Problem solver: High-quality seafood will be key to hooking customers
Q: I have worked in the fish retail industry as an employee for the last 10 years. I am considering opening my own shop and would like some advice.
A: Fish shops are enjoying increased popularity in recent years. Standards are improving and in many the level of innovation is quite high, with added-value dishes making it easier for the consumer to cook. I have even noticed that some of the supermarkets seem to have upped their game with the quality of fish.
Seafood was something we were always passionate about in Superquinn and we prided ourselves in linking back to the ports where the fish were landed and the boats they came from. What your customers are going to look for from you is that passion and expertise together with strong attention to detail.
The bar has definitely been raised in seafood retailing. You will need to approach this with a view to being the "best in the market place". Customers now want to be inspired. They want help with cooking ideas and in some cases they want to buy added-value products which make the cooking process easier.
I am sure you are also well aware that many seafood shops are now producing some cooked and ready-to-eat products - ranging from great seafood salads, to gourmet fish and chips.
You will need to think big and research thoroughly on the domestic and international market before you open your doors. BIM have very strong expertise in seafood retailing and it would be a good idea to get in touch with them.
Q: I run a medium-sized business. If I only have €6000 for the year to spend promoting my business, where should I spend it?
A: My advice would be to concentrate a good portion in the digital arena but to accompany it with other tools that work for your sector. That could include paid-for boosts, ad words and ensuring that your in-house expertise in maximising your reach is in place. You must have a skilled member of your team in this arena.
Apart from just one choice, there are a few other areas I would explore. Text marketing if used correctly can have powerful effects. Take care that you personalise the wording that you do and ensure that the frequency is not too high so as not to annoy your customers.
I was not a fan of email marketing, however I am being given increasing examples where businesses have had big success with this. An online retail company recently told me that if they don't send out a monthly newsletter, highlighting new products and some promotional offers, their sales will drop by 20pc. Fascinating!
Q: I have been running a new café for the last 18 months, and while sales are good, I am really struggling to make a profit and recently have had to put extra personal savings into the business. Where can I go for help?
A: This sounds like a real problem and you need to react quickly. Finding the source of the dilemma in a loss-making business involves a lot of forensic detective work.
I am ruling low sales out as a cause of the problem. Wages is the next area to probe and you need to review staffing levels and your wage percentage. If your labour is too high, it will eat up all the profitability. Fáilte Ireland have good guidelines on their website as to what your wage percentage should be. Looking at your gross margins will be another key action. If you are not making enough profit on the individual products, then there will not be enough to pay the wages and other overheads. Typically cafes should run at a gross margin of somewhere between 65pc and 70pc in order to support all of the other costs that need to be accounted for. Are you calculating a live gross margin on a weekly basis? Are your retail prices set correctly? Are you staff careful about portion control?
Finally, you need to review all of the control procedures especially those centred on the checking in of goods, the management of cash and tills, recording waste, etc.
I realise that there is a huge amount involved in what I have just set out. I would recommend you talk to your Local Enterprise Office and request a number of sessions with a mentor with expertise in this area, who can help you with the task in hand and return the business to profitability quickly.
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