Every year, Eastern National reviews sales performance at our park stores and assesses the causes for sales results. When sales are up, it’s easy to point to increases in park visitation. When sales are down, we can often identify the impact of weather as one of the causes. Unfortunately, park visitation and weather are outside of our control. While we have many strategies to “weatherproof” our sales goals, it can be a challenge to evaluate what percent return on mission or money investment was made for each individual strategy. If sales increase 10 percent over prior year, what percent is because of new items? A new store design? Limiting out of stocks on best sellers? This year, Eastern National is conducting a “Grow Sales Evaluation” to study how internal factors affect our business and how we can use data to better drive results.
The Grow Sales Evaluation is a formal, yearlong program evaluation in which we study 14 America’s National Parks stores, capture data, and use our findings to help inform the future of park store operations, based on our strategic goals. Park stores at Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park and Boston National Historical Park at Bunker Hill are serving as our control group. The remaining 12 stores in the study have had one or more variables applied to their operation. Over a period of five months, we are capturing quantitative and qualitative data to measure how the variables affect store operations compared to our control sites and the trends seen for the rest of the America’s National Parks stores. During the evaluation period, we are also monitoring external factors such as park visitation, weather trends, business interruption, and store closures.
We are measuring the impact from the following:
- brand implementation
- inventory replenishment training and tracking
- product mix assortment planning and new item development
- store design renovations
The park stores at Cape Hatteras National Seashore and Lincoln Home National Historic Site are serving as our “Next Generation” of America’s National Parks stores. For these two locations, all variables are being applied and managed by a team of subject-matter experts in marketing, product development, and merchandising.
The data capture formally began April 28 and will end September 28. We are building a data visualization dashboard and look forward to showing initial results later this summer. Some early results show that during the evaluation period, 50 percent of the locations are trending above 2018 for the same time period. The two variables that seem to be driving the highest results compared to the past two years are brand implementation and inventory replenishment.
With the recent re-opening of the America’s National Parks Store at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, we anticipate the Next Generation stores to begin to take off soon. What we learn from this study will affect future sales budgets and investments in training and store operations, allow us to make better data-driven decisions for specific internal processes, and give us a foundation for future back-office reporting as we plan the implementation of the retail ERP system.
This work supports our strategic priorities to improve the merchandise life cycle, develop talent, and grow sales. We look forward to sharing the comprehensive results with you later this year, and we are very grateful to our staff and partners who are part of this exciting evaluation.
Together We Climb!