Experience

The Point of Retail

Sam Frentzel-Beyme Follow Managing Partner & Strategy Director

The Short of It

  • Rules and guidelines can stifle creativity in retail.
  • Retail environments are not just about creating sales that day, but creating a venue where relationships can be built. 
  • Creating repeat business is as much about the experience as it is about the product.

I was in a surf shop the other day to rent a board down in Virginia Beach. There were a number of shops, so I stopped in to the first one that I came across.

Since my wife and I only had a few hours, I asked if we could just rent them for a half day. The first salesperson turned to the second salesperson slightly puzzled and asked, “Do we rent boards for a half day?” to which the person, after thinking for a moment, responded “No, we don’t rent boards for half days.”

Hmmm… We’re the only ones in the shop and their corner of rental boards is completely full.

I then asked if any other places rented for shorter periods and they told us to go to the place right across the street. Yes, they were nice enough, but my feeling is that neither of the people in the shop really understood the point of retail: move product and look for other opportunities to move product.

Yes, rules and guidelines within a business are important, but they should be questioned if they make it difficult for front line salespeople to make financially beneficial decisions on the fly.

Here are some of the things that the shop lost that day:

1. Revenue. 

It might have been only half of what they wanted, but it would have been something. Again, if the shop were completely packed with existing customers lining up for their boards it would be one thing. In this case, they were completely empty.

2. Relationship.

In sales, the final product or service is really just a common objective around which two or more people can have a dialog. Bad salespeople focus only on the product. Good salespeople focus on the person and understand who they are and what their needs are. In this case, by saying “no” right away, this shop’s salespeople lost an opportunity to enter into a dialog that could have turned a single transaction into a multiple one.

3. Repeat business. 

When you give customers an opportunity to get what they need from someone else, you take the chance that they will never have to come back to you. In this economy, businesses need to be selfish about their customers and that means being flexible to demands that might contradict the typical way that things are done. In this case, the first shop will now be my second choice and, depending on how the first shop does, this might mean that they never really get back in the game.

Retail shops can be beautiful places, but in the end they need to be about helping customers find what they want and then helping make sure that you're the first in line to fill that need.

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