Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Changes at Crossroads

Considering the economic challenges our country has wrestled with over this past year as well as the ones specific to Christian retail, we actually ended 2008 better than I had expected. Our staff did a good job under challenging circumstances and God proved once again that He is always faithful. It's a new year and we're making some adjustments at Crossroads that will allow us to be an effective and self-supporting ministry. The primary areas in which we're making adjustments are staffing, hours of operation and inventory.

Studying when customers are buying showed us where we could adjust our hours of operation to convert to a single shift operation thus allowing us to reduce the number of staff required to deliver service to the customer. Beginning February 1, we'll be open from 9:30 AM until 6:30 PM Monday through Saturday, shaving a half hour off in the morning and an hour and a half in the evening when sales have been the slowest. By having the same staff on duty most of the time that we're open, we'll be able to better deliver consistent service to our customers while achieving a significant and necessary reduction in our labor expense. The unfortunate consequence of this is that we'll have to eliminate some valuable staff members, at least for a time. As the economy improves and we continue to become more effective in meeting customer needs, I'm hopeful that we'll be able to expand our staff. There's nothing I regret more than having to lay-off staff but, in this case, it's unavoidable if we're to remain a viable ministry.

Another change is eliminating products categories that customers tell us (by how they buy or, more correctly, don't buy) that are no longer as important. Evaluating and adjusting inventory is something we do continuously. Eliminating whole categories of products is less common. One change will be the elimination of clergy apparel via a clearance sale. It's not that this is an unimportant resource but customer buying habits have changed over time and this is an example of where we have significant capital tied-up but from which customers are buying much less often. Good stewardship requires us to free up capital for the products that customers tells us that they need and want.

Tightening our belt in these ways is actually going to improve service to our customers by allowing us to focus more of our resources in the areas that customers tell us are most important to them. If financial resources were not a factor, we might have more staff , be open longer hours and carry a broader selection of products. The unfortunate reality is that we can't do all that and still pay the bills so these adjustments are designed to meet the maximum needs and still allow our ministry to the community to remain viable and self-supporting. We realize not all of these adjustments will be popular with every customer but we want to know what you think. Please take a moment to share your thoughts in the comments section below this post.

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