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A view of the industry through the eyes of independent and chain retailers.

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The 360 Degree Pass-By

Take a close -- and closer -- look at your store.

by Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender (June 21, 2010)

One good thing about being on the road is that when you return to what’s familiar you have a fresh perspective. After a few days away we always see our office in a different light, and we usually make a few positive changes. Time away from our office allows us to see it more clearly through the eyes of our clients: the furniture placement that made sense when we left town now looks unbalanced. And those piles of paper on our desks that we always plan to get to, but somehow never do, just make our office look disorganized and, well, messy.

Sometimes you just have to step back and be your own customer.

If you’ve heard us say it once, you’ve heard us say 1000 times that there is no reality in retailing, only perception – the customers’ perception of your store is the only one that counts. You can have the best product at the best price; fabulous, caring, and knowledgeable sales associates; great sales; and even better in-store events, BUT the second a customer walks in your door and finds you having a bad day, her perception changes. And usually not for the better. We all make an unconscious value judgment about the stores we shop in within the first 10 seconds of contact. It isn’t fair, but it happens. That’s why you have to constantly be on guard about how your store looks through your customers’ eyes.

How often do you look at your store through the objective eye of the customer? Notice that we said “objective.” You’re not being objective if you look at a really tired display and think, “Oh, that display is a mess, but I still need to sell more of that product. I can leave it up another day or two.” No, you can’t. Customers will look at that same display and think less of your store.

Ideally, you should do an in-depth tour of your store at least once a month, but to keep things in balance, do a 360 Degree Pass-By each morning before you unlock the doors for business. The parking lot is a good place to start:

Survey the Parking Lot: Is the parking lot easily accessible? Are store associates’ cars parked in the best spaces? Is the parking lot clean and brightly lit?

Size Up the Store Front:  Does your store front require paint or repair? Is there clutter to be cleaned up or exterior displays to be reorganized? Have the flowers in your planters seen better days? Can customers easily see your store front sign? Are all the bulbs in working order? Are your windows clean and free of old signs? Do the window displays need attention?

Access the Decompression Zone: The Decompression Zone is the 5’ to 15’ just inside the front door of the store. Its purpose is to slow down rushed and distracted customers so they can concentrate on shopping. Is your DZ uncluttered, inviting, and easy to navigate?

(By the way, if you have shopping carts – and you should have shopping carts because they encourage customers to shop longer and spend more money – don’t store them in the DZ because customers will likely miss them. Instead, place them just beyond the DZ.  And if you offer baskets, place them in handy spots throughout the store. If your store can use smaller carts, visit www.bigbasketco.com and check out the Basket-Carts.)

Work Your Speed Bumps: Do your Speed Bump displays – small tables or fixtures of hot product placed just beyond the Decompression Zone – need to be fluffed or re-stocked?  Work your Speed Bumps – they sell product. And change them at least once a week, whether they need it or not.

Power Wall Ahead: Look Right: Your main Power Wall is located just inside your store and to the right. This is a premium location that is highly visible and heavily shopped; it should be used to merchandise hot product stories, new items, and high demand items.  Are your Power Wall displays set to sell? Do they need to be re-stocked or re-merchandised? At Back to School time this wall needs to SCREAM “You need this merchandise!”

Review Your In-store Signing: Does your signing reflect the style and personality of the store? Can customers easily read them? Is there sale or product signing that needs to be updated or removed? Are there signs with cutesy references to breakage and unwatched children present, that you did not approve, that need to go away forever?

Check Out the Check Out Counter: Is there enough room on the counter for a customer to comfortably complete the transaction? Are there impulse items displayed at the checkout to encourage add-on sales? Is there an interesting display behind the checkout counter that will keep customers thinking about product? Is your policy and procedure signing customer friendly? Do you have enough of this week’s Bag Stuffers to make it through the day?

Walk the Aisles: Is there product spilling over into the aisles? Are there stack or dump displays blocking the main aisles? Can customers easily maneuver a shopping cart, wheel chair or stroller down the aisles? Can two carts easily pass one another throughout the store?

Survey Your Merchandise Presentation:  Are your displays fresh? Do they encourage customers to stop and look, and entice them to buy?  Are there open peg hooks or empty spots on the shelves that need to be restocked? Is the product “faced” (brought to the front of the shelf or hook)? Are there bin tickets missing?

If you do the 360 Degree Pass-By each day, you will soon become attuned to things that are out of place or need your immediate attention. Once a month, dig deeper with KIZER & BENDER’s No-Fail Perception Exercise:

1. Look at the same things that you review during your daily 360 Degree Pass-By.  During this exercise, you will spend more time observing each area.

2. Don’t fix, move, or adjust anything in the store before you do this exercise.  You want a clean vision of what the store really looks like on a typical day.

3. Survey your store during regular business hours – not before opening or after closing. You want to do this exercise while customers are in the store shopping.

4. Dress in the same attire as a typical customer. If it’s cold outside, put on a winter coat.  Haul a stroller and diaper bag with you. Emulate a typical shopper by filling your arms with product. Do whatever makes sense; the goal is to recreate the customer’s experience as closely as possible.

5. Don’t just put on your coat and walk out the door. Hop in your car and drive down the street. Re-enter your parking lot and drive by your store from all directions so you can see it from different perspectives.

6. Carry a notepad and make a list of things to do; you can prioritize your list later and make changes as necessary. You might even want to ask a store associate to do the same exercise – you can compare notes later.

Remember that perception becomes reality.  If you do not control how your store is perceived, it just might get away from you. Customers will create their own perception of your store and you might not like the one they choose. Your daily diligence will help ensure that customers see your store as you want them to see it. That alone is worth the 10 minutes of time it takes to do a daily 360 Degree Pass-By.

Note: To read previous columns, click on the titles in the right-hand column. Rich and Georganne will be conducting the following seminars at the CHA summer show in Rosemont next month:

1. “Extreme Retail Makeover: The Customer Experience - Hiring and Keeping Good People To Keep Your Customers Coming Back” on Mon., July 26, 1:30-2:30 pm.

2. “Social Media for Retailers: A Step by Step Guide to Join the Conversation” on Tues., July 27, Noon – 2:00 pm.

3. “Extreme Retail Makeover: Power Merchandising for Profit” on Wed., July 28, 10:00 am – 11:00 am.

 For more show information and to order tickets, visit www.chashow.org.

 KIZER & BENDER Speaking! 

Keynotes | Seminars | Consulting | Store Design

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