Books Review April 2009

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Retail business kitRetail Business kit for Dummies, 2nd Edition
Author: Rick Segel
Publisher: Wiley, September 2008
Pages: 408
Price: $34,99

Downward slanting sales; a depleted customer base; constant stress, worry and hand wringing — these are the symptoms of “recessionitis,” says international retail expert Rick Segel. His advice: start maximizing your customers at every opportunity throughout the recession and beyond. That means “getting the most out of them every time they come to your store,” explains Segel, author of Retail Business Kit for Dummies®. It means suggesting more ideas or products before they check out; selling your loss leaders/promotional goods, as well as your better merchandise; collecting as much data about your customers as possible; and getting your salespeople focused on saying and doing the right things every time.

In Retail Business Kit for Dummies®, Segal offers the following tips:
• Sell the customer as much as possible, then some more, using four magic words: Did you see this? 
• Become a relentless data collector. Ask customers what they do to find out what they might be likely or able to buy from you. Collect their contact information so that you can send them information about your store. 
• Keep in touch with your customers. Beyond letting your customers know about upcoming sales or price notices, give them every reason to remember that you’re out there and to feel connected to you.
• Do whatever it takes to keep customer referrals coming.  Create a customer-referral program in which the customer doing the referring and the person referred receive a reward.
• Use coupons. Dollar amounts let customers immediately know what their savings would be, whereas with a percentage they might have to take a second to calculate it.
• “Bounce them back” into your store. Offer your customer a percentage of his current purchase in a coupon that must be used within a tight time frame.
• Get your customers to sing your praises and record their arias. Frame the picture and testimonial and hang them in your store; put it on your Web site; or use it in a mailing piece that goes out to your customers. 
• Turn your customers into research sleuths. Ask where they’ve been shopping and what interesting merchandise or clever sales or promotions they’ve seen. 
• Seek out anonymous feedback via customer-service surveys.
• Create a customer advisory board that meets with you about four times a year.

 

No Matter what!No Matter What! 9 Steps to Living the Life You Love
By Lisa Nichols
Wellness Central/Grand Central Publishing
April 2009
288 pp., $24.99

If you’ve read books in the Chicken Soup for the African American Soul series, then you’re familiar with the uplifting spirit and messages of Lisa Nichols. In No Matter What! Nichols continues to offer readers advice on spiritual strength. In this personal-growth guide, she identifies ways of harnessing what she calls “bounce-back muscles” — self-empowering character traits so to speak — to help you move “toward the life you want and deserve.” Nichols has no qualms about sharing her personal experiences. She recalls various situations she’s dealt with in her life and how each one — the positive and the negative  —have helped her to strengthen her “muscles” to overcome challenges and achieve mental and spiritual fulfillment. Each chapter includes Inspired Action Steps, practices and exercises that will develop the Understanding Muscle, Faith-in-Myself Muscle, Determination Muscle, and the six other Muscles you have to work on to make your life as rewarding as you desire it to be.

The book of night womenThe Book of Night Women
By Marlon James
Riverhead, February 2009
417 pp., $26.95

As with James’s debut, John Crow’s Devil, his second novel, The Book of Night Women, also takes place in his native Jamaica. In this haunting tale, which is set in the 1800s, an enslaved group of women meet clandestinely — hence the name of the sisterhood and book title — to learn to read and to plot their freedom, as they are all workers on a sugar plantation. An engrossing parallel plot line of this harsh, imaginative story involves Lilith, a 15-year-old girl who is a daughter of the plantation’s overseer, who comes to realize that she’s not so special or as different from the other slaves as she thinks. While the characters and the actions in James’ storytelling are first rate in every sense, it’s also the dialect — the broken, nonstandard English — that makes this novel both challenging and captivating.