Thursday, July 14, 2011

Does your store compel customers to spend?

What do you do when vacation turns into a frustrating retail experience? Why you blog about it of course.

Admittedly, because of what I do for a living, I am hyper sensitive to retailers, the products they sell and the customer service they offer. Yes, it’s a hazard of my job, one that usually doesn’t cause such a problem at the same time!

But what I found on my visit to the retailers in Maine last week did not inspire me to spend money in the least. And the lessons for retailers out there who are in the same situation are worth talking about for all.

If you’ve not been to Bar Harbor, Maine summer is one of the best times to go. Visitors flock to the main attraction – Acadia National Park - during the very short season for a multitude of outdoor activities. And for those that don’t like the outdoor resources the park has to offer, there are plenty of shops and restaurants that are willing to help you wile away your time and spend your money.

This means that retailers must make hay while the “sun shines” in order to have a profitable season. With 8-10 weeks of prime time selling opportunities, the retailers need to be on top of their game to attract customers and get them to reach into their wallets and spend the almighty vacation buck.

And now the problems begin. After a morning hiking in the park, I set out for an afternoon of shopping hoping to find some mementos of my time in Maine. On a trip where I expected to be “wowed and wooed” to spend money in abundance, I wasn’t compelled to do anything of the sort. What I found – or should I say didn’t find from the retailers in town was concerning:

· Not one artistic or thought provoking window display that compelled me to walk in the front door of a store - on a very crowded retail street no less!
· No stores filled with one of a kind, unique, interesting products that inspired me to pull out my wallet
· Fair pricing on the routine items I forgot at home (I did without because of this)
· Not One – and I mean one - interesting marketing promotion geared toward making me pay attention to certain shops or products in any store
· A friendly merchant (or their support staff) that had a smile and a warm hello for me as I walked in
· A sign-up sheet for an email list or a facebook page so that I could follow store happenings all year round to remember the “fun” I had on my summer vacation.

Believe me, I know all the work it takes to make a retail store successful today. And I know that budgets are tight and costs are being cut everywhere just to try and stay in business for another year. But the simple take-away from my retail experience are reminders and lessons that don’t cost a lot to execute and ones that can differentiate your business to be the most successful it can be.
Wherever you live –and whatever you sell, every retailer must be vigilant about attracting customers and maximizing business opportunities where and when they occur. Forgetting about the 4 P’s of marketing are a critical failure to ANY business – no matter where it is. Especially in tourist destination stores across the country – Maine included!

Note to the Maine retailers reading this: I LOVE Maine – and I’ll be back –this isn’t about all of you- just some of your brothers and sisters who have forgotten the cardinal rules of retailing – that serve as a reminder to the rest of us. Customers WANT to spend money in your store. So please - give them a reason to spend!

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