engrossing book that makes you want to reread lines over and over again because of the inherent truths buried in those words. I had that experience with "Retail Truths: The Unconventional Wisdom of Retailing" by Chip Averwater, who discusses nearly four decades of experience in running his family's fourth-generation musical instrument store.
In "Retail Truths," Averwater offers over 400 individual insights for running a retail business. He looks into almost every issue that pertains to retailing such as dealing with vendors and manufacturers, planning store layouts, engineering quality customer service, competing with the competition, hiring the right staff, and even dealing with bankers. Lest you think these lessons are mere ideas, Averwater provides an example in many of the 427 lessons from his own experience.
...small business owners who are looking for an insightful yet easily digestible manual of practical retail knowledge they can easily apply to their own businesses, you can't go very wrong with this book. It doesn't matter if you run a small, family-run hardware, store, electronics store, or even a coffee shop - this book is going to be invaluable to you. I say this as a newly-minted F&B entrepreneur myself.
I know for a fact I'll be constantly referring to "Retail Truths" in the course of my business.