5 Blunders That Kill Retail Sales
Can I Help You?
We've all experienced that overzealous salesperson who thinks they're helping you when all you really want to do is browse. Shopping malls used to be prime real estate for franchises that lent familiarity and comfort to shoppers. In the era of declining sales, the kiosks with commissioned salespeople may have done their part in running off business.
Nothing tends to aggravate a customer like an aggressive employee who insists you will love their latest fragrance and sprays it on you without your permission. On the other hand, the snobbery of the elite in cosmetic counters is a well-known deterrent.
Striking a happy medium between offensive behavior and smug condescension is a tough call.
Sticks and Stones
Along that line, in some retail outlets there are clerks whose primary role is to stock the shelves. They are not interested in customers who want to touch, feel or otherwise manhandle the precious merchandise they've so carefully arranged. The way to truly deter a shopper is to allow these territorial employees to interact with customers.
If you've ever been told by a sales clerk that "customers are stupid," that means you are no exception. There is no quicker way to lose a potential sale than to insult the shopper. Once at a large retail outlet, I asked for help finding merchandise in a different size. I was told, "If the customers weren't so stupid, they'd put stuff back where it belongs." With that, the gentleman reached behind some things on the shelf, found what I was looking for and shook it at me. Before I could take a look, he tucked it into its proper place on the shelf. Score one lost sale.
Don't Touch the Merchandise
Another thing that store clerks do to deter sales is take the product out of the shopper's hands. In sales basics, the aspiring salesperson is taught that the ideal way to gain the customer's interest is to place the product in their hands. That experience allows the customer to feel the packaging, read the label on the product, and reach an approval of whatever made them pick up an item to begin with.
For a salesperson to take that item out of their hands and return it to its proper place on the shelf is tantamount to saying, "Don't touch the merchandise." Many shoppers will comply with this and walk away empty handed.
Paper or Plastic?
Sometimes we find ourselves shopping at resale shops or non-traditional places like flea markets, thrift stores, or garage sales. These are not the ideal places to expect proper packaging yet, when an attempt is made to bag up the purchase it must follow certain guidelines.
Shopping at a local resale shop, I found the perfect item to add to my collection of useless bric-a-brac and dust collectors. The retail shop owner was behind the counter eating her lunch, a noxious burger loaded with pungent onions, when I decided to check out and pay for my item. With greasy hands, she took the item from me, emptied her Burger King bag of its remaining French fries and placed my purchase in the stained and odoriferous bag.
Packaging is important. It's what allows the finer department stores to claim the higher prices. They carefully fold the item of clothing, wrap it in tissue paper and insert it into a clean and beautifully decorated bag emblazoned with their logo. To enhance customer loyalty, they use shopping bags with elegant handles to package up the items.
Items on Display
Items used for display need to be of the highest quality. While shopping at a retail outlet I noticed a display dress suspended from the ceiling of the store. Running along the length of the dress bottom was a large stain that looked like it might be blood. Instantly, I assumed that their merchandise was either previously worn and returned by customers or used by employees before being sold. In either case, it was not appealing in a retail clothing store selling new merchandise.
According to Bloomberg, 8 out of 10 entrepreneurs who start businesses fail within the first 18 months. A whopping 80% crash and burn."
The salon below was open only months before they closed their doors for good.
For the standalone stores that are on the rise, the need for adequate, safe and convenient parking is key. When I owned a store on an historic downtown square, street parking was seriously limited.
It was amazing to discover that many of the shop owners parked their personal vehicle in one of the two designated spaces at the frontage of their stores. One innovative store owner decided to park in the adjacent shop owner's allotted spaces. Her plan backfired when the other shop owner started parking in the first shop owner's space in retaliation. Neither solution benefited their intended clientele.
Most customers want convenient access in a spot near the store. Without that, they are likely to shop at other locations that offer adequate parking.
Allergies seem to be on the rise which can also interfere with sales. At one particular lingerie store in the mall, entering the store guarantees an instant bout of uncontrolled sneezing. My companion faithfully waits for me to shop and return to the bench outside, refusing to go inside the store. He has plenty of company out there with the other men who are either allergic to heavy perfume or embarrassed by the busts of manikins displaying scanty items at eye level.
Another way to avoid sales is for the employee to yell across the store asking if there are any more size triple A brassieres in the back stock. Although that's never happened to me, I've overheard it.
Drive Off Business
Another way to discourage new business is to already have a full complement of regulars whose presence is both a comfort and reassurance that you're successful. Nothing beats visiting a store or restaurant for the first time and being ignored in favor of friends or family who receive special privileges over newcomers. Small town eateries are famous for this sort of marketing technique.
Although it's nice to see a familiar face, if you're not one of the in-crowd, it feels awkward when Billy or Bobbie hoots and hollers across the room about local goings on that don't include you and never will. Face it, you're not welcome.
Tonight's Special - Spaghetti with Special Sauce
For some business owners who've built a monument to themselves, they don't care if business comes in the door. For others, who truly want to make a living, it's important to see things from the customer's point of view. Although the much-used adage, "The customer is always right," doesn't apply in every case, business owners need to treat their patrons with dignity and respect if they want to continue in business.
If a business owner is absent due to reasons beyond their control, one good measure of how they're doing can be seen by sending in secret shoppers from time to time to test the water. Those anonymous shoppers can tell in an instant what's right and what's wrong with a particular establishment. Fixing what's broken will result in an improved atmosphere, happier clients and an increased profit margin.
© 2017 Peg Cole