Merchandising

Don’t sell yourself short

Whether you like it or not, veterinary practices are also retailers, so now is the time to turn your austere waiting room into a moneymaker.

Don’t sell yourself short
A captive audience is such a rare commodity in the distraction-filled, hyperspeed world we live in. But you have one. You literally have retail magic just waiting to happen.

You are a retailer. Surprised? Don’t be.

Many veterinary practitioners have incredible revenue potential they have yet to unlock, and it is sitting right in front of them in the waiting room. It’s not the patients. It’s the retail store they have yet to fully open for business.

Though I was born into veterinary medicine, living above my family’s practice, I needed years to find my calling in the community. While I was on my journey home, I spent many good years working with Fortune 500 and 1000 retail companies, helping them determine how to drive more people into stores, how to keep the customers shopping longer, and how to persuade customers to make a purchase.

These companies would invest tens of millions of dollars to figure out the science of the sale. They know that even the smallest change in shelf location, visibility, height, color or air temperature could result in tens of thousands of dollars of incremental profit in just one item for sale, let alone throughout the entire store.

Good retailers are successful because they know the secret. If they can get folks into their stores, they have a high probability of making a sale. Getting them in is 90 percent of the battle. You already have that battle won.

What Are You Forgetting?

When I first tell veterinarians that they are also retailers, I often get a confused look. But the cold truth is that retail is one of the most overlooked areas of potential profit in the practice, yet one of the most underutilized.

It makes sense why. You are a veterinarian running a busy practice, and you have no time to start thinking about additional inventory, SKUs or product mix. You probably think there is barely room for a food display or brochure holder, let alone a fish bowl holding complimentary dog treats. Right?

But the reality is that a veterinary practice can drive major incremental revenue, when done correctly, by adding a few key retail items.

And you can do all this while maintaining a relatively small footprint, or sometimes using no waiting room real estate at all.

Here’s why doing this is worth serious consideration:

  • The biggest challenges that traditional stores have in selling products is not in the actual sale. The largest hurdles are getting folks into the store, grabbing their attention and getting them to stay — the longer they shop, the more they are inclined to buy. Your practice has a huge advantage in this regard.
  • Your clients likely will have to wait for some period after their arrival. They have the time to look around, stare, observe, kill time. You have their undivided attention.

A Captive Audience

One old saying in the retail world is that in-store is still the only place in the world where products, people and their money are all in the same place at the same time. A captive audience is such a rare commodity in the distraction-filled, hyperspeed world we live in. But you have one. You literally have retail magic just waiting to happen.

While traditional retailers scratch their heads over how to get someone through the front door, this major obstacle is mitigated for you by default. Your clients are coming in regardless, and now you have a wonderful, captive audience ready to do some buying if they are engaged, enlightened and educated. That’s a beautiful thing.

So, now that you are opening up to the idea of being a retailer, how do you go about putting together a product mix that your clients will respond to, doesn’t take up much of your valuable, limited space and doesn’t take another employee to manage?

Follow these steps to build a solid foundation that will deliver profit:

  1. Choose a product mix that is pet focused but not necessarily pet necessary. Think about what you sell now — perhaps food, ID collars, medications. These are “have to haves.” But think about the “want to haves.” Reverse the role and put yourself in the waiting room. What would grab your attention?
  2. Place a “Dr. Recommended” tag on items. If your clients trust you, they trust your endorsement and will buy from you.
  3. Choose products that are not necessarily available in big-box stores. The idea is to not try to compete with retailers that sell the same products at better prices, but to bring in something new or different. Doing this will allow you to make more margins on these types of offerings. This is key.
  4. Work with vendors that can help with just-in-time inventory. This means having a particular product on display, a couple in the back room and the ability to have the vendor ship directly to the client or to you within 24 hours of depletion. Often times, these are higher margin products like custom leather leashes or collars that can be personalized. Local artisans may be an excellent source of one-of-a-kind items, and places like Etsy.com are fabulous for these special products or gifts. You often can work with artisans so that you become an exclusive retailer for their fantastic products.
  5. Utilize your staff. Talk to all team members about which products they would want to see if they were on the other side of the counter. They will always think of something you have not, so reward them for their efforts. They are adding to your bottom line every day.

Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way

If you are concerned about not having retail space, don’t be. Not every product has to be in one spot. Use wall space to hang products, or display them under the front counter.

Do you know a good handyman? Some of the best product presentations I have seen start with a custom-built, inexpensive display, shelf or hanger specifically designed for a small spot. A handyman can interpret your vision and help find a way to make you more money.

Retail products make up some of the most profitable transactions a hospital sees, so figuring out where to put them is absolutely necessary.

Think of the convenience store model. Retailers like 7-Eleven have what you need or want, when you need it, and you don’t think twice about paying more for it. Many of these shoppers have more money than time. You deserve these kind of revenue streams.

Practices today have lost many of the income sources that used to be guaranteed. Remember the days of exclusivity within your pharmacy? Therapeutic food lines that were sold only through you? For most, those days are long gone. But developing and executing a retail strategy that offers high-margin, gotta-have-now products will inject cash into your bank account and help you work smarter, not just harder, to achieve more financial freedom.

A river of revenue is hiding in your waiting room. Don’t hesitate to unlock its potential, even if you think merchandising is too complicated or time consuming. Whether or not you choose to embrace product sales, you are a retailer.

Now comes the big question: Is your store open for business?

Dan Truffini is the founder of DVM Profit Zone. Learn more at www.dvmprofitzone.com.

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