Retail's Ten Commandments
Don't get discouraged by the latest downturn. Run your store right and your customers won't abandon you
Consider what you might be doing to drive away customers or what you might not be doing to draw them in during this economic downturn, says Rick Segel, a retail speaker, expert on attracting and keeping loyal customers, and author of a new book-and-CD-ROM combo, Retail Business Kit For Dummies (Hungry Minds Inc., 2001).
Segel suggests these commandments:
1. Keep Your Eyes on the Big Picture
Know your stores direction, merchandise mix and commitment to customer service. Sometimes its tempting to bury your head in the sand and blame outside forces rather than do the hard work required to get (and stay) on target.
2. Train Sales Associates Well
Too many retailers fail to train their employees in an organized, methodical manner, reasoning they will just leave anyway. A store with well-trained employees is always more successful; customers can sense the difference. And in a bad economy, your employees are less likely to job hop, so invest in them.
3. Keep the Competitive Edge
In a bad economy, its important to stay one step ahead of competitors. Dont copy them upstage them with creative promotions.
4. Make Sure Customers Exclaim Thats Different!
Having the same merchandise, style or promotions as the store across the street breeds customer apathy. Being unique in every aspect of your store piques customer curiosity, which leads to sales.
5. Wow Your Customers
Consider the warm chocolate chip cookies the Doubletree hotels serve to incoming guests or the little envelopes in which Talbots places customer receipts. In New Orleans, they call it lagniappe the little extra a merchant gives you that says, Thanks for shopping here.
6. Treat Everyone Like a $100,000 customer
Never look at a customer as someone who buys something for $90. Instead, calculate how many years hell shop with you, how big his family is, how many friends he has all are measures of one customers worth. Eventually, hell be a $100,000 customer. Treat him like one.
7. Boost the Community
Hold an essay contest like the best policeman or firefighter in town. Host an art show displaying creations from local high schools. People like to shop with merchants who want to be part of the family.
8. Change Displays Often
If your last window display was a vintage look with antique chairs, old lace and bookshelves, shake things up a bit with high-tech materials for a contemporary feeling. Be sure your displays are consistent with your brand, but never appear stale or unimaginative. Thats the kiss of death.
9. Create Educational Opportunities
Sponsor classes that interest your customers. Check with industry groups, such as Jewelers of America, for presentations you can give to local groups. The ideas are endless.
10. Follow Up on Big Sales
After you make a sale of a certain size, follow up with a phone call, card or e-mail to make sure the transaction went well. This shows your customers you really care about them, and gives you the chance to correct any problems.
People wont quit shopping completely, says Segel. They might tighten their purse strings, but they wont bury the purse in the backyard. Be sure that when they do go shopping, your store is the first one they think about. Always strive to create loyal customers and they will stay true to you during the hard times.