Can You Prove It?

Much has been written and said regarding the so-called disadvantages that the local merchant faces in our new economy. On-line shopping, big box retailers, category killers – all common terms barely existing in our business lexicon not that many years ago. While it is true that these forms of retailing have minimized some familiar merchandising tactics, they have also brought new areas of opportunity for the independent retailer to focus upon and prosper from. We just have to look more closely for where these opportunities exist.

The first order of business needs to be to focus on what big retailers are doing right. Contrary to our somewhat biased opinions of them, they are doing a lot of things correctly. They didn’t get big by accident! Does Home Depot think that store location is important? Absolutely! How does your location compare? McDonalds realizes the value of having even the most minimally skilled employees present a clean, uniform appearance. What does your customer see when your staff approaches? FedEx spends liberally to have an instantly recognizable fleet when you pass them on the street. They realize the value of both brand recognition and sense of security when they pull into your driveway. What do your customers see at first glance when your vehicles approach?

Large home improvement retailers also recognize where they aren’t as proficient – serving the customer after the sale. This is one reason why they minimize the value of professional installation, encourage DIY, etc. They know that specialty stores have the advantage in this arena.

You know that your staff can outperform them as well. The real question is, does your customer know? What are you doing to convey this message? More importantly, what credentials do you have to demonstrate this fact? Is your sales staff WFCA certified? Are your installers CFI certified? If not, why not? If they know what they suggest that they know, neither certification will prove to be particularly difficult or expensive to attain. As far as the customer is concerned, if you can’t prove it – it’s just so much talk! You say that the customer experience is superior at your store. From the customer’s viewpoint, what measure of proof does your staff offer?

Tom Jennings

Thursday, April 19, 2012