Excuse me while I rant. On Saturday my daughter and I went shopping. The center was packed with barely a parking space to be found. I guess nobody told these shoppers that we are supposed to be in the midst of an economic slowdown. The only slowdowns I saw were by the staffs of almost every store we went into.
My shopping experience was nothing short of pitiful. The first store Kate and I went into couldn’t be more than 800 square feet. Three employees working and all three of them completely ignored us. It’s almost impossible to ignore customers in such a small store but they managed. Since this store sells premium frozen meats it’s not like we weren't easy to greet and engage. But nope, the staff talked among themselves and possibly even missed a sale. Yep, there’s a slowdown alright.
The next store was a company-owned athletic shoe and apparel store. The most engaging part of our experience was when an employee looked up from the computer, said “How’s it going?” and then went back to looking at the screen without waiting for an answer. Never acknowledged us again. Yep, there’s a slowdown alright.
The next store I figured would be different since it is a partnership between a cable company and an consumer electronics retailer. We walked into a surprisingly quiet store, which we didn’t expect given the number of televisions and home theater systems surrounding us. We were immediately approached with a “May I help you?” What could I say but “Just looking?” It seems to me that you might ask me questions about my cable provider or if I have HD. But no, she went back and hung out with the five other employees doing nothing. Yep, there’s a slowdown alright.
We hoped in the car and went to another shopping center. This one was more crowded than the first one. Yep, there’s a slowdown alright.
It was here that we had by far our best experience. The staff was attentive, engaging, and helpful. You won’t be surprised to learn that it’s also where we made our only purchase of the day. It’s also the only big box store we shopped at. That’s right, the only store where we received a high quality engaging store experience from the staff was at the Sports Authority store in Woburn, Mass. In every department we walked into there was a staff person who acknowledged us, engaged us, and was genuinely interested in us as shoppers. At a big box store!!
I don’t think there is a specialty retailer out there who can afford to ignore their customers and not attempt to create a sale, but that happened to me on Saturday time and time again. Yep, there’s a slowdown alright, and on Saturday it was mostly taking place in specialty stores.
Come on guys, we need to put the “special” back in specialty stores and quit causing our own self-inflicted slowdown. Remember, we win and lose with what happens between the staff and our customer. Do that well and you will overcome any economic challenges and have a great year at the expense of your self-inflicting competitors.