Friday, December 14, 2012

The First 11 Months Wasn't Long Enough


Did you hear the news? In the days leading up to Christmas, Macy's will stay open 24 hours.  Of course I was surprised to read this but it turns out I really shouldn't have been; Toys R Us has been making a habit of staying open around-the-clock at Christmas, having done so the past two years. 

Naturally, I think that's insanity. The argument that Christmas is a scared season but its true meaning is completely lost in our over-commercialized culture is certainly a valid one.  However, my argument is that this move demonstrates just how sad retail has become.

For retailers, this season is just as sacred as for Christians, albeit for a completely different reason.  Sadly, these thirty or so days are the tipping point to their income statements.  When you focus on that fact, it's actually really pathetic.

I cannot think of a more fitting symbol of desperation than Macy's and Toys R Us pulling the literal equivalent of an all-nighter before a final exam.  Just like the scrambling student cramming for the test at the end of the year, the outlook is rarely a favorable one.

What could retailers do to make the Christmas shopping season the icing on the cake as opposed to the flour and the yeast?  I think the answer could be on the sales floor.

I walked into a variety of retail stores this week and came away with one major observation - most salespeople have almost zero training in sales.  Every salesperson I encountered this week uttered the same opening line; "can I help you find anything?"  It's the go-to line idle salespeople beg to ask even though, a quick "no thanks, I'm just looking" instantly kills any further interaction.

So what could shopping be like if retailers taught salespeople something more than proper folding techniques?

Perhaps a salesperson might introduce him or her self by name and shake your hand.  They might look them in the eye or offer a sincere compliment.  Then they might ask if you're looking for anything in particular or who you are shopping for.  If the answer is anything other than no, that salesperson is already halfway to sale.  But if the get a standard no thanks, they might offer to show them the latest products in the store.  They might show them a favorite designer.  They might offer a tour of the store. They might offer them a bottle or water while they look around.  Finally, they might offer them a business card as the interaction comes to an end.
 
Although that may sound over-the-top considering how retail sales are thought of today, I actually experienced the owner of a store bow out after offering a nonchalant "can I help you?"  Only after prying, I discovered he owned the place.   

I know I probably sound crazy talking about enthusiastic, well-trained people in the retail sector.  But to me, it’s certainly not crazier than staying open round-the-clock and officially killing off what's left of employee moral.

Try something different and they might actually sell something during the first 11 months of the year.  That's all I'm saying.

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