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TODAY’S RETAIL OWNERS HAVE A LOT IN STORE

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In the changing retail industry, the stores that survive are the ones that project a positive, inviting image, offer good customer service and guide customers through the purchase.

Stores are so price-competitive that a difference can be made by customer service, said Barbara Wold, author, speaker, consultant and owner of Barbara Wold Productions, Balboa Island, Calif.With the proliferation of retail and factory outlet stores, store owners must know what it takes to survive. Store managers are under pressure to hire the right people and train them so they present a good image for the company. "It takes 2.5 seconds for people to make up their mind on whether to go into a store or walk by, so image is every important," said Wold.

She was in West Valley City giving a seminar to managers and employees from various Valley Fair Mall stores.

Wold, who has spoken to various national organizations and consulted with many large national companies, said many managers are not trained to do hiring, and in many instances they hire the wrong people. She said some people go to every store in a mall looking for work and often are hired for a job they didn't want.

They take the job to earn a little money, Wold said, but they don't want to be there, and often it is evident to the customers.

After people are hired, it is a good idea to give them some responsibilities, like conducting a meeting, so they feel they are part of the operation rather than just a clerk who is ringing up sales all day. A good idea is to assign some employees to look at similar operations and bring back ideas, Wold said.

She told the Valley Fair employees the important items in customer service are the image of the store, merchandising techniques, having fresh merchandise to sell, good signs, marketing the products and staying away from "Sale" signs.

Wold suggested that each store have an advisory council that can look at the store objectively and make suggestions for improvement. Stores need feedback from customers because they are the ones making the purchases.

Taking time to clean the shelves, keeping the merchandise neat and organized, keeping the area around the cash register clean and changing window displays often are tips for good merchandising, Wold said.

She suggested having the correct merchandise for the type of customer expected, the music should be appropriate for the type of customer you're after and advertising should be examined periodically to determine if the money is being spent wisely.

A big part of Wold's presentation is distribution of her "Yearbook-The Total Retail Planner," which contains suggestions about ordering for the future, noting special days, a checklist for keeping a store attractive, a reminder to hold store meetings and suggestions on how employees can cater to customers.