Wednesday, July 24, 2013

1204 How to Fix Retail

1204 How to Fix Retail

There’s been an awful lot of news about retailers lately.  Much of it centers around internet competitors eating their breakfast, lunch and dinner and beating them up in the schoolyard.

The big box stores devoured downtown.  Now the virtual mall is devouring the big boxes.  And the remaining small merchants are fighting for every last dollar.

One of the ways they do that is by “excellent customer service.”  Really?  Well, sometimes.

Sometimes not.  Like this anecdote:  customer walks into a store that specializes in kitchenware and small appliances; buys a fancy coffee maker.  The machine is a dog.  But Kitchen Paradise doesn’t want to do a return or exchange because “you used it!”  It’s pristine and spotless.  It has all its packaging.  The receipt is taped to the box in a way to prevent its removal from damaging anything.

That’s excellent customer service.  You return that to Wal-Mart or Target or TJ Maxx or Macy’s or even lowly Sears?  No questions asked.

Now, the big guys are trying to steal Amazon Com’s playbook.  It isn’t working.  Amazon’s secret is volume.  They don’t care all that much about profits.  They’ve bribed their way into your wallet.

But as many of the dour articles about physical stores point out, retailing is show biz.  So the BBs are sprucing up their shelves, their lighting and their displays.

If shopping is like going to the movies for you, and/or you don’t really know what you want, you can make a fun afternoon of it by scooting around Wal-Mart.   

And it can be fun.  Until it’s time to leave.  That’s where the internet shines in ways a physical store does not.  Click, click, click and you’re out the internet store’s electronic door.  

No long lines... or any lines.  

Twenty five registers at MegaStore and four are open.  And two of the four are for people with 20 or fewer items, the “speedy checkout” lines.  Speedy. Yeah, right!

So if you’re a regular, you get to know who can move a line and who can’t.  Older men and women are a good bet.  They’re not chatting with customers and co-workers, they’re checking people out.

You learn to profile trouble customers:  loopy college kids, morbidly obese men and women, people who don’t speak the language.  Love birds. But there are limits when you try to avoid these types.  Plus not everyone like that is like that.

Where you run into trouble even with a line staffed by a good register clerk, you hit a wall when someone paying in cash tries to use a $100 bill or fishes around in pocket or purse for exact change or someone uses a debit card and can’t figure out or can’t remember his or her pin code.  Or someone with a card the computer rejects for good reason or bad.

You can’t anticipate these kinds of things.  But you can anticipate waiting in line (apologies to my fellow New Yorkers for that phrase) longer than you have to wait to finish a transaction ON line.

If the store people want to keep the moviegoers, they’re going to have to keep more registers open in prime time.  Get a reputation for that, and the extra expense will pay for itself.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2013

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