Recently, I went up to a shopping center to run an errand. I noticed a store, new to me, selling all different types of a particular product that could best be described as falling into the “art” category.
Because I needed a housewarming gift for my sister, I entered to look at their merchandise. The owner and two employees were standing at the counter in a store half the size of a one-car garage. The counter, containing a computer, was close to the door. In the center of the store were display shelves running from floor to ceiling. All walls contained shelving as well.
The manager, who had his back to the door, was training a new employee. She stood next to him. A third employee was standing next to her with his eyes glued to the computer. None of them saw me as I walked in and around the store. I stopped, examined some of the products and made a circuit of the store. Still, there was no response from any employee or the manager. I left the store.
Frankly, I was dumbfounded at the poor inattention from the staff. Later, I walked back in. The new employee was seated behind the counter. She didn’t even say “hello.” (I’ll cut her some slack, I’m guessing this may have been her first hour on the job by herself.)
I was very intrigued by the products they sold. I needed some help. Also, I’m an impulse buyer. But because no one acknowledged me or offered to answer my questions, no one made a sale.
Over the next week I returned again, once with my wife, to show her the merchandise. A different employee was on duty, again seated behind the counter with her eyes on the computer. I was beginning to think the employees were all glued to their stools. Once more, no offer for assistance.
Later, I would walk past the store twice more over the next week. Each time a different employee was seated on the stool behind the counter eyes glued to the computer, not on the store.
As someone who used to be the manager and district manager in a jewelry store chain, I have two problems with this.
The manager failed to train his staff to create a welcoming environment and to determine the customers’ needs. You don’t often see merchandise like this and I imagine that many customers would have questions. There’s no telling how many sales have been lost due to incompetent salesmanship (or an incompetent strategy created by the owners).
The manager violated a key tenet of loss prevention. Unless you’re walking from front to back in your store, you never turn your back to the front. Due to the placement of both the counter where the staff sat, their inattentiveness to people in the store, and the central set of shelves, this store is a prime target for shoplifters. That’s why I’ve disguised the type of merchandise and omitted the location of the store.
Frankly, I’m flabbergasted that any store owner would allow this to happen. Shoplifters love to find inattentive staff like this, especially in a store with obscured site lines and merchandise small enough to fit into the palm of your hand or a pocket.
Train your staff to greet customers when they walk in. Teach them salesmanship. You’re going to make more sales and prevent more losses to shoplifting that way.
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