I'm currently doing some research for Graff Retail that entails visiting 40 different retail stores both in malls and power centres. Perfect timing, as I have a lot of spring shopping needs on my list!

Like most of us, I tend to ‘webroom’ a lot, searching for products and services online; however, I then want to visit the stores in person so that I can touch, feel or try on the item. I’ve always loved the entire experience of looking around, discovering new products and feeling like a VIP while a sales associate passionately shows me great brands that would fit me and my lifestyle well.  Feeling that excitement when you find a great deal or unique item, or simply just walking around with a tea in hand surrounded by awesome stuff is amazing.  I actually find it therapeutic.  It's one of the reasons I chose a career in retail; because I've always loved the store experience and I know many of you feel the same way.

I have to be very honest; I was not feeling the love this time around.

What became painfully obvious was that while some sales associates had a lack of interest in serving the customers in the store, the bigger issue was the lack of product knowledge and salesmanship they demonstrated. In the stores where a sales associate did make their way over to greet me, many struggled to engage me in a conversation and fell back on a commonly used opening line “Are you finding everything you were looking for?”  (seriously?).  When pressed to answer my questions about the products themselves, far too many didn’t know much about the products.  It’s pretty hard to sell it if you don’t know it.  And it’s really hard to sell it if you don’t know how to sell it.

Retailers are spending millions of dollars to improve all areas of their business including their store design, social media strategies, digital strategies, pricing, speed of fulfillment and more.  However, the brand experience is still falling apart because of the performance of the store staff.

92% of customers in Canada are still shopping in stores (and about the same percentage shop in stores in most other countries). So, go ahead and invest in omni-channel strategies and the like, but don’t forget that most of your customers are still shopping in your stores.  That experience for your customers is very likely not what you were hoping for.

Teach them the mastery of your business; teach them how to interact with customers; teach them proper selling skills; teach them about the products they sell, including how to sell it and what to add on to it.

I still have about 20 more stores to visit as part of my research.  Let’s hope I find that loving feeling again. 

Linda Montalbano is a true retail operator with a history of leading large retail teams to success. If you need a fresh perspective on what's going wrong in your stores, Linda is the one to tell you like it is and come up with a solid game plan to turn things around!

Comments (2)

  1. Julian Riley

I do hope your research visits to stores include travels from one end of this large country to the other... from boutique to big box...and not just a Central Canadian View.... I would be interested in hearing what is happening out there...

I do hope your research visits to stores include travels from one end of this large country to the other... from boutique to big box...and not just a Central Canadian View.... I would be interested in hearing what is happening out there regionally as well.

always enjoy your eblasts and blogs
regards.
J Riley
Maria Tomas - Indoor & Outdoor Living

Team Graff Response:

Hi Julian,

Thank you for your question. For the purpose of my research, my visits were all in Ontario. I should mention that my intention was not to collect data on the state of retail service in Canada, however, as a retail consultant I can't ignore the behaviors I encounter in our stores. I did visit both specialty and big box formats as well as independents. Unfortunately, for the most part, the experiences were consistent across all concepts. On a more positive note, I'm happy to report I had much better experiences last week and one of those experiences was in a department store. While that's great, our in-store experiences still need to be consistent, this is how we build a connection with a brand.

Kevin and I travel extensively across Canada working with our clients and when we are in other regions we always visit new retail concepts and check out the local retail space and I will say, the behaviors are consistent with what I see across the board.

This is what gets me up in the morning, I have a desire to see the people in our stores succeed and feel good about what they do. This will create the experiences that we all want and need to grow our brands. Bricks and Mortar retail is changing, not disappearing.

Thank you for following us and please contact me anytime if you have any questions or comments.


Linda Montalbano
Graff Retail / Graff Retail TV
linda@graffretail.com

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  1. Noreen Allison

Great Article. I totally agree with you and I am so tired of hearing about the customer experience when every time I go into a store with my hard earned money to buy something no one is around or very interested in helping me.
With little effort...

Great Article. I totally agree with you and I am so tired of hearing about the customer experience when every time I go into a store with my hard earned money to buy something no one is around or very interested in helping me.
With little effort I generally know more about their store cruising the aisles for a few minutes than they do. I am equally frustrated that they really do not know their products or where they are. As a salesperson myself I ended up giving them suggestions or triggers so I get them thinking that there may be other options than if it isn't on the shelf they can not help me. As a visual buyer, the quicker, faster is not giving me the customer experience everyone is hyped about. We were trying to buy a microwave as ours died that night, an item with a family we did not want to be without for too long. We were buying that night but clearly no one in the 4 stores we visited wanted our money. As a salesperson that blew me away. Love what you are doing! I walked out of the one store and said to my husband I should setup a store where people get true service, what a novel idea. People are taking less satisfactory service as okay service and it is not. Thank you for your article....Noreen

Team Graff Response

Hi Noreen,

Thank you for sharing your experiences as well. I can tell by your passion that this is the kind of thing that drives you in your retail role too! This is certainly our mission in everything we do! Keep being an ambassador for change and leading by example out there!

Linda

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