by William Smith, AmericasMart Magazine, January, 2011
Becoming successful in retail is actually not that hard. We’re not talking brain surgery here. Successful retailers have been doing it for hundreds of years, no matter what the economy and life in general has thrown at them.
The correct merchandise mix, properly priced and displayed, coupled with innovative operational tools and a knowledgeable, well-trained sales staff is what it takes to turn a store into a successful profitable business. I’m probably not telling you anything you haven’t already heard. But, these days, as in the past, the most important component of retail success is the ability for you and your staff to SELL. Being able to connect personally with a customer, explain product features and benefits, include add-ons, and close the sale is where the money comes from.
I’ve been helping retailers take their businesses to the next level for years now and every once in a while I find myself in a store whose owner knows how to find and hire the right staff and train them well.
Here is a true story of one such store I found purely by accident:
One Sunday morning, my wife, Marilyn, and I decided to take a day trip into the North Georgia mountains. We stopped in a small tourist town and as we walked the streets it started to rain so we fell into the nearest shop to wait out the downpour. It was a small gift shop specializing in kitchen items. We had no intention of buying anything. We’re from Atlanta. Why would we buy kitchen stuff in a tourist town?
An older gentleman who was ringing up a sale greeted us with a friendly “Good afternoon, yawl, feel free to look around.”
We started browsing and in the middle of the shop I found a table with salt and pepper dispensers displayed so customers could try them out. They were thin plunger style grinders that fit in the palm of your hand and were priced at $20 each.
I, of course, had to play with them. I promptly called out to Marilyn, ”Check these out!” Now, my wife is Italian so cooking in our house is not a chore, it’s a passion.
The gentleman clerk came over exclaiming “Aren’t these great? I’ve got a pair at home and I love them” (personal connection). Then he asked, “Do you like to cook?” The answer was, of course, yes and he replied, “So do I (more connecting) and I use these all the time. They are stainless steel, really well made (feature), so they will last a long time (benefit). Very stylish (feature). When I’m through cooking, I put my set right on the dinner table (benefit). My guests always comment on them (ego benefit).”
He showed us a few more features and benefits and then said “But the great thing I love is while you are sautéing you only need one hand to use them. You can keep stirring with the other hand.”(feature and benefit) Marilyn thought this was great!
“We’ll take a set”. He then dropped a casual, up-sale add-on bomb. “These make great gifts”.
Now it’s close to impossible for us to find the right gifts for our gourmet, kitchen gadget-filled neighbors, and these definitely filled the bill. Great idea, so we grabbed two more sets. Here we are “browsers” in a tourist town who were “sold” a set of salt and pepper dispensers for $40 then up-sold for a total of $120 plus tax.
While the gentleman was ringing us up, I had to ask, “Is this your store?” He replied, “Oh no, I just work here part time.” (Certainly fooled me.) He then asked us to write down our email address so he could send us the link to their website and specials they run from time to time. He handed us our purchases and to our delight, he had packaged two sets in beautiful gift bags ready to give to our neighbors. We thanked him like crazy and shook his hand. The rain stopped so off we went, thrilled with our purchase and very happy that we had solved some of our gift problems.
Now let’s review.
Two “browsers” from Atlanta slip into a tourist town kitchenware shop to get out of the rain. They’re greeted by a friendly, baby-boomer part-time sales person who created several personal connections, explained the features and benefits of the products, closed the sale, then up-sold them to three times the original purchase price. This in a town where lots of stores were competing for the same browsing tourist dollars.