Are Retail Stores Putting Themselves Out of Business?

I like to shop local. I like the buy local movement but I’m about to just give up on this idea.

I strongly suggest these types of organizations to focus not only on motivating people to buy local but also in training a bit business owners and staff before they put themselves out of business. There is a huge tragedy waiting to happen.

It is easy to look outside to blame poor results. Blame the economy, online shopping, etc. but it is not so easy to look inside and see what is keeping clients from coming back.

I could give you a very long list of examples of what is going on out there with retail but I’ll refrain from that and I’ll give you just the latest example.

I needed to buy Lego blocks. Yes, like in toys. I use them to make mold boxes. Lego blocks are as popular as Barbies so you would assume any toy store would have them. I went to a Toys R Us store.(I know, not exactly a local store but people working there are local, plus it brings tax revenue to the city).

They had a Lego isle there. Beautiful logo and everything, but I could only see boxes of themed Legos and not just the Lego blocks. Since I usually do avoid human interaction, I looked over and over again and had Nash helping me. No luck. So we went all the way to the front of the store to try to find someone to help me.

Found a guy and asked. He replied: “Oh yes, we  carry that. There is a pink and a blue bucket just with Lego blocks. It is not in the Lego isle but in a nearby one in the back. You can look there”.

So we went back. Looked in all the isles you could think was “close” to the Lego one and no luck.

So we looked for the guy again and didn’t find him and then we looked for someone else. This was supposed to be a very fast in-and-out purchase because we had to travel. So far it had been more than 20 minutes just trying to find the product to buy.

Found someone, asked the same question and got an answer: “I don’t know where it would be, they changed things around here and I was out for 2 months, you can get that online.”

Now I was already a little grumpy and said: “I know I can, but then what would be the need for this store or for your job if I did?”

He kept quiet.

I had something else in my cart so I went to pay. Cashier asked the expected question: “Did you find everything ok?”

We both replied: “no”

Pause, pause, pause, pause, finally the question “what were you looking for?”

I thought, here we go again!

Told her and got the answer: “You can order online”.

For heaven’s sake I know that, I buy online, in fact, I’m an Amazon Prime member, I could have a giant bag of Legos in 24 hrs, in fact I could have stayed home with central air, instead of coming out when it is 98 degrees outside, I could have saved time and use it in better things, I could have saved gas, money in local taxes and my good mood, but I chose to come here to spend the money here, and all I get is a stupid suggestion.

I didn’t give her this long answer, just the same I gave the other guy. What can I say, I’m nice.

Now, let’s just think how this could have been different:

First guy, do some exercise and take me to where you think the boxes are. You are not part of the store’s decor. I’m not an interruption in your day, I’m someone willing to spend money where you work so you can keep your job. You don’t even have to go an extra mile, just some steps.

Second guy, I don’t care that you were on vacation and they moved the toys. You need to know or need to be able and willing to find about the things you don’t know about and do it fast. You deserve to be fired.

Cashier. Be proactive, show that you care at least a little bit and  make useful suggestions.

Store manager and in many, many cases, store owner: You should be fired too. The least you could do is train your staff to help sales. First blame yourself, then blame things you have no control over like the economy. Check where you have weak points and fix them.

How simple would it be to instead of telling me to get out of there and go buy online (which does not mean I’m going to your store site to do that anyway,) for the employee to say something like: “I can get it for you and it will be here tomorrow, or I can check with the other stores and have it delivered here in no time, or I can see if we have the product online, I can order for you right now, so you know you get it and you can pick it up tomorrow or for a very small fee it can be shipped to your home”.

They said nothing even close to that. So, so sad!

By the way, knowing when and what to say to your customers is marketing too. Guess what? It costs less time and money than you using social media without any strategy and it is social too.

I just don’t get it! Why send someone with their hands in their wallet willing to give you money right now someplace else?

Since I’m at this, I want to make two more points. Tell your staff that when they are making a sale, if the phone rings, the phone waits and not the opposite. Same reason as above.

Second, how stupid it is to put a sign at the door saying Visit us on Facebook.

Don’t you think people ask inside their minds: Why? Why should I visit you on Facebook?

Much better, the cashier could say at the end of a transaction: Don’t forget to like us on Facebook. We have exclusive deals and coupons there, so next time you will save a bunch.

Simple training could avoid a tragedy. This is what we call incorporating business rituals. You get better outcomes and have more control over sales processes.

By the way, did I tell you about the business owner that after we worked on these rituals came back and told us his employees didn’t want to do what they were told and there was nothing he could do?

I’ll tell you later but guess what? We fired him.

End of story? I found that Lego costs a lot less on Amazon.

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