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SNEWS Qs: Dan Mann talks strategies for healthy retailers and the Mann Group

SNEWS recently chatted with Dan Mann about The Mann Group's new initiatives and how retailers can get involved with them for a healthier business.

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Dan Mann has been a college professor, basketball coach and vice president of retail for Bachrach men’s clothing. But since 2003, when he founded the Mann Group, he’s guided hundreds of outdoor retailers to double-digit revenue increases through the firm’s training programs, assessments and consulting services.


With a focus on the outdoor, cycling and running industries, Mark Bastin, the company’s marketing guru, said the Mann Group “is driven to inspire leaders, influence change and impact profits.”

SNEWS recently chatted with Dan Mann about the Mann Group’s new initiatives — such as Mann U — and how retailers can get involved.

How has your background prepared you for the work you do with the Mann Group?
I led the largest privately owned mens’ apparel retailer in the U.S., through the mid-’90s to 2003. We had 75 stores in 26 states, a $25 million catalog business, as well as e-commerce. Each store generated between $900,000 and $5,000,000. So, I feel like I’ve managed 75 stores at all levels of growth, from $900,000 to $100 million dollars cumulative.

I focus on sports retail, selfishly, because I love mountain biking, hiking, camping, running and skiing.

Tell our readers about Mann U:
After attending our three-day program of structured courses and outdoor activities in Asheville, N.C., you will have impactful tools and understanding to inspire, lead and drive profitability in your store. Class size is limited, and focused on the leadership development of each participant.

The three days will be filled with insights on specialty retail leadership, retail tactics, retail profitability, small group interactions and season-specific outdoor activities in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. There are five modules focused on visionary leadership principles in the specialty retail industry and the direct correlation to profitability, and staff member productivity.

Who is right for the program?

TheLeadership and Profitability program is designed for specialty retail owners and management in the outdoor, cycling and running industries who are looking for a strategic vision and personal leadership skills for stronger and sustainable results.

Tell us about the Profitability Project.
Coming into its seventh year, The Profitability Project (or P2) is a business entity administered and nurtured by the Mann Group and partnered by the National Bicycle Dealers Association. Groups of 15-20 independent and non-competing bicycle shops share 27 KPIs (key profit indicators) through a proprietary algorithm on a monthly basis, share best practices and meet twice a year to review, network, brainstorm and analyze specific data. The result is a more profitable and efficient bike shop for each member.

How should retailers go about measuring their results after attending a Mann U?
Although specific KPIs are not in place, the leadership and analytical improvements will result in a more efficient and profitable store with higher employee retention and productivity.

What are some misconceptions retailers have about showrooming, and how can they take something negative and turn it into a positive?
The misconception is that consumers are attempting to cheat the retailers out of sales or that online retailers are playing unfairly. The reality is that — while some consumers are diligent about finding the absolute lowest price down to a nickel — most consumers are simply tired of going into stores and not being served. They are ignored, or met with indifference, or encounter associates who don’t have answers or just don’t care. These consumers are taking back their shopping experience. If we can’t offer a better shopping experience in person than a consumer can get with their smart phone, then we probably don’t deserve the sale.

How to turn it into a positive? Don’t avoid that customer. Go to them and offer any additional help you can, even if they still don’t buy. I feel so strongly about this that I chose this as my topic for a presentation at Interbike this fall.

Tell us about some common mistakes retailers make in current training methods?
1.) They don’t do it.

2.) They don’t recognize there are a variety of skills that they need to train. They fail to understand that the single most important skill set for a retail sale associate is customer service.

3.) Sales training must be tied to accountability, so the people who do the training must also follow up so they are accountable for results.

4.) They fail to create a culture of training that is ongoing, and get buy-in from the very top to every member of the sales staff.

How do your programs for retailers and wholesalers different?
In retail stores, we teach managers how to manage, how to lead and how to teach their staff to offer exceptional customer service. The net result of that approach is a measurable increase in top-line sales (17 percent average over the past 5 years). Our approach with manufacturers is to develop the ideal approach for rep behavior: Sell-in strategies, effective clinics and how to identify and remove obstacles to sell=through.

What are some other areas of training you focus on? I know you mentioned selling to women.
We offer the industry leading training program: GEAR. It’s specific to running, outdoor or cycling. We have a one-of-a-kind 20-group-type of program for cycling in P2 (Profitability Project). We have helped organizations in all our industries to better serve the women’s market and the woman shopper. We do visual merchandising, all branding strategies and implementation, buying strategies, social media tactics, strategic planning, store design and product development. We do a significant amount of sales rep development and sales process development.

Why would you say people would rather buy from other people?
Customers like a connection. It’s why we gravitate toward communities of like-minded people who share our interest. When we find people who share our passion — and are also experts in the product and willing to help us — we are combining those key elements: credibility and rapport. It feels good, and we believe we’re getting good advice.

Does it work? 
We have uncovered the single most effective method for training adults. We also understand that the most important element of adult training is securing “buy-in.” If you don’t have buy-in, you won’t have behavior change. That’s why our programs are successful. We like measuring success in the most simple of metrics: top-line sales increase and bottom-line profit increase.