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Category: Merchandising

Three Pictures, Three Smiles

It is soooo easy to bash stores and their poor customer service. I am almost afraid to go out any more because every encounter ends up becoming a post about what not to do.

For instance, I could tell you about tonight’s dinner when the waitress brought the check and then disappeared for ten minutes before returning to take my money.

Or I could talk about the manager who totally dressed down a cashier in front of me for doing something that the cashier never did.

Fortunately there have been positive stories like the clerk at Walmart who helped a new mom who had brought her toddler in to get his meds, only to have the little boy vomit all over himself, his mom, and everywhere. This clerk not only helped clean him up, she helped get mom and the boy into the restroom so that mom could clean up, and even went and picked out a new sleeper for the poor little kid so that he could have fresh clothes to go home in.

It not only reminded me that good people will rise above their surroundings*, it also reminded me that you can’t train “caring”, but you darn well better hire for it.

For today’s post I leave you with three pictures that made me smile.

Creative Display or Prank Customer?

Towel Display I found while shopping

It is highly likely that a customer having a little fun probably did this. But it stopped me dead in my tracks and made me actually laugh out loud. What would have been better is if they had Scrabbled the letters so that they spelled words both across and down. Here is the thing … You can do this yourself. You may or may not have the guts to spell out Bad Ass, but if you’re clever enough, you will surprise and delight at least a few observant folk.

When you do little things like this purposefully, these little attentions to detail remind customers that you pay attention to everything.

That builds trust. Trust creates loyalty.

Signs Sell!

Game Department Signage at Hall of Toys

It might be too small to read here, but this sign I found in the game department of Hall of Toys in Battle Creek, Michigan was quite clever. The sign reads …

Empire Building
Build, protect, and rule over a civilization,
agricultural empire, or business venture to
crush the competition and win.

This kind of signage not only makes the department seem more fun, it gives you a better idea of the types of games you’ll find. The more creative you are with your signage, the more likely customers will stop, browse, and buy. Signs are one area where creativity wins. Be useful first, but mix in some clever and creative to surprise and delight your fans.

Displays That Draw Attention

Animal Display at CR Toys

This came from another toy store. It falls into the category of Go Big or Go Home. Connie found a fun way to highlight the variety of animal-themed toys she sells in her Kearney, Nebraska store.

What I like about this display is the height. There is something fun at every level, something surprisingly delightful everywhere you turn. If part of your customer base is children, do what Walt Disney famously did the day before Disney Land opened. Get on your knees and look at it from their perspective. You see the world at different angles. Make sure you have something interesting in your displays from all angles

That’s your feel-good for today. Keep sending me the good, the bad, and the ugly.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS *I know it was a clerk rising above her surroundings, because while she was bending over backwards to help this poor mom, I watched several other clerks simply stand by and do nothing at all. Some even left the area so they wouldn’t get tasked with having to help clean up the mess. No, she wasn’t the manager, either. I could write a whole other post on what the manager was doing while all this was going on. I’ll save that cautionary tale for later.

My Conundrum and How to Get Past It

I had a sales rep who got mad at me because I refused to display his car seats, swings, high chairs, strollers, and play pens in groupings by their fashions. He had proof that I would sell more if I sorted them by fabric pattern instead of by product type. My argument to him was that customers didn’t buy a playpen because it matched the car seat fabric. Heck, the two items would never be side-by-side after the shower anyway.

My belief was that fabric pattern was a secondary choice after product features and benefits. My belief was that grouping those items together might help his sales by getting customers to buy more of his products, but my staff was skilled enough to find the right car seat, stroller, high chair, play pen, and swing to meet the customer’s needs regardless of fashion.

I was right.

So was he.

This merchandising battle between Brand and Category played out several times throughout the store. Was it better to merchandise all one brand together or merchandise all one type of product together?

More often than not, I fell on the side of putting similar products together first. This, in my mind, served the customer better because she could more easily compare competing brands of the same product she desired. If she wanted a shape sorter, she could find all the different shape sorters from multiple vendors in one spot, making it easier for her (and my staff) to debate the benefits of each one side-by-side.

Because of the size and breadth of our store with over 500 vendors and over 30,000 items, we mostly sorted by category first, and then by brand.

But there is a lot of merit in sorting your merchandise by brand first, and then by category, especially if you have a smaller store.

Brand loyalty still exists. Many brands have spent a lot of time marketing and advertising themselves and building a relationship direct with the consumer. You have customers coming in daily asking for certain brand names. Sections merchandised by brand help foster the emotional connection customers already have with that brand. The customer also begins to associate that brand with your store, and thinks of you every time they see a brand message.

Branded sections are more visually appealing. The packaging is often the same coloring and style which helps to make a completed look. Some brands also give you posters, shelf-talkers, and signs to help you dress up the branded area. Since the goal of merchandising is to get customers to look at the product, the more visually appealing, the more likely the customer will stop and gander.

Plus, in a small store it is easy enough to compare similar products from different brands because you don’t have as far to go.

The downside? Branded sections need to be well-stocked to work. Once your inventory gets depleted, those sections look worn, tired, and uninviting. You can’t fill in with other items from other companies like you can with a category-sorted merchandising plan. You have to commit to higher inventory levels to make it work best.

It took me a while to wrap my head around this merchandising concept—even though I was already doing it with LEGO, Playmobil, and Breyer. Those companies were easy, though, because the brand only existed in one category. To fully appreciate the merits of both styles I had to ask the most important question … What serves the customer best?

When you ask the right question, the answer becomes more apparent …

Both styles of merchandising serve the customer best. One style serves the product-driven shopper best. One style serves the brand-driven shopper best.

If you have brands that drive their own customers, put those items together in one spot and keep it fully stocked and visually inviting. Everything else, sort it by category first.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS When you start building your branded sections, contact the company for materials. They often have free stuff they can send you. Then take it to the next level by doing your own creative work. That picture was our Groovy Girl department, designed by my staff. Our cost was about $90 in material. I had customers begging me for that canopy when we closed because of how much they loved it.

One Easy Thing Even Your Seasonal Staff Can Do

Back in 2005 I started working on a plan. Our store had two major bottlenecks for traffic that made it hard for customers to navigate the store during peak times. Those bottlenecks also made it hard for the staff to navigate, especially with a cart full of merchandise to replenish the shelves. I was reading Paco Underhill’s still-relevant book Why We Buy for the sixth time and knew it was time to revamp the layout of the store to allow for better traffic flow, better sight lines, and better organization of the store.

It took me an entire year, an entire pad of graph paper, a full ream of printer paper, and several hours with a measuring tape in my hands walking up and down aisles before I came up with a new plan. In May of 2006 we closed the store for three days and moved everything. I mean everything. Every single shelf was dismantled and moved elsewhere. The hobby and baby departments traded places. The cash registers and gift wrap counters were moved. The main aisles were widened. The departments now flowed with rhyme and reason. There was room for customers, for shopping carts, and for the staff to restock the store.

Then I went to work on training the staff how to restock and straighten the store. Every day in every aisle we had someone on the team going up and down looking for lost toys, returning them to their homes. Even on the busiest of days we made sure to get up and down each aisle straightening, dusting, and replenishing several times a day.

A new, better layout was only one piece of the puzzle. We had to keep those aisles clean and neat and organized. My grandparents and parents had taught me this one truth about merchandising …

Messy aisles cost you money.

Although messy aisles are the norm in most of your competitors, they hurt your sales both short and long-term. If you only give attention to your aisles and displays in the early morning or after you close, your store gets progressively messier as the day goes by and your on-her-way-home-from-work-got-time-for-one-quick-stop customer gets to see you at your worst. That’s not the image you want her to share with her friends. That’s not the way to WOW her with surprise and delight.

One simple thing you can do this holiday season is assign one staff person every hour for Floor Duty. That person’s job is to spend the entire hour doing the following:

  • Finding misplaced items and returning them to the proper area.
  • Straightening up messy displays
  • Picking up litter, empty boxes, empty displays, etc.
  • Fronting all the items on the shelves and pulling them forward to the front edge of the shelf
  • Filling major holes in displays with back-stocked merchandise

That’s five simple things that even a seasonal employee can learn to do.

Here are the benefits to you:

  • Helps deter shoplifting. Yes, having a staff person on the floor going up and down the aisles makes shoplifters uncomfortable.
  • Helps you find lost items. It is one thing to have software that tells you that you have one item in stock. It is another to be able to find that item quickly to please a customer.
  • Attracts a different level of customers. Transactional customers are willing to paw through messy bins and displays to find their treasures. Customers who shop based on relationships and trust are more attracted to the stores that show they care not only about the customer, but also about the products.
  • Helps your customers get the assistance they need. Customers with questions are always more comfortable asking the busy shelf-stocker than the busy cashier, the crowd of employees talking about last night’s party, or the salesperson waiting to pounce.
  • Helps you increase sales. If you only wait until tonight or tomorrow morning to replenish, you are bound to lose sales because not all customers will ask if you have any in back.
  • Helps you train your staff on the products you sell. The more time they spend on the floor stocking and straightening instead of trapped behind the cashier’s fortress, the more they get to know what you sell.

Best of all, you will definitely stand out amongst the competition. The big box stores don’t have the staff (or apparently the desire) to keep their stores clean and organized. The category killer chains typically stock late at night or early in the morning. The minimum-wage gum chewers never leave the cash-wrap.

Even if you don’t have Pottery Barn merchandising skills, this one move of keeping someone on the floor constantly straightening and cleaning all day long will raise the perceived level of merchandising in your store well above that of the competition. That’s how you win this holiday season.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Yes, it is in your best interest to have your best salesperson out on the floor at all times. But even having a raw, green seasonal employee that knows how to get answers and solve problems is better than not having anyone out there at all. If you can, buddy up your best salespeople with your seasonal staff and let the newbies learn from the best.

A Fresh Set of Eyes Sees What You’re Missing

Get in a circle of store owners and say the words “Mystery Shopper” and watch the eyes begin to roll. We all hate them or, if that’s too strong a word, think quite low of them.

The problem? Mystery shoppers tend to only take a snapshot of a single moment in your store with no regards to what is going on around them. They evaluate your entire operation based on one interaction, one done-under-false-pretenses-just-to-see-how-you-react interaction at the most inopportune time with the least talented member of your team.

Not fair.

The biggest problem with the Mystery Shopper concept is that most business owners are quick to dismiss the findings as being only a snapshot in time and not a true reflection of your business.

Then again, a new customer walking through your doors will only get a snapshot of a single moment in your store with no regards to what is going on around them. The only difference is that this customer won’t offer you any feedback to help you improve.

You need a fresh set of eyes. You need someone else to help you see the flaws that have blended into the landscape. You need someone to:

  • Look at the appearance of the store from the front. Is it clean? Is it inviting?
  • Walk through the door and give you an honest first impression. Does it smell funny? Is it inviting?
  • Look at the little details like signage and order and cleanliness and lighting and decor. Does the store look or feel worn and dated? Does the store feel dark and dirty or bright and happy? Do the signs even apply anymore? Does the merchandising draw you in?
  • Get a first impression of the staff. Are they welcoming or huddled for safety and comfort?

A fresh set of eyes can identify the subtle turn-offs you stopped seeing years ago. A fresh set of eyes can show you what you look like at your worst, which is far more important than what you look like at your best.

Before listing my house I had a few fresh sets of eyes look it over. We found a door that needed painting. We found a roof area that needed cleaning. We found some rooms that needed re-decorating. We found an outlet cover that was broken. We found paint peeling on the outdoor furniture. We found a mess of cobwebs in the light at the end of the driveway. We found bushes and tree branches and vines that needed trimming. We found a tree that needed to be cut down. We found thirty two cans of paint that needed to be removed.

Individually those are all minor in the grand scheme of life. Collectively, however, they create a perception different from the one I want the people looking at my house to feel. It took more than one fresh set of eyes to find it all.

Get a few friends, preferably ones who do not regularly shop in your store (I know you have them—we all have them). Give them a list of things you want them to notice (the above list is a good start). Then invite them all over to your house for pizza and beer and sharing. You’ll be amazed at what they see, and if you’re honest enough to listen to them without getting defensive, you’ll make sure the “worst” experience anyone has in your store is better than the best at your competitors.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Don’t think you aren’t blind to seeing things right under your nose. We all are. When I closed Toy House, we found almost $10,000 worth of “missing” merchandise that had been written out of stock over the years. Most of it was in places we looked almost every day. We found signs that should have been taken down years ago. Get some fresh eyes in your store now before the holiday rush starts creeping up on you. That’s worth a few pizzas and beer, right?

The Scary Truth of Averages

“Have you ever noticed that everyone wants to be normal but no one wants to be average?” -Roy H. Williams

Did you hear the one about the statistician that drowned in a river with an average depth of three feet?

Image result for averagesIn business, everyone wants to know the averages, the average cost of rent, the average sales per square foot, the average level of inventory, etc. Averages are interesting. They can be a nice benchmark, but they can also be misleading, and sometimes downright dangerous.

Take, for example, average inventory at cost (a number you should all be tracking). If you were an average toy store doing around $500,000 a year in sales, your average inventory at cost would be around $100,000. But if you are that same toy store, your Thanksgiving to Christmas sales will likely be around $200,000, or pretty much all of your inventory if you only had the average on hand. As nice as it would be to sell to the walls, so-to-speak, you know you can’t sell it all. You also know you need some inventory in January for birthdays and post-Christmas.

Just trying to keep your store at the average will kill your holiday sales. You’ll need a lot higher inventory to start the busy season and much lower inventory the rest of the year. Rarely will you ever have the “average” amount of inventory on hand.

Another problem with that average is that $100,000 worth of toys looks a whole lot different in a 2,200 square foot store than it does in a 1,100 square foot store.

The bigger the store, the more creative you may need to be with your merchandise to keep the store looking stocked and full. The smaller the store, the more creative you may need to be with your merchandise to fit it all in. Sometimes your store space dictates your inventory levels more than just sales or industry averages.

Averages are a nice starting point, but it is worth exploring all the reasons you might deviate from the average, and be okay with those reasons.

For instance, my payroll at Toy House was a significantly higher percentage of our expenses than the average toy store. But I could afford that because my rent was significantly lower. Our sales per square foot was extremely low compared to the average, but that was because we had wide aisles to allow for shopping carts, four cash registers lines, a large gift-wrapping area, and a stage with seating/playing area—in other words, a lot of square footage not used for showing merchandise. Our average ticket, thanks to shopping carts and toy demos however, was significantly higher. Each deviation from the norm was on purpose and with a purpose.

I do many talks about the financials of independent retailers. Whenever possible I try to use an average store for that industry. But I remind everyone in attendance that these numbers are average and they should be striving to be spectacular. If all your numbers are average, you haven’t found the place to stand out and make a name for yourself.

In retail, there isn’t a prize for being normal.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS The upside to averages is that they give you a quick check of the health of your business. If you have a number way off from the averages and you don’t know why, that might be a good place to focus your time and energies on changing. The downside is that you don’t ever want to be an average store. You are destined for greater than that.

PPS Rent per square foot and sales per square foot go hand in hand. You need to be selling at least 10x more per square foot than what you pay in rent (if your profit margin is around 50%). That’s a far better benchmark than average rent or average sales per square foot for your industry. Those averages tell you nothing.

The Fine Line Between Chaos and Just Plain Messy

Chaos: noun /’kā-äs/ : behavior so unpredictable as to appear random, owing to great sensitivity to small changes in conditions (thank you, Google)

Chaos is a system too complex for the average observer to see any order.

I hated to file things away. Just not my thing. I would let stacks of papers and catalogs grow to the point of toppling over before biting the bullet and putting them away where they belong.

Most people called my desk messy. But in reality it was more chaotic than messy because I knew exactly what was in each of the piles. I knew there was a system and order. it was just too complex for the average person to see.

They called it messy. And they were right. Why?

Because perception trumps reality. I could argue about my “system” until the cows come home, but you and everyone with you would just see a hot mess.

Image result for kohls mens departmentThat’s how customers often feel about your merchandising. There might be some sort of order to why you merchandised certain products where you did, but if that order isn’t easily recognized, then to your customers, your store is a mess. (Then again, you might be like the men’s pants at Kohl’s and be an actual mess!)

The degree to which your chaos will look messy has a lot to do with the general design and layout in your store. There are generally two distinctly different styles of setting up your store or department, and they have two different levels of allowable chaos. You could go Military or Whimsy.

MILITARY STYLE MERCHANDISING

Characteristics: Rows and aisles are straight and easily navigable. Product is displayed orderly by type and size in neat and even rows.

Pros: Easy to navigate through the store. With proper signage, it is easier to find the product you already knew you wanted. Customers who wish to browse the whole store can track where they have been and where they haven’t. Much more navigable for shopping carts and strollers. Sense of order and control for the store. Harder for shoplifters to hide.

Cons: There is less sense of discovery because it is harder to get products directly in front of a customer. Endcaps become the prime real estate but are limited. Customers are less enticed to browse. Harder to change displays and departments.

Use: This is a common layout for grocery stores and large discount stores. It also makes sense for stores that appeal more to men. Men are less likely to browse and want to find their products with the least amount of work. If you sell mostly commodities, this style suits you best.

Chaos is deadly for these stores. They are built on order. To be successful, you have to be stocking and straightening constantly.

WHIMSICAL STYLE MERCHANDISING

Characteristics: No defined rows or straight lines. Lots of curves, free-standing displays, and a meandering path. Product is grouped but not necessarily ordered.

Pros: A lot of product ends up facing directly at the customer as she makes her way through the store. More chance for discovery of new products or forgotten products. Sense of wonder and discovery at every turn. Easy to change out product displays. Store always feels new.

Cons: Not easy for strollers or shopping carts. Difficult to run in and grab something quick. Can create bottlenecks of traffic. Feels less ordered. Much more difficult to spot products out of place. Easier for shoplifters to hide.

Use: Clothing stores and gift shops employ this style to great success. Everywhere you turn a new display is facing right at you. Small boutique stores of all kinds can employ this style. Even departments within bigger stores can use this style. Just remember that it is a put off for men and for customers who want to shop quick. It appeals more to customers who like to browse and discover. If you sell mostly new and unique items, this style suits you best.

Chaos is much more forgiven in a Whimsy store – as long as the displays are neat. If you have a creative merchandiser who can make displays look fantastic, you can sell a lot of cool merchandise in a store like this. The trick, however, is that unlike the Military style, it is a lot harder to notice the messes when they do happen.

There is a fine line between chaos and mess and more often than not indie retailers are on the wrong side of that line. If you’re not sure of your own chaos, have a friend not affiliated with the store come in and see if she can tell the order of your store. If not, then customers might think you’re too messy to bother.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS The great stores employ enough people to keep the aisles and displays neat and clean and stocked no matter what style of merchandising. Plus, those extra employees on the floor discourage shoplifting. In the race to the top, this is one of the separating factors.

PPS There are several studies that show how chronically disorganized people like me are actually smarter than average. That’s fine for my desk (and yours), but you don’t need a study to know that a hot mess of a display will turn customers away. As messy as I am, I’ve walked out of several stores because I didn’t want to dig through the heap to find what I wanted. Don’t let potential customers do the same in your store.

PPPS Your merchandising is part of your Branding because it sets the “feel” of the store. It is usually the first emotion someone feels when they enter.

Give Them What They Want

Tonight I’m doing a repeat performance of last week’s Campfire Sing-Along at The Poison Frog Brewery. Last week I brought songbooks with the lyrics to forty-three songs from the likes of John Denver, The Eagles, Dobie Gray, Indigo Girls, Peter, Paul & Mary, The Beatles, Garth Brooks, and more. The evening went like this … Pick a song you want to sing and I’ll play it while we all sing it. Seemed simple enough, right?

June 23, 2017 behind The Poison Frog Brewery

Immediately people started asking for songs not on the list. They weren’t bad requests. I love Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay”. But they weren’t songs on the list or in the songbook with all the words. Still, people asked.

You know me. I’m all about making the customer happy. I’ve added a few of those requested songs to the list for tonight. I’ve added a few more songs as well.

What does that have to do with retail?

Every single retailer in America thinks they have a great selection of products just as much as I thought I had a great selection of songs. But there are products your customers come in asking for by name that you don’t have. There could be a good reason why you don’t have those products. Maybe you can’t get them. Maybe you don’t like the profit margins. Maybe you consider those products inferior to what you carry.

Keep in mind, however, if a customer stops in and asks if you have something, that means the customer thought of you as a place that would sell that product.

If your customers are constantly asking for certain items, maybe you need to reconsider carrying them. Or at the very least have a far better answer than either, “No,” or “We can’t get them.” If you keep saying, “No,” they will stop coming in and asking.

If it is something you either can’t get or simply don’t want to get because there is a better alternative, you could say, “No we don’t but can I show you something similar (better)?”

If it something you don’t carry and have never really thought about carrying, you could reply, “No we don’t. I’ll have to look into carrying that. Thanks for the suggestion.”

If a customer is asking, the customer thinks of you as a place that would have it. Wouldn’t it be great if you could say, “Yes we do,” more often than, “No we don’t,”?

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS My stock reply to requests not in the songbook is simply, “I’ll have to learn that for next time.” Usually I’m looking it up the very next day. If they think I can play it, I don’t want to disappoint them. Any time you can avoid saying “No” is a good time.

An Article Every Retailer Must Read

If you are a retailer, you need to read this article about Amazon’s new brick & mortar store in Chicago. It will be one of the scariest and most eye-opening articles you read this year. Go ahead. I will wait.

Image result for amazon brick and mortar store

Amazon, who is already cleaning our clocks online, is doing in their stores what some of us have only dreamed of doing and others haven’t even thought of doing. Amazon is bypassing the biggest headache most retailers face – getting your staff up to speed on product knowledge. How? By using signs.

Every single book in their store has a sign with reviews, ratings, and answers to the basic questions your customers would ask. Plus they have signs recommending similar titles, signs giving you data and information to help you make a purchase.

Rick Segal, famed retail consultant and speaker, once told me that signs increase sales of a product by 47%. He didn’t back that up with any proof, but it wasn’t a hard number to grasp. Just think about who would prefer a sign over a salesperson…

…every man and half the women.

Men like signs. We like signs because we speak vertically. Did what I say make you think higher of me or lower of me? Given the choice, most men would rather read a sign and figure things out on their own than ask questions and admit that they don’t know something. (Ladies, now you know why we don’t like to stop and ask for directions – just give us a map.)

Introverts like signs. Introverts aren’t shy. They just like their interactions with others to be meaningful and useful. Signs give them information to formulate the right questions before they have to interact with the salespeople.

Amazon is winning that game in their brick & mortar store.

You can, too.

No, you don’t have the data that Amazon has to create the kind of signage they create. But you can create signs that explain benefits. You can create signs that compare and contrast. You can create signs that answer frequently asked questions. You can create signs that show testimonials and staff picks (and why the staff picked them).

Online is where customers go when they know exactly what they want. Brick & Mortar is for people who want to browse or have someone help them find something when they aren’t sure what they need. Signs help you take care of those customers when your sales people are busy. Signs help you take care of customers when your customers would rather not interact with your salespeople. Signs help you take care of customers when your salespeople aren’t fully trained on product knowledge. Signs sell.

Get a computer and printer up front. Create a template. Start printing. Signs can even be hand-written if the penmanship is good. (Turn this project over to your staff and it will even help them with their product knowledge.)

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS If you did the math, you are thinking right now that 75% of the population prefers signs over salespeople, so why have any salespeople at all? First, understand that not everyone goes shopping. Since extroverts gain energy from being around people, they are more likely to be in-store shoppers than introverts. And there are multiple theories explaining why women tend to shop more than men. Therefore, it is highly likely that your store has more extroverted women in shopping right now than their percentage of the population would dictate. Second, relationships matter. Some customers don’t know the right questions to ask and need the guidance. Some customers have questions your signs couldn’t anticipate. Some customers don’t want items of mass appeal. Your salespeople are critical. So are your signs. Amazon got that second part right. Very right. You can, too.

PPS Your sales staff likes signs, too. Signs give your team confidence because they don’t have to remember facts. They can’t focus more on feelings, the relational side of sales.

Do You Have Enough Staff or Just Enough Staff?

There are two ways to determine the right amount of staff to have on your floor.

You can have enough people to handle the average traffic expected that day.

Or you can have enough people to handle the peak traffic moment that day.

Yes, the second one costs you more in labor expenses because you never know when that rush will occur. But look at the pluses.

  • You’re never under-staffed. You never have to worry about a customer having a bad time and flaming you on Yelp because your staff wasn’t able to handle the rush of customers. Whelming? Yes, but never overwhelming.
  • You have plenty of extra bodies to do all the other stuff that you never seem to find the time to do. Make a list for your go-getters. Sweeping, dusting, rearranging merchandise, creating fabulous window displays, making signs, tagging merchandise, updating social media, etc.
  • You have the ability to exceed customer expectations on a regular basis. To get customers to talk, you have to do more than they expect. Imagine their delight when you have extra bodies to help them shop, wrap their gifts quickly and carry them out to the car. 

You can’t do all that with average staffing and above average traffic. As for costing you more, if you think of your staff as your greatest asset, the more you invest, the more it pays off. My grandfather had an old adage that served him well for his life – it’s impossible to overpay for great help.

Keep that in mind as you do your seasonal hiring.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS There are ten employees in the above picture (some hidden behind big boxes). There are another ten employees not shown out serving other customers. My payroll is a higher percentage than most stores. I take that money out of my ad budget because delighting customers is every bit as important as a marketing tool as running great ad campaigns.

PPS If you need help hiring a better quality of employees, read the book Hiring and the Potter’s Wheel: Turning Your Staff into a Work of Art. It is the method of hiring that has made the biggest difference in the quality of my staff.

It’s All About the Story

One final thought from my trip to Walt Disney World…

I took two teenage boys to the land of pink princesses, Frozen queens, and fairy tales come true. I took two roller coaster freaks who think Cedar Point (a mere 2.2 hour drive from us) is the Mecca of amusement parks to the land of talking mice, mermaids, and musicals. I took two teenage boys on rides that one would expect them to find more boring than the 21 hour drive we took down I-75.

My older son summed up his experience in two words, “My Childhood!”

My younger son only needed one word, “Epic!”

Walt Disney World delighted an entire family including two boys who on the surface wouldn’t seem to fit their demographic. But Walt knew what he was doing. It’s right here in this quote I took from an area under construction…

“It is my wish to delight all members of the family, young and old, parent and child.” -Walt Disney

How did he accomplish that? It’s all about the story.

We didn’t go on a roller coaster. We took a limo across town to get to the Aerosmith concert.
We didn’t go on an up-and-down thrill ride. We visited a haunted hotel in the Twilight Zone.
We didn’t go on a water ride. We were told the story of Br’er Rabbit.
We didn’t go on a G-Force simulator ride. We flew a spacecraft to Mars.

From the moment you got in line, the story was being told. Costumes, decorations, and activities while you waited were all designed to tell you the story. No detail was spared.

Were the rides as thrilling as Millenium Force? No. But they were every bit as fun. Even DINOSAUR, which my son likened to “driving on Michigan roads”, was fun enough to do it twice.

The lesson here is that the story sells it. The story makes it far more exciting, memorable, and likable than it is on its own. The story wins the heart. Most importantly, when you include the customer in the story, when you make her story your story, you’ll win her heart and all the members of the family, just like Walt.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS It isn’t as hard as you might think to come up with stories that include the customer. Just get the customer to start her story and then add your store and product stories to the narrative.