Send Lynette a Confidential E-Mail
In their 2009 Retail Report, economic trends forecasting expert, FTI Consulting predicts sales will decline by 2.1 percent during this holiday shopping period. Consumers need to save money; to stay in business, merchants must sell their goods. Where’s the nexus to help your customers support your business, while not blowing their gift budgets? It’s my hope that many merchants have taken a page from the practices that have kept luxury retailer, Saks Fifth Avenue, afloat during this challenging cycle.
Meet New Needs
Saks has maintained high quality standards, while offering products priced more moderately than their traditional lines. Consider featuring enticing merchandise, which seems to be a bargain, for your customers.
In Del Mar, California, a woman with impeccable taste owned a gift shop in a prime high-traffic location, where she stocked unique items with wide appeal. While it was an upscale store, she also carried moderately priced merchandise, if you searched. The proprietor refused to comprehend that her inventory needed to change to meet new economic requirements of her clientele. A severe drop in sales forced her to close last year. With more sensitivity to her customers’ needs for financial constraint, her business probably would have survived this recession.
Think about your customers. What do you offer that appeals to a broad range of shoppers at a more moderate price point – maybe a lower price than you prefer to feature? Consider showcasing that merchandise. Do you offer pricier products, which complement your lower cost appealers? Highlight those as tie-in items. Customers, who plan to spend more, will be tempted when you make their shopping experience easy.
While it’s not always true that you catch more customers (as opposed to menacing flies) with honey than with vinegar, you definitely create an atmosphere that people enjoy. When buyers feel comfortable in a retail environment, they’re more likely to make a purchase and return to shop again. Customer purchases pay salaries. That reality should gen up a whole bunch of sincere care, if it doesn’t come naturally to employees.
Recently, the owner of a Gulf Coast restaurant applied for a line of credit. With significant assets and a positive history with his regional bank, he expected approval. Two bank officers, with authority for his credit line, came to his restaurant for lunch. It was the final step before they signed off on his loan. Their waitperson, in the midst of emotional personal problems, was unhelpful, unfriendly, and provided minimal service to the bank representatives. It’s a small establishment, featuring exquisite fresh fish and local produce. Neither the owner nor his floor manager came to the bankers’ table to ask about their food and service. In the letter denying his line of credit, the bank explained why. While he was shocked by what happened, the restaurant owner realized employee attitude cost him the credit he needed and had probably stopped many diners from returning to his eatery. He revamped his personal engagement with customers and overhauled his staff. Then he applied to another bank, and received the line of credit.
As a person who appreciates helpful sales staffs that know their merchandise and enjoy helping, it’s amazing how often I am treated rudely by a sales person. It always shocks me because I’m a happy shopper. You don’t need any ‘tude in your business unless it’s a friendly, caring, helpful attitude, which will increase your sales.
Make Buying Easy
What can you do to facilitate customer purchases? With only 28 shopping days left until the after-after sales begin, look at your environment through the eyes of a shopper. Be a shopper in your enterprise – whether it’s built with clicks or bricks. Pay attention to what works for you and what doesn’t. Much as your customers might enjoy your establishment, they probably prefer to ‘get it and go’. Think way outside the box to serve your customers’ needs.
I was in an ultra busy shop in a touristy Florida town, where they customized purchases while you wait. Knowing their customers wanted to explore the charming shopping enclave, this store handed out those light up-vibrating disks used by restaurants when you’re waiting for a table to let customers know their purchase was ready for pick-up. There was signage around the complex advertising their speedy service, and their friendly staff informed shoppers as they entered the store. This was such a creative and simple solution, which clearly drove sales. What can you do to help your customers maximize their time and their purchases from you?
This tough economy requires fresh thinking, new vision, and an unwavering commitment to your customers. New price point requirements, care, and ease-of-purchase can increase your revenues and create impressions that affect your ability to garner credit.