By  on January 23, 2009

The Obstacles Of Shopping

So much has been said about what a crummy holiday season it was. And, there are stories almost daily of stores closing. This might sound excessive, but in some cases there are retailers who just aren’t serving consumers in a manner that makes it fun to shop. Fixing the lack of pleasure in shopping could help restore luster to retail sales.
The names of the stores are being withheld in fairness, but the examples illustrate just how hard it is to be a customer today.

Here are a few stories from the trenches:

Poor Staffing: Two days after Christmas, the photo department at a major drug chain is three rows of people deep in traffic. A customer wants to buy a Calvin Klein fragrance gift set (and the industry surely needs customers like that) while he picks up his holiday photos. He waits 10 minutes and gives up — chucking the gift kit onto an end of aisle display. Another shopper has New Year’s cards on order so she waits and waits. While the employees are apologetic, the department is just too busy for the amount of people on hand. Two trips to the store found similar backups at the photo lab, so it wasn’t an isolated incident. Chains need to know how to have proper staffing so not to infuriate customers who actually want to spend.

Ridiculous Return Policies: A young girl wants to return one of her holiday gifts to a major mall-based specialty store. She has the original gift receipt and the tags are all on the garment. She is told she needs an adult to do the swap. And, once the adult comes to the checkout, the consumer (mom in this case) is required to show her license and give an explicit reason for the return. Sure returns are problematic, but this was a total turnoff to the store. Unfortunately, the daughter is addicted to the casualwear at the retailer so the mom will be stuck shopping there — like it or not.

Messy Displays: Testers are still a new concept at mass and while opening up sales doors, they also snap some shut. Too often consumers smear, steal and abuse the testers leaving the department in disarray. Such was the case at a major discount store and a mid-tier retailer with major beauty departments. Somehow there needs to be housekeeping built into the beauty department to spruce up these areas or all the advancements mass has made will go out the window.

It isn’t always easy to have the right associates and there are times when stores aren’t up to snuff when it comes to housekeeping. But in these tough retail times, merchants have to do all they can to go just a little bit farther to make shoppers happy they came to that store over a competitor. This is especially the case in beauty where many retailers and even channels these days are selling the same or equivalent merchandise. With drugstores, there is often a chain on every corner. You have to make it worth consumers’ time and effort to turn into your store.


NEXT: People, Place and Things >>

People, Place and Things

A few words with Ted Gibson, the New York-based celebrity hairstylist who is the latest to develop an exclusive line for Target. Gibson charges $950 for a haircut, but his brand will soon be available in 700 Target doors at prices ranging from $22.99 to $24.99.

Ted Gibson:
My customer is black, white and Asian. She is 25 to 55 years old. She travels. She shops. She lives in cities [all over the country]. This will give her the opportunity to buy [Ted Gibson] where she goes and shops all the time.

Gibson: They [specialty stores] have been great. They have put me on the map. They believed in my two [initial] products three years ago. I am grateful for the relationships. But to grow, I went to Target. I want to be a household name. That’s the future of the business.


What’s In Store

Olum Departs Sephora: Betsy Olum, senior vice president of marketing at Sephora USA, has decided to take a break after spending 10 years at the specialty store chain.

Michelle Obama’s Eyebrows: Obama’s makeup artist toned down the arch in her eyebrows after negative comments and a softer, kinder eyebrow made the scene at the Inauguration this week.

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