Thursday, January 25, 2007

Retail Sales Training - What Does Your Store Appearance Say?

I came across an interesting article written by Britt Beemer, founder of America's Research Group, about the impact your store's appearance.

I am consistently finding that consumers are paying less attention to advertising and more attention to store appearance. Our numbers say that the exterior of a store generates 45% of an entire marketing image. This includes the building's appearance, the signage, the landscaping, and the parking area. Consumers form impressions about the quality and selection of merchandise inside the store based on what they see the outside of the store. Some retailers are aware of this, and the outside appearance of their store is carefully thought out. Circuit City the electronics retailer, for example, put a two-story facade on a one story building, making a 26,000 sq ft. building look like 60,000 sq. ft. They found it very effective, and other retailers have followed suit.

Selection is also critical. Consumers have been shopping less since 9/11.They prefer to go to fewer stores and to go to stores where they know they're going to get a great selection. They don't want to have to look further.

One quarter of a consumer's decision to enter a store comes from the four-color circulars in the news paper. Advertisements like these can help or harm your selection image. You need to show a big assortment of merchandise in your advertisements and displays. Showing the same old stock can turn off customers. They’ll think, “Well, that’s all they’ve got.”

Seventy-three percent of the consumers we’ve surveyed believe that all stores within a particular category look alike. This is caused by the demise of good merchandising. By using computers to track stock and sales, retailers are merchandising their stores into sameness. Consumers want a unique shopping experience, and retailers need to under stand the importance of differentiation. One way to do this is to have “showstoppers" that bring customers into the store. These are items that may not sell well but bring in business. An example is a furniture store that sells leather sofas. These are typically a pretty boring product. The storeowner could advertise or display a yellow, lavender, or red sofa and sell twice as many leather sofas. The dramatic colors catch attention, and shoppers will stop in and check them out. Chances are they’ll still leave the store with a beige, green, or brown sofa, but it was the “showstoppers" that got them in. That's where the return on investment comes in.
In my 25 years of market research, I have learned that you don’t market to sell merchandise, you market to sell the store. I advise my clients to go after the “Wow Factor" to differentiate their store from everyone else's. Chico's apparel specialty store has done the best job of this in the last two years. Their stores stand out from the competition in and out of the malls. Their unique product lines, color choices, and displays have made Chico's the hottest retailer for sales growth.

When customers look around your store, do they get the impression that someone takes pride in the store? Is it clean? Is the merchandise well organized and displayed thoughtfully? Are the clothes on the racks in the correct size category? Not only does this show that staff and owners care, but it makes it easier for customers to find what they need. Shopping should not be work. An orderly store helps customers make buying decisions quickly and easily.

One of the first things customers look at is gaps in merchandise displayed. Retailers don't always appreciate consumer's awareness of this. Regular customers will notice gaps the most, and, ironically, this can cause struggling stores to lose their best customers just when they need them most. If you've got ten some negative press about financial troubles, make sure your shelves are stocked to the hilt. Try to take the customer's perspective. Being privy to some one's financial struggles is a bummer.

This is the single biggest weakness of retailers. When retailers think about adding a category of merchandise, they usually look at what the other stores are doing, and they devote the same amount of store space to a product category. To be successful, a retailer should make an effort to be known for some thing. Nordstroms is a good example. They are committed to their shoe department and they are known for that. Nordstroms' shoe department is two or three times bigger than the other stores' that shows their depth of commitment. Customers know they can find a shoe they like there. I advise my clients to continually strive to be a leader in a particular category, especially one that no one else is doing a good job with. Before you add an additional product category, you better make sure you have a big enough selection to make a commitment to it. The display has to convince consumers that this isn’t just a fringe category for you.

Consumers also make judgments about a store based on signage, display racks, and even light fixtures. These tell your customers whether you're a store of today, yesterday, or tomorrow. Has your building looked the same for 30 years, or does your building's d├ęcor tell your customers that you're moving ahead? Are you using the old style fluorescent light fixtures rather than the newer ones that high light the merchandise? Do your displays and signage fit your customers' sense of style??

A consumer is always trying to decide whether you want them to come back or not, and they'll make that decision based on their entire shopping experience. Was it easy to get in and out of the store? Were they able to find items quickly and easily? Were the sale items that were advertised or displayed actually available? This can go a lot further than just being the cheapest guy in town.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Retail Sales Training - You Set The Tone

As an owner or manager, it is critical to remember that you set the tone for your store. Whether you are a franchisee, corporate store manager, or own an independent store, what you do and say reflects on your business. Let me elaborate...

From merchandising, to service, to employee behaviour, YOU influence it all. I can walk into almost type of retail store and within 5 minutes accurately guess what kind of person runs that particular store. Here are two examples:

1. A local store nearby specializes in imported food. All the employees greet customers with a smile and they are exceptionally friendly. Plus, they deliver great service, day after day. Turnover is low--I recognize staff that have been there for 10 years or more--something that is virtually unheard of in retail today. Business is brisk--every day! I can almost guarantee that the management of that store focus on their staff and treat them well.

2. Another store sells pet products. The staff at this store seldom smile or take a proactive approach to help customers. It's not uncommon to hear the cashiers complain to each other about the schedule, hours, etc. No one goes out their way to create a memorable experience. It's not difficul to figure out that this is not the greatest place to work. And in all likelihood, it's because of the manager. I can this because I once spoke to the manager and he was short and abrupt during our conversation.

Too many retailers blame the economy, competition, head office, and sometimes customers, for the lack of business or a decline in sales. However, it is critical to look within and at yourself first.

- Are you treating your staff with dignity and respect? Or, do you demand respect?
- Do you talk to your team? Or do you "tell" them what you want them to do?
- Do you keep your people informed and updated? Or, do you tell them what you "think" they need to know?
- Is your store a fun place to work? Or, is it a place where people show up because they have bills to pay?
- Do you have high standards and expect your team to perform to the best of their ability? Or, do you accept the bare minimum because that's all you think people will deliver?

I once wrote about the daughter of a friend who started working for a independently-owned clothing store. During her first week, the owner loudly criticized my friend's daughter--in front of customers. Needless to say, she quickly found another place to work. I suspect that store owner has a revolving door of staff and that she struggles with her business.

Ultimately, your mentality and approach sets the tone for your success. Are you going to succeed?

As always, I welcome your thought and comments.


Friday, January 19, 2007

Retail Sales Training - How People Shop

Not surprisingly, men and women approach the buying process from two completely different perspectives. During the last several years I have done quite a bit of research on this topic and I recently came across an article that offered another perspective. The article was written by Dr. Karen Wade and here is a brief overview of her thoughts.

Generally speaking, men approach the buying process with three objectives:

1/ Research
2/ Hunting
3/ Purchasing

Men will do some research on the product they intent to buy and usually does not the opinions of very many people. He will create some criteria for his ideal purchase and during his "hunt" he settles for a solution that meets most of his criteria.

Women, on the other hand, differ in their approach. They still have 3 objective but they are different:

1/ Research
2/ Discovery
3/ Purchasing

Women tend to do much more research and talk to many more people than men, especially for high-ticket items. Their "discovery" process pertains to the many emotional apsects of the purchase: defining and expressing a personal and/or family style, trade offs between what she really likes and what will work financially and practically in her life.

You can increase your sales substantially by adapting your sales appraoch to each gender. Generally, men will make a buying decision MUCH more quickly than a women. However, when you focus your attention on helping your female customers make an educated buying decision, you will earn her trust and gain a more loyal customer.


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Retail Sales Training - Get Ready for Superbowl

If you work in the electronics business, you can expect sales to be brisk in the next few weeks since Superbowl 41 is just 24 days away. Part of the hype and lead-up to this event are the statistics involved. Here are some numbers to consider:

- Cost of a 30 second ad: $2.4 million plus production and development costs.
- Total game time: 60 minutes; total commercial time: 30 minutes
- Number of viewers: 125+ million
- Guacamole consumed on Superbowl Sunday: 8 million pounds
- Chips consumed: 14,500 tons
- Increase in Antacid sales the day after: 20%

So, what do these stats have to do with retail?

Well, statistics also indicate that sales of big screen TVs increase by five times in the week leading up to this event. Plus, 42% of the viewers are women. If you sell electronics, sports attire or memorabilia you should be thinking how you can maximize your sales during the next couple of weeks. Here are a few tips you can use to improve your sales results when selling to the opposite sex in the next couple of weeks.

Men selling to women:
1. Slow down your pace
2. Invest time and energy getting to know your female customer so they will be interested in continuing the relationship
3. Talk abut her, her business, her interests, her needs and not about yourself
4. Listen carefully to what she says
5. Avoid giving advice unless you are directly asked

Women selling to men:
1. Look, sound and act confident
2. Keep your conversations related to business or the male clients’ interests
3. Spend less time on social conversation
4. Move more quickly through the sales process and get to the point faster
5. Set clear goals to increase your effectiveness

Please recognize that these strategies are general in nature and are not intended to include ALL members of the opposite sex. However, I have learned in my sales interactions and training workshops that these tips are very helpful. Get more information on this topic in my book.

Don't wait for customers to come to you, be assertive and proactive in seeking them out. And don't forget to focus attention on your female customers--remember almost half of the viewers will be women.


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Retail Sales Training - Timing is Everything

I was buying a pair of jeans the other day, and surprisingly, received some excellent assistance from one of the sales associates working in the store. I tried on several pairs and finally decided on one particular pair.

I thanked the sales associate for her help and proceeded to the POS to pay for them. As the manager(?) rang up the sale she said, "We have a 60 day exchange policy if you're not satisifed with them." My immediate thought was, "Why is she telling me this?" I had already tried the jeans on and if I wasn't satisifed with them, I would not have bought them.

While I appreciate the fact that the store has a liberal exchange policy, her timing was way off. It would have been much better for the sales associate to say this while I was trying the jeans on, not after I had already made my decision. Or better yet, advise me of this poilicy if I had demonstrated some hesitation or concern about buying the jeans.

Remember, you don't need to tell every customer about your policies. If you do tell them, make sure the timing is right.