Behind the Counter: Lessons in Retail Growth from Scrubs Boutique and More

We’re excited to put the spotlight on Scrubs Boutique and More, a multi-store retailer that specializes in scrubs for medical practitioners and other professionals.

Established about four years ago, the business now has six stores in three states. Customers have also commended Scrubs for being a “one-stop shop,” thanks to the fact that they always carry what shoppers want.

We caught up with Horacio Montiel, General Manager of Scrubs Boutique and More, and asked him to share the lessons he learned from growing and running the business.

Check out what he has to say.

Going back to the basics

“[We always] try to work on the basics,” he says. “And what are for me the basics? Believe it or not, to open the store [on time].” Horacio called out companies who don’t respect their customers’ time, adding that this practice is detrimental to a business.

“It’s so frustrating, for example, when you hire a guy to do some electrical work at your store and they don’t show. Or they arrive six hours late. Things like that. So I think that one of the things we have going for us, is we always open on time.”

Horacio also brought up store cleanliness — another basic element that several stores don’t get right. He adds that he often sees big name merchants with messy stores and it makes him wonder why the locations are kept that way.

Meanwhile, he and his team at Scrubs Boutique strive to keep their location organized, saying that he wants to have a store that “people can rely on.”

Key takeaway

Are you on top of basic best practices? Keeping the store organized and opening on time may seem obvious — and they are. Yet, some retailers fail to do them regularly. Don’t be one of them.

In his Vend webinar, retail expert Kevin Graff says that you need to demand compliance on your company’s standards. Identify your store’s minimum, non-negotiable behaviors (i.e., showing up on time, wearing the uniform correctly, etc.) and make sure your entire team adheres to those standards.

According to Kevin:

You have the right to run your store the right way… And you’re not being a big bad bully or a nasty boss [when you say,] ‘Look, we’re going to operate this store with a higher degree of pride. We’re going to run this thing the way it’s supposed to be run.’

Nobody’s going to argue with you about that. Getting your staff to say, ‘Ok, I’m going to show up on time’ or ‘I’m going to wear my uniform the way it’s supposed to be worn’… none of these are particularly challenging.

Watch that segment below and take action to ensure that your minimum standards are met.

Stocking up on what shoppers want

According to Horacio, one key action that led to a 14 to 20% growth in the business was stocking up on more affordable merchandise. Previously, Scrubs Boutique only stocked high-value products and didn’t cater to shoppers looking for inexpensive items.

“People were coming into the store saying that if we didn’t have any scrubs for $10, they can just go to Walmart or a similar store. And I used to think, ‘Ok, go there.’ But then I realized that I was being stupid. Because there’s an entire market for $10 scrubs and people were leaving our store unsatisfied because we lacked the proper stock.”

At that point, Horacio realized that he was losing business by not catering to the lower end of his market. So, he incorporated inexpensive brands into his assortment, and doing so so grew the business by up to 20%.

Key takeaway

Do you find that many of your customers leave your store empty-handed? Did someone walk in searching for a particular brand, color, or size but couldn’t find the item in your store?

If these are common occurrences for you, then you may want to rethink your assortment and merchandising strategy. Consider testing new products or brands in your store and see where that leads.

Proper inventory planning is key

Regarding inventory management, Horacio emphasized the importance of analyzing your sales and inventory. He adds that one of the biggest values they’ve gotten from Vend was the ability to get the sales and inventory information that they need to plan their assortments.

Every six to twelve months, Horacio downloads all the sales transactions from their stores to see what’s selling. He then analyzes the trends around colors, sizes, and styles and then makes the necessary forecasts.

Horacio has what he calls an “inventory policy,” which is an Excel template that contains their SKUs and the quantities they need to have. When it’s time to order new inventory, he looks at the products they have on hand, compares it with his inventory policy, and then stocks up accordingly.

“I try to have something for everyone,” he adds. “I have most of the sizes and colors for the affordable brands, but I also make the sure that there’s a great selection for the high-value brands.”

“So, when someone stops at the store, they always have options. If they are looking for something inexpensive, they go immediately to the racks of the promos or the affordable brands. And if they are looking for something nice and soft and trendy, they go with the value brand.”

Key takeaway

Make it a point to analyze your sales and inventory. Generate the necessary reports, and dig into the data to figure out what you should stock up on. These reports may include:

  • Inventory on hand
  • Low stock
  • Product performance report
  • Sales summary
  • Sales report per product or category
  • Sales report per customer or customer group

Being customer-centric is not about spoiling the customer

Horacio makes it a point to understand their customers and works hard to serve them well.

However, he also notes that providing great services to your customers isn’t the same as spoiling them.

“I think many businesses confuse customer service with pandering shoppers irresponsibly,” he says. “For example, our store once had a customer who tried on 16 scrub tops while wearing makeup, thus ruining the items that she tried on. But then the staff just allowed her to do it.”

“When I stopped by the store and learned what happened, I challenged my employees, and told them that the next time something like that happens, they should speak up and tell the customer to be careful.”

Horacio also brought up their inventory policy. “We have our policies on our receipts, and we have a sign next to the cashier. So if someone comes in three months after buying a product and tries to return it without the tags attached, we’re not going to honor that return.”

Horacio emphasizes that retailers need to make a profit, and they won’t be able to do that if they irresponsibly pandering to the shopper.

Key takeaway

Balance customer service with fairness to your business and your staff. Giving in to unreasonable will hurt your business and keep you from serving your other amazing shoppers. Come up with fair policies in your store and stick to them.

Further Reading

Want more information on critical metrics? Download Vend’s Retail KPIs guide, a resource that gives you a deep look at the numbers you should be tracking in your business.

Download the guide and you will:

  • Learn which metrics can help you make smarter forecasts and decisions
  • Discover the formulas that’ll help you identify your KPIs so you can start measuring your way to the top
  • Wise up on the metrics that you need to track, and know exactly when and how to measure them

Learn More

Want to share your story?

If you’d like to be featured on the Vend Retail Blog, we’d love to hear from you! Send an email to francesca [at] vendhq [dot] com, to get the ball rolling.

About Francesca Nicasio

Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.