Don't be afraid to ask for anything and don't take it personally if the answer is no. Some companies will do anything they can to help you, but remember that some companies have a larger marketing budget than others.
Your rep should be able to provide advice and/or physical support for anything from marketing and merchandising ideas, promotional activity, staff training – and not just information on the technical specifications of the product, but useful advice on how to actually sell it! You should have testers for all relevant products and you might be able to get a someone to come and sample products in-store for you. No one is better at selling a product than a representative of the brand themselves. Don't be intimidated by social media. Once you have everything set up it's actually a lot easier than you might think, and most companies are more than happy to provide images and ideas to tempt your followers and get them back into your store.
Every single Anniversary, Fairtrade Fortnight, Organic Month, Fathers/Mothers Day maybe even your Millionth Customer! Get your reps and suppliers to provide samples, handouts, in-store talks or customer one-to-one consultations. Get them to provide a competition prize so that you can capture email addresses for future marketing drives.
Work with your representatives to offer relevant promotional activity on key products. If you are offering a 20% discount on a product for a month, get a 20% discount from your supplier on all of your purchases of that product in that same month. Look for specialist agencies that represent innovative, high quality brands such as Health and Wholefood that offer buy-in promotions on various brands with a focus on products that are relevant to a current trend or season. If they are promoting a product on a 5+1 basis can you get a better deal if you buy 20? Can you buy your most popular products in larger quantities for a better margin? Don't be afraid to buy in three month's supply of your best selling products. Remember that you are making more margin on every sale. Ensure your staff are focused on selling that product and you will find that three month's supply can be sold in half the time!
Is there a store close by selling a similar product at half the price? Don't try and compete with them. If a consumer wants to buy product X from you purely because it's the cheapest one on your shelf they will eventually find a cheaper one elsewhere. Invest time in your customers to educate them on why your more expensive product X is the right product X for them. Work with brands that don't supply the mass-market, price-driven retailer. Every product on your shelf has a story and you need to make sure that your customer hears that story. Many of your skincare brands were created by someone that struggled with their own skin conditions. Many of your free-from grocery products were started by someone who needed something for a child with a special dietary requirement. Ensuring your customer hears this story puts a face to the brand and promotes brand loyalty. Customers that are loyal to a brand that is only available in your store are very valuable customers indeed.
Your industry is constantly evolving, and you need to be constantly looking for new, innovative products. As a product or category grows in popularity, multinational companies and mass-market multiple retailers take an interest. Enjoy the current trend whilst it lasts and accept that in some cases it will eventually end up your local multiple store. Work with brands that share your philosophy and are loyal to you. Look for sales agencies that share your vision and specialise in independent-exclusive brands such as Health and Wholefood who can make your search for 'the next big thing' easier.