Owning a “Zombie” retail store…

It was one of my first retail businesses. And I still wince when I think about the circumstances I dealt with.

Whenever someone starts a new business or is chosen to run one the hopes are usually pretty high. Sometimes there’s the thought of multiple locations, sometimes there’s the thought of a singly highly successful location. Either way you’re looking towards a future of good times.

You’re looking forward to providing well for yourself and your family. You’re looking forward to being prideful over what you’ve accomplished. And so it becomes that much more painful when your business doesn’t meet your expectations.

It would have been much simpler if the sales were so bad that it would have made the decision easy to just say screw it– let’s just close the doors and move on.

But no. It wasn’t that simple.

You see sales weren’t awful, they weren’t great, but they weren’t awful. It was like there was a carrot dangling in front of me, enticing me to keep the doors open and things would get better.

I had a “zombie” business. It was neither living nor dead. My mood would swing from happy (“Hey, I know I’m going to figure this out and take this business to the next level”) to despair (“No matter what I do, I can barely nudge the sales needle forward far enough to make a difference”).

If I knew then what I know now I would have been out of the “zombie” stage pretty quickly. But I didn’t know then what I know now. And I compounded my problems back then by losing hope and I stopped looking for answers.

I hear and see the same thing from retailers today who are either owners or managers of “zombie” furniture stores. I sense their frustration. They believe they’ve tried all that they can in order to increase business, but most of the time they’ve actually only tried a small number of things.

I’ve always said that it’s much easier dealing with a business that was flat out failing. It was much easier to chart the path of closing your doors… but a business that facilates between “good” and “not good?” It’s much harder to manage. One day you’re thinking about closing the doors, a few days later you’re thinking how good sales are and you’re sure that you’ve “turned the corner” only to find out that this was just a brief blip of hope.

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