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Customer service – or the lack of it – is always a hot topic with us. Retail is currently in love with technology, and that’s great, but you can’t ever put human contact in second place.

Too many retailers believe they are giving shoppers the best customer care possible, but those customers beg to differ. People don’t buy excuses; they don’t care that you are shorthanded today or you had to shipment out before the weekend.” Customers only care about their experience in the store.

Consider this:

• The customer experience will become more important than price and product by 2020. (Source: Walker )

• $1.6 trillion is lost by companies in the United States due to customers switching as a result of poor customer service. Source: Accenture )

• 70% of the customer’s journey is dictated by how the customer feels they are being treated. (Source: McKinsey )

• Customer service stats show that new customers costs anywhere between 5 and 25 times more expensive than retaining existing customers. (Source: Harvard Business Review )

Today, it isn’t just about the product you sell or the services and conveniences you offer, or even the fabulous in-store events you host, it’s also about how well you treat customers during an ordinary visit to your store.

Customer service is always a hot topic in our consumer focus groups too, so we decided to do an experiment of our own. We spent three hours at big mall on a busy Saturday afternoon. Our plan was to purchase something in every store where we were greeted or acknowledged by a store associate. To be fair to our wallets, we didn’t count the shops that had a greeter stationed at the front door. We didn’t have to be greeted within seconds, any associate who approached us equaled a purchase.

We made just three purchases that day, in a perfect customer service world we would have run out of money before we ran out of stores. During our time at the mall we were treated to the following:

• Associates who acknowledged customers with a brief glance in their direction.

• Associates who never looked at, nor spoke to, customers as they rang up their purchases. The majority of these associates never even thanked customers or invited them back to shop again.

• Associates who never moved form behind the cashwrap even though the sales floor was packed with shoppers. 

• Associates who could only muster a “May-I-help-you?” in such a way that the customer knew they really didn’t mean it.

• No greeting or acknowledgement at all.

We know this is not a fun topic, and we know that many of you reading this will shake your heads in disagreement because you are certain this could never happen in your store. But can you really be so sure? We know you have experienced less than stellar service in all sorts of establishments so why is it so hard to imagine that it could happen right on your own sales floor?

Retail life happens , so here’s an easy three-step, no-cost plan to elevate your customer care:

1. It’s better to respond to a customer than it is to react.A reaction is a throw away answer with no eye contact; a response requires eye contact, a smile, and a thoughtful answer to the customer’s request. A reaction makes a customer feel like she is an interruption; a response will make that same customer feel like she’s the most important person in the store.

2. Engage customers in conversation.Talk about trends, upcoming classes or events, product, even the weather. The goal is to break the ice and make customers feel at home in the store.

3. Practice our 7-Tile Rule: Every single time an associate comes within seven floor tiles – that’s seven feet – of a customer they MUST acknowledge them. That acknowledgement might be a conversation or just eye contact and a smile, but trust us, that smile will work wonders. If you come across a customer five times, then she needs to be acknowledged five times.

We all need to be more diligent about how we care for our customers; we need to reverse the trend from lip service to actual customer service. Consistently good customer service. We all need to give our customers the number one spot on our “Things To Do Better” list, and we need to start right now.


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2019 is our 29th year as KIZER & BENDER! April 17th marked the anniversary of our first ever Retail Adventures in the REAL World™presentation. We were in Boston and it was a fun and exciting and slightly nerve racking day. We had a big crowd of retailers who came to learn and laugh, many of whom have become lifelong friends.

We certainly never thought that first time we walked onstage that it would be the first of many. For that matter who knew that “professional speaker” was a real job? Okay, Rich did but back then neither one of us could have imagined we’d end up here. Our Retail Adventures have grown to include the titles of contributor to MSNBC’s Your Business and two of Retailing's Most Influential People. We made Meetings & Conventions Magazine's list of Meeting Planners Favorite Keynote Speakers, and are listed among the Top 40 Omnichannel Retail Influencers and the Top 100 Retail Influencers (five years in a row!). We started our Retail Adventures Blog in 2005; since then it has been consistently listed among important retail and small business blogs. And our column, Georganne & Rich on the Road, was twice honored with the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE) Award of Excellence. We're also proud to serve as BrainTrust panelists for RetailWire, and are partners and emcees for the popular Independent Retailer Conference held twice a year at ASD Market Week. We've been busy!

29 years is a long time. The few times we’ve been brave enough to watch the video of that first presentation we see two people who sort of look familiar. Georganne rocked BIG 80s hair and even bigger glasses – everything was over the top back then. And she’s wearing a red suit, her trademark first of many, that still hangs in her closet. It will see daylight when shoulder pads come back in vogue. And aside from the beard that he grew around 1993, Rich looks pretty much the same. The man doesn’t age.

 April 17, 1990 | Boston, Massachusetts

There’s a quote hanging in our office from a 1987 article “In Praise of a Partner”, written by Linda Queen and Wanda Zeagler, that reads: “Many of you don’t have partners. That’s fine if it works for you. You obviously are not among the ‘Shared Brain People’ who inhabit this Earth. We are and we are very comfortable, each of us, with our own portions of our brains.” Some people who read that quote don’t understand it, but we do and that’s all that matters.

Partnership is a cool thing. Just in case you didn’t know, we are married. Happily. Just not to each other. Rich and Diana have been married for 46 years, and Georganne and Rob will celebrate 40 years this July. How’s that for longevity?

Georganne’s kids have never known a world without Uncle Rich and Aunt Diana. Who can forget the time Uncle Rich took then five year old Kate and three year old John to Toys ‘R Us, telling them they could have anything in the store they wanted. Whattaya nuts? They made a beeline for the $2000 motorized cars. It took a lot of convincing on Georganne’s part to redirect their attention to the coloring books.

Both Kate and John have worked with us off and on since they were little. Kate now works for us full time as our Director of Events. She keeps us on line. Kate is part of the reason we were named two of the Top Retail Industry Experts to Follow on Social Media. Speaking of social media, it’s where we met our pal Debra Templar, Australia’s favorite retail guru. We wrote Jingle Bells, Christmas Sells: Events, Promotions & Tips for the Holiday Season together after meeting on Twitter. Can you even imagine writing a book together from 9, 678 miles apart? We can because we did it.

On the porch of our farmhouse office. We made it to Main Street!

Our partnership works because we’re polar opposites. We’ve had three offices in St. Charles, Illinois, a city that’s dead center in between our homes that 50 miles apart. We know that because we stuck a pin in a map in the center of where we both live. Finding St. Charles, a gorgeous hamlet on the Fox River, was a serendipity, that’s for sure. Our current office – we lovingly refer to her as 1434 – is a 171 year old, perfectly restored farmhouse. It’s haunted, but that’s another story, for another day.

Our work space looks more like a living room than an office. One room is furnished with overstuffed book shelves, a big conference table in the center, and the 7’ ampersand Rich made to celebrate the & in KIZER & BENDER. There’s also a separate space that houses our two work stations and a lot more books.

Rich’s office is a creative mess; Georganne’s looks neat as long as you don’t open the desk drawers. Rich never stops thinking about our next big move; Georganne is deep into the details, figuring out how to make that “next big thing” actually happen. Rich’s brain never turns off; Georganne flips hers off like a light switch the second she leaves the office. Rich devours business books like a madman; Georganne reads anything but. And she reads a lot – there are currently 562 books on her Nook and she’s read every one of them. Twice. Rich prefers to focus on one thing at a time; Georganne is the queen of multi-tasking.

The trials and tribulations of our 29 years on the road are priceless, and we honestly wouldn’t change a thing – except for maybe that one after dinner presentation that called for us to go on at 6:00, a half an hour after the bar opened. Only the bar opened at 4:00 and we didn’t go on until 8:30 – ask us what happened the next time you see us.

April 17, 2019

We adopted the title Consumer Anthropologists after a Las Vegas reporter suggested it. We study consumers in their natural habitats: what they like, what drives them crazy, what they do when thy think no one is watching, and how they interact with employees. Each year we host consumer focus groups, one-on-one interviews, and intensive on-site studies. Our research includes posing as every kind of customer you can imagine, and maybe even a few that you can’t.

Over the years we’ve learned a lot and shared a lot, helping retailers and service providers become even more successful. In addition to speaking, we also consult and specialize in store makeovers. Making a sales floor shine is one of our favorite things – so are the sales increases that follow.

We’re proud of our work in the retail, restaurant, hospitality, collegiate, travel, tanning, beauty, funeral, tech, auto, sales and service industries. (Bet we forgot a few...) We’re grateful to everyone who has helped us along our journey, and we are thankful to all who call us each day to share their stories or ask for advice. Another 29? We're in! We’re excited to see what happens next.

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One of the techniques we share in just about every program is Impact 8, the exercise we created way back in 1990 for our first ever Retail Adventures presentation. (April 17th marks our 29th year together as a speaking team!) We talk about Impact 8 so much because it works. Here’s how:


Years from now someone will spend a gazillion dollars to study American life online and wonder who these people were who desperately need to lose weight, perfect their relationships, look younger, make certain body parts larger than life, buy fake designer goods, and grab those PHDs we so richly deserve but have not earned.


That’s a typical day of email for us. 700 messages. 80% junk that gets deleted ASAP and 20% actual mail.

Snail mail isn’t much better. Our mail box is typically brimming with bills, offers from companies we've never heard of, and lots of “You have already been approved” credit card applications. On a good day there’s mail that arrives in a handwritten envelope.

Guess what we open first?

The telephone isn’t much better. At least ten times a day we answer the phone with a smile only to be greeted by silence and a recorded message that's supposed to encourage us to act immediately. Instead we just hang up the phone.

We all have far too much impersonal communication in our lives. Most of us rarely receive handwritten notes or letters so it’s a big deal when we do. Anything handwritten gets opened first – there are studies that back that up. It’s the personal touch that gets our attention.

We continue to share Impact 8 because it can make you the most visible person in your company or the most talked about store in your community. Impact 8 has elevated some retailers to celebrity status and all in the amount of time it takes to have a cup of coffee each morning.

There are two parts to Impact 8. Part I involves a personal telephone call to four customers you spoke to or worked with the day before. This isn’t telemarketing – you are not allowed to talk about business unless the customer brings it up. If you happen to get the customer’s answering machine it’s okay to leave a message – you’ll make their day.

Here’s a sample conversation:

“Hello Mrs. Customer? This is Your Name at Name Of Your Store.

After the customer has had a chance to respond, you say:

“I enjoyed speaking with you yesterday and I just wanted to take a moment and thank you for your business. I know that you have lots of choices, and I thank you for choosing my store. If there is ever anything I can do for you, please do not hesitate to call me anytime.”

Call four customers per day and watch what happens. But that’s only the first part of Impact 8.

To implement Part II you’re going to need note cards that are blank on the inside. Go for standard greeting card size, not the smaller common “Thank You” card version. You can use fun off the rack cards or create a custom version – it’s up to you. You will also need the names and addresses of four customers you spoke or worked with the day before because these customers are going to get a personal note from you.

There are a few rules:

1. Each note must be handwritten. Remember, handwritten mail is always the first mail to be opened. It’s easy to try and fake it with a service that imitates real handwriting but trust us, people know the difference.

2. You must address the envelope by hand. You’re only doing four a day so this isn't a big deal.

3. You must use real stamps. Weird or interesting stamps – The USPS offers lots to choose from, you can check them out here. You might even consider using different denominations to make your envelope really stand out.

Your note can say something like this:

“Dear Mrs. Customer,

I just wanted to take a moment to thank you for your business. I know that you have a lot of stores to choose from and I appreciate your choosing Name Of Your Store. I have enclosed my business card, if there is ever anything I can do for you please do not hesitate to call me anytime!”

If you implement Impact 8 just four days a week, you will impact 32 customers per week; 128 customers per month; and 1536 customers per year. And if those customers tell just ten others that’s 15,360 people. The word of mouth advertising and good will you will generate is immeasurable.

The cool thing about Impact 8 is that it operates under the radar so it’s rarely noticed by your competition – they’re busy looking at your ads and social media posts. All they will notice is less cars in their parking lot and more cars in yours.


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If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a gazillion times: Retail is in the details. In this Retail Adventures guest post, Jacqueline Young-Sterling, Director of Customer Experience at Compliant IA, shares four quick updates that offer long-lasting results.

As a business owner, so many things require your constant attention, it can be easy for small details and required upgrades to go unnoticed. Below are 4 focus areas to improve your store. They will help attract more customers and increase sales.

1. Update Your Facade / Storefront

First impressions are key to drawing customers in! An attractive store facade sets the expectation for what your customers can expect when they enter. An interesting looking store tells a customer, “I am going to find good quality products here and good customer service”. An outdated looking store tells the customer they are going to find outdated goods. Refreshing your storefront can include small inexpensive updates such as:
@  A freshcoat of paint
@  Power washing of exterior bricks and sidewalk
@  Graffiti removal
@  Replacing dated exterior light fixtures
@  Replacing your store hours sign with a modern door decal
@  Add some planter boxes that can be filled with seasonal plants
@  Adding window decals/clings
@  Adding a sandwich sign – chalkboard signs are hot right now

If you can allocate more funding to updating the front of your store, consider the following:

@  Replacing, updating and adding additional signage
@  Replacing, updating and adding more lighting
@  Replacing doors and windows
@  A complete redesign managed by a local design or architectural firm
@  Upgrade a solid security gate to an open grid one.

If you are looking into updating your storefront, consider reaching out to your local Business Improvement Associations. Many BIAs have grants available to help local business improve their facades as it helps the whole community! If your updates include accessibility upgrades such as ramps and automatic doors you could receive additional funding from your local accessibility regulatory body.

2. Update Window Displays

Go outside and make yourself look at your windows through the eyes of a customer. Ask yourself the following questions:

What draws your eyes first?
Now, the answer to this first question should be an item that is for sale and that you are featuring right now. If the first thing your eyes noticed was a prop or your background, then your window needs a redesign.

Can you see past the display and into your store?
Your windows need to entice the customer to enter your store! Your window displays should be just enough of a tease that the customer can’t help but want to come in and look around for treasures.

Is the store well lit after hours?
This is especially important in the winter months when the days are short. Sometimes the first time a customer notices your store is in the evening when it is all lit up! If your store window is not showcasing itself after hours then you are missing an opportunity to invite new customers to come and visit you during business hours.

Are your windows clear… and clean?
This may seem obvious but a dirty window or a window full of signs and posters for local events is not good for your business! Ensure your windows are cleaned at least weekly. If you want to support the local community, consider a bulletin board inside to display posters instead of your front window.

3. Update Your Uniforms

When is last time you were shopping and mistakenly thought another customer was an employee and asked them for help? This happens all too often, and it shouldn’t. It should be obvious to customers who works in the store and who is shopping. Below are some inexpensive ideas to upgrade your store uniforms.

@  Simple aprons embroidered with your logo.
@  A lightweight jacket that displays your branding on the front and back.

Accessorizing can be a great way to update existing uniforms as well. Depending on the type of store you are running, consider the following:

@  Branded label pins
@  Felted boutonnieres
@  A work belt or half apron with pockets
@  Scarves
@  Bow ties
@  Suspenders

4. Update Your In-Store Lighting

The right lighting in a retail store can make all the difference! Gerry Weber, a fashion retailer in Germany saw its sales increase by 12%, after installing new lighting in an experimental store. If you are still relying on simple overhead lighting, especially if that lighting is fluorescent bulbs, it’s time for an upgrade! Store lighting should be warm and inviting. The easiest way to upgrade your lighting is by layering in additional lights. Look around the store and consider the following ideas:

@  Adding LED strips underneath existing shelving
@  Adding string lights above a display or hung above the checkout area
@  Adding fairy lights to a merchandising display
@  Hanging a fun florescent sign to lead customers to the fitting room or checkout area
@  Incorporate a statement light fixture

Keeping your store feeling fresh and modern can seem overwhelming. Prioritize what needs to be done and tackle it one project at a time. What have you done recently to upgrade your store? Share your ideas below and inspire other business owners!

About the author

Jacqueline Young-Sterling is the Director of Customer Experience at Compliant IA. She regularly contributes or gets quoted in publications such as the Shopify Blog, Business News Daily, Independent Retail, and the Vend Blog as a retail expert. Compliant IA is the leading retail audit platform. Field managers and stores use the app to complete smart checklists at store-level, take photos, and assign tasks with automated reminders.

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The 2019 trade show season is off to a great start. We leave this week for ASD Market Week, is the most comprehensive trade show for consumer merchandise in the United States. ASD brings the world’s widest variety of retail merchandise together in one efficient shopping experience – it’s nine trade shows in one!

ASD Market Week is also home to the SourceDirect trade show, a B2B show where importers, distributors, wholesalers, and large retailers can buy wholesale goods directly from overseas manufacturers, and the popular Independent Retailer Conference, an educational pop-up that is dedicated to indie store owners. The IRC is a unique and trusted destination for retailers to discover new market data, realistic insight and practical solutions specific for their one-of-a-kind businesses. KIZER & BENDER are the official emcees of the IRC as well as keynote speakers. Sponsors for this IRC at ASD include Seller Active, Refund Retriever, Yelp, Lightspeed, Retail Mavens, Promo Print, Bright Pearl, Stamps.com, and Rosenbaum Famularo, PC, the law firm behind AmazonSellersLawyer.com. The IRC team personally curates a selection of the best in retail operations vendors you need, but traditionally do not find at trade shows. Each one gives 15 minute presentations throughout the days that are geared to indie retailers and their unique needs. And each one is available to answer your questions.  

No matter which trade shows you attend you can count on being crazy-busy while you are there. Here are some things to consider before each show:

Do Your Homework before Your Leave for the Show

1. Trade shows have information rich websites and vendors send info to you prior to the show. Take time before you leave to review all show-related materials, plus advertisements in your industry trade publications. Note new items, plus vendors you want to visit, and their respective booth numbers. Look also for not-to-be-missed technique classes and business seminars.

KIZER & BENDER's Retail Power Academy | March 16, 2019 | Las Vegas Convention Center

While we’re on the topic, business classes are a must if you are going to keep up with the ever-changing retail industry. You can’t exist in a vacuum, no matter how successful you are right now. In addition to presentation at the Independent Retailer Conference, KIZER & BENDER are presenting their Retail Power Academy at ASD Market Week on Saturday, March 16 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Click HERE for more information and to register.

2. Review all pre-show materials sent to you by vendors.

3. Hold a store meeting to discuss trends, hot items, new categories, and other things you found in your pre-show research. Ask your store associates for ideas as well – and maybe even key customers who will offer a fresh perspective on what to look for at the show.

4. Carefully examine product and vendor sales histories. Review both current and committed inventories so you don't accidentally duplicate what is currently still on order.

5. Set an open-to-buy or budget, detailing what you can spend at the show. Include basic and new merchandise categories.

6. Review all of your homework before you leave for the show and adjust your goals if necessary.

Things to Do at the Show before You Work Your First Booth

1. Go through the show book and list all of the vendors you want to see. List them by booth number, working your way through the show aisle by aisle. This plan of attack will prevent you from duplicating your steps, wasting precious time.

2. Use Post-it® notes to flag important pages and other information in your show book for future quick reference.

3. Arrive early on your first day so you can study the show floor layout. If it’s feasible, make a quick pass through the entire floor before you visit your first vendor, scanning each booth, noting which ones to come back and visit later.

Inside Tip! On the first day of the show, and during the opening hours each day, the booths at the front of the show will generally be mobbed with attendees. They are the first thing people see, so they stop and look around. Instead, begin at the back of the show floor where traffic is generally lighter. You'll enjoy more quality time with the vendors you need to see.

4. Have your phone and a notebook in the quick draw position. You'll find it quick and easy to speak your thoughts into your phone recorder or Notes app as you walk the show floor. Review your notes at your convenience, recording them for future reference.

5. Take note of each item and line of merchandise that catches your eye. If the product still looks good after you review your notes, you can go back and place your order. This will you prevent placing impulse orders for items you don’t really need.

Set Appointments with Vendors

Now you are ready to set appointments with vendors, set them in this order:

1. Current vendors. You will want to see these vendors first to ensure that any important and on-going merchandise issues are being properly taken care of.

2. Vendors you work with occasionally. These are the lines that are building in your store and are becoming more important to the growth of your business.

3. New vendors. Look for new vendors based on your current and future merchandise needs. Your pre-show homework, plus your on-site research, will be an invaluable help here.

Inside Tip! The best time of the day to meet with vendors is during the slowest hours of the show – early in the morning and late in the day. Many shows also allow you to set appointments during non-show hours, either before or after normal hours. To ensure you will receive the vendor's undivided attention, meet with your most important vendors, and those that will require the most time, during these hours.

Building Partnerships with Your Vendors

Trade show booths are not much different than retail stores. How do you feel when a new customer walks in your front door? Do you feel like you have to sell them something? Do you watch them like a hawk? Of course not, you're happy to see them. Vendors feel are the same way. It's easy to feel intimidated when entering a new vendor's booth, but don't be. Look at it as an opportunity to meet new people who can help you grow your business. You're not getting a root canal or buying a used car – it's okay to be friendly, and it's okay to look. Even if you don't make a purchase today, you might down the road. A partnership relationship with your vendors can reap big rewards.

1. Ask each vendor how you can best take advantage of show-only specials.

2. Ask about unpublished merchandise deals on items that are not on display at the show.

3. Ask for show special pricing even if you place your order after the show.

Inside Tip!  Request staggered delivery dates throughout the year on basic goods on which the vendor is offering show discounts. This way you can take advantage of the price break without having to receive, warehouse, and pay for a year's supply of merchandise in advance of sales. You can pre-write these orders before you get to the show to save time, and drop them off at your convenience.

Trade shows are more than just a place to buy product, they provide the perfect opportunity to meet the very people who can help insure your lasting success. Take time to attend all of the cocktail parties and other show events. When you meet your vendors socially, you strengthen your relationship, creating a win/win situation for you both.

Take Advantage of Your Suppliers' Wealth of Sales-Building Knowledge

Companies spend millions of dollars each year designing ways to make their product fly off of your store shelves. Take advantage of this important research! Questions to ask each vendor:

1. What's the best way to sell this product line? Alone or cross-merchandised with your, or another vendor's, product?

2. Who else is selling this merchandise? What are they doing to move it that's important for me to know as well?

3. Where should I display this product in my store?

Many vendors have additional items items to help you display and/or sell their products; sometimes they are readily available, but sometimes you have to ask. Bring this list of questions with you to each booth you visit:

1. Do you have presentation and display tips for this product line?

2. Are there fixtures available to better show and inventory the product in my store?

3. Do you have signing or other point-of-purchase materials available such as project sheets or brochures?

4. Do you have DVDs I can use for associate training and for in-store play? Are there links to additional training available online?

5. Do you offer merchandise planograms?

6. Do you offer made-up samples for model boards and other in-store displays?

7. Can you recommend an in-store event or other idea I can use to promote your product and build foot traffic in my store?

8. Do you have items I can have to use as giveaways and as door prizes during my special events?

9. Are there co-op dollars available to help pay for bag stuffers and other advertising mediums used in promoting your product line?

10. Do you have content and photographs I can use to promote your line in my email blasts, newsletters, and on my website and social medias?

Network, Network, Network!

Whether you are a single store owner, member of a buying group, or part of a big chain, trade shows provide you with the opportunity to meet other retailers who are likely to be facing the same challenges that you face every day – what a wonderful networking opportunity!

1. Look for other retailers to compare notes with at seminars, luncheons, business meetings and social gatherings. Introduce yourself. Set a goal to meet least five new retailers each day. You'll find this network of non-competing retailers will become an outstanding resource to you throughout the year.

2. Agree to meet with your networking group at a specified time at the end of each day to discuss the best things you've each found at the show. Together, set a goal for each member of the group: find the best vendor for _____________, look for the best price on ________________, which vendors will provide help with upcoming promotional events, etc.

3. Keep your group together after the show and agree to get together at all future shows. Create a private Facebook Group or set a time for a monthly call or Skype meeting. Share what's new, hot, and happening in your stores. You can even chose a "Challenge of the month" to be discussed at the next meeting.

4. Take selfies or photos with every vendor and VIP you can find and post them on your social medias. Be sure to include the trade show’s hashtag, plus the one for your store (#YourStoreName).

Hang the photos on your sales floor to increase visibility and credibility; customers enjoy seeing you rub shoulders with other movers and shakers in their favorite industry.

5. When you return home, send out a press release to go along with the photos you took at the show. Newspapers are hungry for news, but they're starving for pictures. We bet you didn’t know that almost 80 percent of news that appears on a local level comes from a press release sent in by someone like you? But be aware that the media can sniff out bold attempts to get free publicity; you have to know how to do it right. If you'd like easy-to-follow, specific instructions on how to write press releases that get noticed, drop us an email for your free copy.

More Trade Show Success Tips

1. Sign-up on every email and mailing list you can find – to stay one step ahead of your competition, you need to know about new product releases, applications, and industry goings-on before they do.

2. Bring plenty of business cards; you don't want to run out during a big networking opportunity. Or drawing!

3. Just before you leave for the show, take a fresh batch store photos, both inside and out. These will come in handy during discussions with vendors, seminar leaders, and with your networking group.

4. Review your trade show experience on the plane ride home. Did you meet the goals you set before you left town? Note anything you will need to follow up on at a later date.

5. Immediately schedule a store meeting to discuss what you saw while it's still fresh in your mind. Brainstorm ideas to display and sell all the new goods that will begin to arrive shortly.

Attending trade shows is a solid investment in your future. It takes you out of your daily routine and stimulates your thinking process. You are exposed to new products and applications and you get to meet new people – all good things that are destined to help make even more successful!


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Have you ever really considered what really happens at your store’s cash wrap? In this Retail Adventures guest post, Jasmine Glasheen explores that final, crucial leg of your customers’ in-store experience.

In the retail world we talk a lot about the cart abandonment that happens online, but what about the kind of cart abandonment that happens in your physical store? When you’re caught up in the day-to-day work of running your retail business it’s easy to forget that the checkout process is the final, crucial leg of your customers’ in-store experience. Make no mistake, your cash wrap is an essential part of your business’ ability to make sales: 68 percentof all in-store purchases are impulse-driven, and nothing deflates a customer’s intent-to-purchase faster than having a negative experience while trying to pay for their products.

With that said, let’s take a look at a few of the factors that can make or break those pivotal final moments of your customer’s shopping journey in-store.

Transaction Minimums Discourage Impulse Sales

If your business pays a high fee for debit or credit card transactions, you may not be able to afford to process smaller transactions on cards. While it may be legal for merchants to set card transaction minimums of up to $10, but that doesn’t mean it’s advisable to do so. The Balance reports:

“Minimum purchase requirements are technically not illegal, but they are certainly an annoyance to customers. What’s more, merchants are most likely breaking the terms of their agreements with payment processing providers if they impose minimums.”

Anything that's an annoyance to customers shouldn't happen in your store. Keep in mind that 79 percent of American shoppers make impulse purchases in physical storefronts and a lot of those transactions are smaller items. So, imposing transaction minimums on smaller purchases can deter potential first-time buyers from purchasing at your store, as well as turning off your regular customers. Prevent this by researching the average credit card processing fees on in-store transactions, so you can make sure you’re getting the maximum possible profit on every purchase your customers make.

Mobile Payment Options are Table Stakes These Days

If you haven’t heard a customer say, “can I just pay with my phone?” at your cash wrap yet, you can expect to hear this request soon. Mobile payments are becoming the new gold standard for payment processing, so it is time to start reviewing providers if you’ve been delaying setting up mobile payment options for your store. Payment Depot reports:

“Mobile payment volume is expected to reach $503 billion by 2020. With just a year to go, it’s probably safe to assume that more and more customers will be taking out their phones at the cash register.”

Even though calling credit card processing companies to assess their compatibility with Apple Pay and other mobile payment solutions probably isn’t your idea of a rollicking good time, it’s a necessity if you don’t want to have to start turning customers down at checkout. By committing a few hours to online research in the near future, you can prevent missing out on major in-store sales down the line. 

Bringing it All Together

If you’ve been in the retail biz for a while, then you already know that every customer relationship is integral to the success of your store. Retail empires are built on great in-store experiences – which is why it’s necessary to accept all transactions and as many payment methods as possible, so that every customer that wants to make a purchase can make a purchase at your store.

The payments industry is evolving faster than ever in 2019, which means payment methods that looked like flash-in-the-pan trends just a few years ago – such as mobile payments and other options – are now the bare-bones basics for retailers who want to run a successful business. This means that you need to put more thought than ever into the payment methods you offer customers, since not giving customers the option to pay how they want to can be a deal-breaker for in-store purchases.

In the end, it all comes down to making it as easy (and fun!) as possible to shop your store. Refine your in-store payment processes so that you never have to turn down a potential customer, so that you can continue building the loyal client base that your retail business deserves. Happy selling!

Jasmine Glasheen is an influencer, writer and editor who provides fresh and relevant written and video content to trade shows, conventions, and companies, including ASD Market Week, National Retail Federation's Shop.org, the IndependentRetailer Conference, and Halloween & Party Expo. She is a frequent contributor to retail magazines and news sites, tech blogs, and fashion and lifestyle trade show publications. Jasmine is contributing writer for RetailMinded, a contributing editor to RetailWire, and is the author of numerous ebooks and whitepapers for private clientele. Jasmine is a creative Millennial mind. She's a thinker who consistently looks for new ways to help her clients get noticed by next generation shoppers.

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You know that old saying, “The more things change, the more they stay the same”? Well, it no longer applies to what’s happening in retail. Things are changing so fast it’s hard to keep track. Some trends explode on the scene and quietly fade away, while others have staying power. Here are the trends we’re talking about right now: 

¨        Small is the New Black; Small is the New Big.

Every big box store secretly dreams of the freedom independent retailers have to turn on a dime; to think of something cool and instantly make a change. This year the big guys did something about it.

Pop-ups are big and they are everywhere, maybe even on your sales floor.

You’ll find the Market @ Macy’s, a pop-up marketplace that features both up and coming and established brands, debuting on Macy’s sales floors across the U.S. If you see something you like, you’d better buy it now, because the theme and brands are only offered for a limited time. The Market @ Macy’s changes quickly and that’s the point.

Macy’s is serious about going small. This year the retailer also acquired Story, Rachel Shechtman’s unique store with the “point of view of a magazine that changes like a gallery and sells things like a store.” You may remember hearing Shechtman speak at the 2015 CHA MEGA Show. She’s a trend setter and she’s staying on as Macy’s new Brand Experience Officer.

¨        Stores that don’t sell anything

A few years ago, Restoration Hardware ditched the nostalgia vibe and became RH – an elegant gallery filled with gorgeous furniture and accessories. And none of it is for sale in the store. Instead, shoppers work with RH’s on-site interior designers to create the rooms of their dreams or they can grab a catalog and order online.

This not being able to buy a thing in-store is a hot trend. Last year Nordstrom debuted Nordstrom Local, a cool inventory-free space where you can work with a personal stylist, get on-site alterations, gift-wrapping, concierge services, shoe/luggage repair, same-day delivery, curbside pickup, manicures, wine, beer, espresso drinks, cold-pressed juices and even grab-and-go food, but you can’t buy things typically sold in a Nordstrom store. Any actual product can be ordered online. And that’s the point: Nordstrom Local is the service link between online sales and in-store personal attention.

¨        Augmented Reality (AR) & Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Google “retail technology” and so many results will pop up your head will explode. Augmented Reality (AR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are still the big ones to watch in 2019.

Augmented Reality is more than a gimmick; it’s a way to make the shopping experience easier. Think “magic mirrors” that allow you to try on clothing without the hassle of a fitting room, or the ability to get a makeover by merely looking into a camera, then seeing a virtual version of yourself on a big screen. Or on your phone. Magnolia Market even brings the store to your home with an app that allows you to see how product will look in your home. Yes, your actual home.

AI is human-like behavior exhibited by computers and machines that have been trained to make independent decisions.

When we speak in Las Vegas, the Renaissance is our home away from home. On the walk to our rooms we often encounter Elvis and Priscilla, the hotel’s robots who glide along the hallways delivering whatever a guest has requested. Their job is to do simple tasks so that human staff can spend more time providing service to guests.

Amazon Go is the cashier-less store of the future.  You enter by scanning a QR code on the Amazon Go app on your phone, and then whatever you choose is tallied up and charged to your Amazon account. We felt like shoplifters on our first visit, but the not having to wait for a cashier was something we could get used to.

The ultimate goal is to make life easier so retailers are using AI to enhance the store experience and engage customers both in-store and online, to manage inventories and more. At the same time, AI is collecting massive amounts of data about the customer. These days, the companies you do business with really do know more about you than you know about them.

¨        BOPIS: Buy Online, Pickup In Store

Retailers are getting “phygital” – by 2021, 90 percent of retailers plan to implement BOPIS. And why not? Buy Online, Pickup In Store is the most convenient way for consumers to get what they need without having to shop a busy sales floor. It’s a win for retailers because those customers have to come to the store to pick up their purchases. Smart retailers up the sale by surrounding the BOPIS pickup area with irresistible impulse items.

¨        In-store Experience

You knew we wouldn’t forget this because we’re all about the in-store experience. AR and AI aside, shoppers still crave great service – that means quality human interaction. We predict that in-store customer service will go back to its roots because even shoppers who love everything high-tech still want to talk with knowledgeable store associates who can help them make the right decision. AI may be able to recommend items that go together, but it can’t create a look that suits your unique style as well as a human being can. It’s still about the in-store experience, and it will be until retailers get it right.

We could fill this entire blog with the changes that are coming to retail in 2019. Suffice to say this is the year to keep your eyes open. Adopt what makes sense for your store and be open to change because it’s not just coming, it’s already here.

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Have you considered allowing customers to shop in your store with their pups? Or perhaps you bring your dog with you to work. In this Retail Adventures guest post, attorney Allen Patatanyan discusses why it's important to weigh the risks before joining the "pet friendly" trend.

Weigh The Risks Before Joining the “Pet Friendly” Trend

As #ShoppingWithDogs hashtag continues to make regular appearances on Instagram, alongside shots of happy dogs rolling along in shopping carts, retailers may feel they’re missing out if they don’t jump on the “pet friendly” bandwagon. Those that do would be in good company; beyond the not-surprising entries into the dog-welcoming business clubs, such as pet stores and patio restaurants, even more upscale retailers like Macy’s and Nordstrom now allow canine companions.

While retailers who maintain a “no dogs allowed” policy may risk alienating a few customers, explicitly declaring your business “pet friendly” also comes with risks. The likelihood of in-store mishaps increases – from puddles on the floor to dog bites. But, surprisingly, it’s those little puddles that may carry the biggest liability risk for businesses.

As unpleasant and harmful as they are for victims, potential dog bite incidents on business premises do not pose significant liability risk for businesses. The majority of states have “strict liability” laws for owners of dogs that bite, which means the owner is strictly, automatically, responsible for the damages caused by the bite. Victims need not prove any negligence by the dog owner.  The next most common statute is often referred to as “one bite,” which means a dog owner is not strictly liable for the dog’s first bite.  In these “one bite free” jurisdictions, dog owners are held strictly liable for subsequent bite incidents.

In either case, whether an establishment has a “no dogs allowed” or “dogs are welcome” policy, the business owners are not strictly liable for dogs biting on their premises if they don’t own or control the dog.  Merely allowing a dog on the premises is not enough to establish strict liability under dog bite statutes.  Therefore, the only way dog bite victims may recover damages against businesses and/or their owners is to establish some negligence theory against them, such as proof that that the business establishment knew or should have known that the dog was dangerous – if it had bit another patron on a prior occasion, for example.  So by allowing dogs, businesses have little to lose, as far as bites go unless of course the store owners bring their own dogs into the business, in which case the store owners are strictly liable their dogs’ bites.

It’s only if a dog has an accident on the floor do things get sticky for a business, especially if someone is injured as a result. Slippery floors present significant risk of slip-and-fall incidents for any business. While consumers expect spills on floors in markets or restaurants, which are required to regularly inspect the premises in order to eliminate dangerous conditions on their floors, reasonable shoppers don’t expect liquids or slippery solids on clothing, craft, home decor or similar specialty store floors.

That means any business that allows dogs should heighten inspection protocols to make sure dog accidents on the floors are cleaned up as soon as possible so shoppers are not unreasonably exposed to risk of injuries from slip and fall incidents. When you invite dogs in, you must expect some might have an accident on the floor, consequently, you have a duty to maintain safe premises by scheduling regular inspections and, if necessary, clean-ups.

A lack of sufficient inspections might expose a business to liability in a slip-and-fall case. Victims of slip and fall incidents can successfully hold the owner of the premises responsible if they can establish notice – that the business knew about a dangerous condition, or should have had a system in place that enabled them to notice it.

Unless there clear marketing advantage, it may not be in a retailer’s best interest to actively advertise that pets are welcome, because doing so means being held to a higher standard of safety and putting strict inspection protocols in place. Still, there’s no reason to feel bad about saying no to Fido. Dogs probably get a lot more out of a trip to the dog park than they do from a trip to a retail outlet.

About the Author

Allen Patatanyan is the co-founder of West Coast Trial Lawyers and its Managing Partner. Allen has spent the past fifteen years fighting on behalf of ordinary people and aggressively pursuing those who have caused harm. Over the course of his career, Allen has helped thousands of people obtain tens of millions of dollars in settlements and judgments. Click hereto learn more about Allen and his practice.

The views expressed here are those of the author. For questions please click here.

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One of the best parts of our job is doing retail research; we do it as often as we can. We get excited when we find a vibrant downtown community with a strong indie presence. One of our favorite places to visit is Geneva, Illinois, just a stone’s throw from our offices.

Geneva’s website describes itself as a “picture postcard; a charming hamlet, nestled on the banks of the Fox River.” Its downtown shopping district is home to over 100 specialty shops and restaurants, many housed in historic buildings. It’s a fun place to spend the day.

Each year Geneva hosts four festivals in and around its downtown streets. In some towns, retailers close up shop during festivals, but not here. During Swedish Days, The Geneva Arts Fair, Festival of the Vine or the Christmas Walk and Holiday House Tour, you can count on store doors to be open and the merchants ready to serve.

When your store is located in a busy retail community that’s known for shopping and festivals and restaurants and more shopping, you need to do something to make it stand out. Let’s take a look at a few of our favorite retailers who make running a store look easy:

Anastazia Treasures for the Home

Tom Konopacki, owner of Anastazia Treasures for the Home, carries detailed to-do list for his store in his head. At any given time he is mentally planning his next amazing display, and by display we mean product. Each fixture on Anastazia’s sales floor tells a story.

Anastazia is the true definition of a treasure hunt; everything in the store is unique. You won’t find a brand name in the entire store, and you aren’t likely to find this merchandise at a store down the street. Tom’s customers know to “buy it when they see it” because once it’s gone, it’s gone and it isn’t coming back.

One of Anastazia’s trademarks is the upside down Christmas tree. Tom likes to buy for the next Christmas in January while the current season is still fresh in his mind. He doesn’t rely on standard seasonal vendor themes; instead he builds inspiration boards and takes them with him to the markets he attends.


Tom doesn’t like the word “theme”; he likens themed rooms to Garanimals, those mixed and matched children’s separates that make it easy for kids to dress themselves. You know what he means because you have seen themed tables in that big box craft store. You like wine? Shop the table for instant wine room decor. Tom believes that “truly inspired décor is a collection of treasured pieces that reflect your style and personality, not just a bunch of stuff thrown together because they match.”

Caption: Why use a boring open sign when you can say, “Come in! We’re awesome”?
The reverse reads, “Closed but still awesome.”

Caption: Anastazia owner Tom Konopacki carries every detail of where to go and what to do next in his head. He’s a walking encyclopedia of all things visual merchandising.

This speed bump is a multi-level example of cross-merchandising. Each piece can be used together in the home. Product might be related by color but is not themed.

There is not a single brand name in the store. Blind items can command a bigger markup because no one is aware of what these same items would sell for someplace else.

Treasure hunt. We watched shoppers spend hours looking over the displays at Anastazia. You shop it once but find things you missed the first time you looked. That’s by design.

See something you like? Better buy it now because once it’s gone, it’s gone. Tom doesn’t believe in buying large quantities or having back stock.

Peaceful Parlor

Peaceful Parlour is an eco-chic boutique that offers unique, innovative and sustainable, and Fair Trade products. You may remember Peaceful Parlour from Retail Rearrange, our piece on MSNBC’s television show Your Business, where we took apart the front of the store and reset it to favorable results. As in a 44% sales increase results.

Since then we have sent a lot of time at Peaceful Parlour. Owner Shari Ralish is a breath of fresh air, watching her personally welcome every customer with a smile and an offer of hand blended cup of tea never gets old. Sheri walks the talk. She’s learned the scared art of bee keeping, and has spent time with the Mahots (elephant keepers) in an elephant nature park in Thailand doing everything from washing vegetables to collecting stones to build garden walkways, to caring for the elephants. She is always ready with a story that relates to what sells. And lives.

Shari with a mahot at a Thailand elephant nature park.

In addition to custom organic herbal tea blends, local artisan jewelry, herb infused body oils, and eco-friendly home goods, artwork and children’s toys, Peaceful Parlour offers tarot card readings on daily basis, Reiki sessions upon occasion, and each summer the store hosts a mini-holistic health fair with local healers. It’s an adventure inside four walls.

Outside of Peaceful Parlour is a garden where customers can sit
and enjoy a cup of tea or shop for outdoor decor.

K&B with Peaceful Parlour owner Shari Ralish in her store.

This speed bump display combines several tables to build height and create a multi-layered look. The items displayed are Fair Trade products.

Custom-blended, organic teas are customer favorites. Tea jars are displayed on a clean and uncluttered fixture. To the right of this fixture is a table laden with teas to taste. The market baskets displayed above are handwoven by artisans in Africa.

The front right of the store houses jewelry and accessories. Note the use of jewelry fixtures and found art used as props. Because the main tea wall is not visible from the front of the store, a sampling of teas sits next to jewelry, making it impossible for customers to miss.

This is an example of the card used in much of the store’s signing. Have you ever had a shopper ask for the name of your store before writing a check? Sheri has added the store name above, and “A Future Friendly General Store”, along with the web address, printed underneath for that very reason. The signs do double duty, telling about the product while reinforcing the store name.

So many of the items are unique so Sheri utilizes informational signing to tell their stories.

Jori & June

Jori & June owners Juliet Polonus and Melissa Parkos met while trick-or-treating with their kids and bonded over a shared dream of opening a retail store. We spoke with Juliet; Melissa was in Stillwater, Minnesota readying their second store for its grand opening.

In addition to a bohemian vibe, contemporary fashions and an architecturally cool setting, Jori & June stands out for its in-store events that introduce its customers to local artisans and fellow retailers.

Events here are plenty: A trip to Jori & June might include a pop-up floral shop, right on the sales floor, where you can choose a bouquet or make a floral crown. Or sign up to join a local artisan and glaze pottery. One of our favorite events featured the store’s neighboring retailers: Shari Ralish from Peaceful Parlour, sharing her favorite organic herbal tea blends, iPosh Eye Candy Esthetics offering complimentary hand paraffin treatments, and Green Envee debuting a new diffuser and best essential oils.

Juliet and Melissa pride themselves on knowing their customers so well they can go to market and buy with them in mind. Like Tom at Anastazia, Jori & June does not carry name brands nor do they believe in stocking product large quantities. When something sells out they search for a new look, cherry-picking from many vendors – often local – to curate a unique look for their customers and their store.

Jori & June’s windows are perfect for showcasing product. Notice that what the store sells is on the windows, and the telephone number and web address is on the door in white vinyl reflective lettering. Window shoppers and those driving by can see at a glance what they will find inside the store. 

The building’s bones play a role in its visual merchandising. High ceilings, brick walls, exposed beams and other architectural details set the stage for great displays.

Displays are set to make it easy for shoppers to create and accessorize outfits. Note the shelving unit behind this display: It is being reset in preparation for an upcoming in-store event featuring a local artesian.

Unexpected props like these wood wedges make the jewelry pop.

The curated displays of apparel offer accessory suggestions but do not overwhelm shoppers with too many choices. The rug and plants add to the display and the ambiance of the store. The comfy chairs at the back right of the store serve as a place to try on shoes, and because they are located across from the fitting rooms, they are the perfect place to park your guy while you shop.

Fabric panels serve as an easy divider to encourage customers from shopping the windows while adding interest to the sales floor. They are as easy to change as the window displays.

Crystal Life Technology

Georganne recently spent some time at Crystal Life Technology with owner Atala Dorothy Toy and her team. The topic of the day was how to tweak the sales floor for best results. It would have been a typical consultation but Crystal Life Technology is not your typical store. Atala is specialist in interdimensional communication; she has written extensively on consciousness in countless magazine articles and in her three books. Everyone who works at the store has a spiritual gift and some of them came into play while Georganne offered suggestions to remerchandise the sales floor.

There was a glass display case at the front of the store, just beyond the decompression zone. Georganne suggested be angled so that facing was more visible to shoppers as they entered the store. After each move the staff would quietly listen to make sure that the product was comfortable with the change.

Georganne: “I was kind of taken aback by this at first because I had never encountered anything like this before, but I knew I had to respect them and the process. And then Atala reminded everyone that I knew merchandising and they should give my suggestions a chance. That broke the ice and we went to work. I learned a lot that day, it was a gift.”

Crystal Life Technology’s windows are not at street level but you can easily read its contact information and see the product displayed inside.

The sales floor is light and bright and airy. Healing stones take center stage and are displayed by type. Each is signed with information about the stone, including what it symbolizes and will do for you.

Green Opal, a cleaning and rejuvenating stone, was the Staff Pick for April. Staff Picks help your team engage and connect with shoppers. It’s a good idea for every type of store.

Atala is also an accomplished artist and photographer. Many of the cards sold at Crystal Life Technology feature her designs and photos.

The backdrop on this display makes the merchandise stand out and the informational tent cards tell more about the stones and energy jewelry. The invitations to join Crystal Life Technology on Facebook, and sign up for its newsletter, encourages shoppers to keep close while building the store’s social media following and email list.

Each day the store reinforces what it sells on Instagram with intriguing photos and interesting information about the featured item.

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How many times did you roll your eyes this year, reading all the “retail apocalypse” headlines? Things aren’t a grim as the media would lead us to believe. Brick and mortar retail isn’t dead, but retail does need to change with the times.

Retailers who thrive understand that change and they are connecting with customers in new ways. Shopping is all about the in-store experience, it's social, tactile – the role your store plays in that experience is tantamount to your success. Here are 8 ways to ramp up your store experience:

1. Treat your customers like guests

A consumer survey by Accenture found that 66 percent of customers switch companies because of poor customer service, and a study by the Harvard Business Review reports customers who have had a good experience will spend 140 percent more than customers who had a bad one. Consistently good customer service is critical to your growth.

There is a reason customer-centric companies like Disney and 5-Diamond hotels like the Ritz Carlton refer to customers as guests: it puts the person in higher esteem.

The Breakers Palm Beach’s tagline, “Once you stay, you’ll understand”, is spot on. We had the good fortune to stay there for a conference and the service was above and beyond what we expected. And we expected a lot.

As we drove down the long driveway to the hotel we were greeted by a man tending to the lawn. He introduced himself and asked for our names as he welcomed us to the hotel. He also asked if we have visited before. After a short conversation we continued to the hotel to check in.

As we approached the check-in desk we were greeted by a man standing in front of the desk, as if he were waiting for us. He was. He said, “Mrs. Bender, Mr. Kizer, welcome to The Breakers! This is your first visit, isn’t it? We are so excited that you are here.”

Now, Rich was thinking the desk agent recognized us, but what really happened had more to do with the man we met outside who radioed the front desk with our information. It didn’t matter, we still felt like a million bucks. Most hotel desk agents barely make eye contact when we check in. Throughout our stay everyone we met was polite and answered our questions and requests with, “It would be my pleasure.”

There are many things you can do in your store to create a wonderful guest experience. Here’s where the little things count! Encourage your team to acknowledge every guest they meet on the sales floor. You know what we mean because you know what it feels like to encounter a store employee who deliberately ignores you when you know for certain she has seen you standing there.

We love G.U.S.H., a guest-friendly program Les Orchekowsky created for his Arizona Ace Hardware stores. G.U.S.H. stands for Greet every customer, Usher them to the product they ask about, Sell them what they need, Help them in any way you can. The G.U.S. H. program ensures that every guest receives the attention and help that they deserve.

2. Make sure shoppers feel at home on your sales floor

Is your store easy to shop?  Do you provide shopping carts and baskets?  Are they clean? The little things you don't often think about as you run your day-to-day business can make a big difference to customers. Grab a cart – or maybe a stroller or wheelchair – and maneuver the aisles. Can you easily move throughout the store without knocking product off of displays? Is there enough room for more than one guest to comfortably shop each area at the same time?

Here's a good one: is there a place somewhere in the store for a tired companion to take a break? Women are known to drag men along on shopping trips, and men are known to hate shopping, so it’s always a good idea to have a place for guys to wait in comfort while she peruses your sales floor.

Rich loves to go with Georganne to a particular store in Las Vegas because he gets to kick back on a suede couch in front of a big screen TV.  They even feed him. Don't think for a second that they do that for Rich, they do it for Georganne and her American Express Card.

3. Revisit telephone etiquette

The telephone is one area of contact these days that is horribly overlooked. We’re so used to “talking” to each other via social medias and text messaging that our phone skills aren’t as sharp as they used to be.

Callers make an impression of your business in just 4 to 6 seconds. Trust us, you can tell what mood the associate answering the phone is in because it comes through loud and clear in their tone of voice.

The perception a potential guest takes away from a phone call to your store becomes their reality. We often do informal surveys of our own, calling retailers, suppliers, manufacturers, and service providers just to see how they answer the telephone. Some do a great job, but others leave us wishing we’d called someplace else.

We have a free Rate Your Store’s Telephone Skillsexercise you can do with your store associates, drop us an email if you’d like a copy. And be sure to revisit telephone etiquette in one of your future store meetings – guest service over the telephone is as important as it is face-to-face.

4. Embrace hassle-free policies

Most retailers write store policies to be fair to both the shopper and the bottom line, others make guests jump through hoops to get what they want. This is a dangerous practice in the age of the internet where every site offers hassle-free returns.

So, here’s the question: when a guest asks for something out of the ordinary in your store, what are the odds she’ll get it hassle-free?

When did you last review your store policies and procedures? Take a moment to review your return/exchange policy and other areas of importance, like how class sign-ups are handled. Even in the best of stores, we sometimes find signing and policy deviations that make the owners head explode. Like the repair department that had a sign in full view of shoppers that read, “NOTICE: IF THE PART YOU ORDERED IS THE NOT PART YOU NEEDED, CONGRATULATIONS. YOU NOW HAVE A SPARE.”

And speaking of return policies, you say you can still say no without creating bad feelings. Instead of “NO RETURNS AFTER 30 DAYS. NO EXCHANGES AFTER 30 DAYS. NO RETURNS WITHOUT A RECEIPT.” say “Refunds and exchanges gladly accepted within 30 days. Your receipt guarantees it.” You can say just about anything if you word it in a positive voice.

5. It’s the customers definition that counts

Abercrombie & Fitch opened “Learning Lab”, a new small-store concept with locations near college campuses. The goal is to move away from its traditional teen demographic and connect with 18-to-25-year-olds, the retailer’s new target customer. It’s a smart move. If you want to know what your customers want, you have to hang with your customers.

We’re not suggesting that you relocate your store, but we are suggesting that you visit the places your customers visit, and observe what they do while they are there. This might mean competitors stores, chains, big boxes, craft fairs, expos – you know the places we’re talking about. If you don’t spend time observing your core demographic in other locations, your vision of what they want will be short-sighted.

It’s also important to interview shoppers on your own sales floor. Ask, “What one thing could we do to make your shopping experience more pleasurable?”, “What was your favorite experience in our store?”, “What makes this store different from other (insert your type of store here) stores?”, and “How would you describe this store to a friend?”

That last question is important because it will tell you how your store is perceived in your community. If you sell sewing machines but guests describe you as a fabric store, you have some institutional marketing to do. Keep a journal of what they tell you – you may begin to hear the same things over and over. Your journal will help you determine which areas need to be addressed, and uncover positive things you can celebrate in your marketing.

6. Ask for feedback

According to Podium, a software company that helps businesses improve the customer experience, 93 percent of consumers say reviews influence their purchase decisions. Those reviews – good and bad – live online forever. Why not provide ways for customers to tell you what’s wrong before they leave a negative review?

Stand near the front door and personally ask shoppers leaving empty-handed for feedback during exit interviews. Introduce yourself and ask if they found everything they were looking for. Ask about their in-store experience and interaction with store associates. Find out if there are any classes or events they’d like to attend or product they wish you carried.

Turn cashiers into Reverse Greeters who engage guests in conversation about their in-store experience, or add “How Did We Do?” forms to your website and include a link to that form at the bottom of your email blasts.

When you hear a negative comment, take it in stride, everyone misses sometimes. It’s okay to mess up as long as you make an effort to fix what’s wrong and try to do better next time.

7. Audit your sales floor everyday

Guests make value judgments all over your store. These judgments are really Moments of Truth that affect the store experience. An average visit to your store includes 25 plus Moments of Truth and they often determine whether that guest will return to shop with you again.

When we visit a store to do a consultation for the first time Georganne will excuse herself to visit the restroom. She does this because we have discovered that we can tell how well a store is run by the condition of its ladies room. We laughingly call it the KIZER & BENDER Bathroom School of Management, but it’s true. For some reason, retailers think it’s okay to use the restroom to stack boxes and store props and supplies. Big mistake. We guarantee that if your restroom is a mess, so is your store. Or at least parts of it are.

To ensure that your store’s Moments of Truth are positive, adopt our 360 Degree Pass-By, a quick daily walk through the sales floor. You might not notice much at first, but after two or three days, you’ll quickly see areas that need attention and be able to react accordingly.

8. Say thank you

We know a retailer who got upset whenever a customer left without making a purchase. We had to secretly video-tape her because she didn’t believe us when we explained why she shouldn’t be allowed to work on her own sales floor. The sarcastic tone of her “Thanks for stopping in...” was not lost on potential customers.

A guest’s last impression of your store is just as important as the first. A sincere “Thank you for visiting our store, please come back and see us again!” said with a smile is mandatory, even when the guest leaves empty-handed.

Retailing is an election that is held every day and guests vote with their dollars. In a time when shoppers are inundated with choice, make sure that your store comes in at the top of the list. 


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