Being the holiday season, most of us are doing a little more shopping than we normally would, exposing us to a variety of customer service situations. What I’ve come to realize (as a customer) is that regardless of if I’m in a large department store or a small specialty boutique, there are a few basic fundamentals of selling that hold true.
Most customers want to buy something, but they hate to be sold to and bombarded by pushy salespeople. I may not know what I want specifically, but I usually have a general idea. Ask me what that is and show me things you think might just fit the bill, not the most expensive or exotic item you want to clear off the shelf.
To be honest, my first impression upon walking into your store will be a lasting one. If the floor is dirty or things are unorganized and hard to find, I will remember this. If the store smells inviting, is clean and easy to navigate, I will remember this as well.
Just because it’s the holiday season and you’re busy/stressed, please do not take out your frustrations from the last obnoxious customer out on me. I know that customers can be rude and selfish, but I just came in for a gift—not a taste of your ugly side.
As busy as the store may be, remember to at least have someone greet me within the first couple minutes. While I don’t want to be stalked, I also don’t want to be ignored if I am in search of something specific.
And finally, shoppers never want to hear, “I only work here,” or “I’m just seasonal help.”
So, as basic as it may seem, remember that successful selling is all about creating a positive experience from start to finish. Even if the customer walks out without a purchase, you have provided a pleasant service that they will remember long after the holidays pass.
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
What makes your store unique?
We try to carry things that you won’t find everywhere else, be it other gift shops or other museum stores. If an item is the same, then we try to display it differently or promote it in a novel way. We pay a lot of attention to being friendly, giving good service, and encouraging people to relax in our store. We even have signs encouraging people to touch the merchandise. No “break it, buy it” signs for us.
What is your retail background?
I’m beginning my 40th year in marketing and product marketing, most of it in pure retail. I managed small stores right out of college, then was general merchandise manager for a large college department store with a couple of dozen different product categories; I later had a consulting business for several years before coming here.
What is the most popular product you sell?
Right now, I guess it would be the various types of “eco bags,” or reusable grocery sacks.
What trade shows do you attend?
I attend the gift shows in Dallas and in Atlanta when I can, as I feel that one is the best. The licensing show is also fascinating and great for trend spotting.
What is your favorite part of this industry?
The fact that things always change. I’m a student of pop culture, trends, etc., and in this business you can be right in the middle of it.
What advice do you have for other retailers?
I’d hate to be so presumptuous, but I suppose it would be that it’s all about your inventory — selecting it and presenting it; controlling its amount; turning it over regularly; disposing of slow sellers fast and without emotion. And use your inventory to target your market, not having something for everyone, because real buying is editing.
Do you change your return policy during the holiday season?
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