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Lesson #14: Plan, Plan, and Plan- And Then Plan on Changing The Plan

In order to keep my best-selling book fresh in my reader's mind, I am publishing daily Lessons from the book, Monday-Thursday. Please enjoy and if you haven't already the book, please check it out on Amazon. Thanks loyal reader!

A plan-o-gram is simply a schematic drawing of what the store will look like when it sets to open. You can compare it to a blueprint for architects or an owner’s manual for putting together a bike. Creating a plan-o-gram is essential for building out a store and one of the most difficult tasks of opening a new store.

The first part is the easy part: creating the store layout. I created six main aisles, an area in the back of the store for bulk items and the front of the store, which included the cash wrap and bulky paper items like diapers and toilet paper.

Aisle one included shopping carts, travel sizes (every deep discount store featured these, and it was amazing how many were sold), seasonal, and dental care. Aisle two was professional and retail hair care. Aisle three was pet, cleaning supplies, and household needs. Aisle four was candy, snacks, and featured items. Aisle five was vitamins, first aid, analgesics, and every other health category. Aisle six was cosmetics and fragrances. I built a special cosmetic counter for the diverted prestige cosmetics and fragrances.

The cash wrap was designed so that the customer would bring the cart to the cashier and the cashier would empty the cart. We did not allow the carts out of the store. When the customer had a large purchase, we took their shopping bags to their car.

Each aisle consisted of four-foot gondola sections. Each section had five shelves. So one gondola section had twenty feet for products. I had to determine product placement for every twenty-foot gondola section and there were more than a hundred.

Because of my experience at Cadillac Ace, I already had relationships with many manufacturers and met with them. They told me their best-selling products at competitive stores. But I had to establish meetings with lots more manufacturers that I never did business with. Not only did I need to select the initial product assortment, I also had to make opening orders. I opened direct accounts with over one hundred vendors including P&G, Lever Brothers (now Unilever), L’Oreal, Revlon, Maybelline, Hershey, M&M Mars, Colgate Palmolive, Beecham, Max Factor, Cover Girl, and Warner-Lambert just to name a few.

Once the product selection was completed, I then had to decide how much of each product to put on the shelf. One strategic decision I made early on is that GAYNORS would stock its SKUs on an ongoing basis and not sell deal-only goods. That meant buying goods at manufacturer list prices, and I countered that by buying heavy on deals. Finally, I was ready to complete the plano-gram, and I thought it was magnificent. Less than six months after opening I would learn that half the products would be discontinued and replaced with all new products.

Life Lesson Tip: Whether it’s a plan-o-gram, new product, or service, be flexible in the developmental stages so you can react quickly to market conditions and make changes without much risk to yourself. For example, if you are launching a new lip plumper, always buy the smallest quantity and pay more per piece. This limits your risks and allows you to make changes quickly.

Copyright 2024 by Larry Gaynor


Adam Harris was born in coal country, right in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains. His father, Gregory, worked the mines every day and came home to his best friend, Jim Beam. Gregory had many frie


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