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In Love With Retail

Written by Bill Tanzer

 

“You only get one chance to make a first impression.” Know who said that? My father, often. Doesn’t matter if the quote is attributed to Will Rogers, Oscar Wilde or Mark Twain. When I was growing up, my father said this frequently and it was a valuable lesson learned. To me, it will always be his wise words.

How do stores and retail establishments make a first impression to customers? By providing an environment where consumers want to continue shopping. Imagine walking into a store that doesn’t restock, doesn’t have available staff members, and the cashiers yell at you at checkout. If you provide a headache and a half, it’s unlikely the buyer will want to return. And this relates to any retail outlet, whether it’s a brick and mortar or an online store. Speaking of which, at the end of 2011, we revamped our website to make the store a more valuable experience for our customers. To keep providing a user friendly interface, we are continually updating products, reorganizing categories and making it easier to order custom printed bags and boxes. Check out our Valentine’s Day wrap and other items. We’re offering free shipping on standard orders over $200 between now and February 14th.

Come On, Get Happy

Out of the Top 50 “happiest places to work” for 2011, only two retail outlets made the list: Costco, where consumers buy in bulk, and Albertsons, the grocery chain. More than 100,000 employees submitted reviews to come up with this list. Does that mean that any company outside the Top 50 is an unhappy place to work? Of course not. But it brings me back to my first point: making the impression. If employees are walking around with chips on their shoulders, it doesn’t help your business bring in business.

In a much smaller survey earlier last year, MSN teamed up with Zogby International to ask consumers what they thought of customer service at 150 companies. Criteria included knowledgeable staff, friendly employees and service after the sale. The actual product sold was a small factor in how consumers determined customer service. It was far more important for sales staff to be available and answer questions than products be available on the shelf. A lot more retailers made the list.

Which brings me to the “Enough is Enough” campaign by J.C. Penny. Did you see any of these ads on television this week? Consumers are screaming, literally, about missing sales and getting boatloads of promotional flyers in the mail. On Wednesday, Feb. 1, J.C. Penny is changing the way it does business. By eliminating deep discounts, the 1,100-store chain will reduce prices by about 40% across the board, and offer such lower prices on an everyday basis. I honestly wonder what the chain’s competitors are thinking. Are they waiting in the wings, laughing like Nelson from the Simpsons? Or are they getting ready to implement their own “regular pricing” system throughout the seasons. Let’s see how this goes. Because most retailers know the psychology behind consumers looking for bargains. Anyone walking around the mall the day after Christmas, or Black Friday, sees the effect of deep discounting. I’ll write more about this in my next post.

January 31, 2012

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