Ghost Towns and Retail

Good Friday morning to you. As with every Friday after Thanksgiving, this last Friday in November in the year 2011 is also known as Black Friday. I know that is a record for the number of times I said the word Friday in the first paragraph of a blog! Today I want to incorporate Black Friday into this week’s theme, which is the idea of professionalism – in this case, in the retail world. I did a lot of reading and visits to different websites to address this subject today. In my travels, there is one thing that could get me to stop and visit for hours just looking: that is the history of ghost towns. I have always loved them; they just thrill me with the fact that, at one time, it was a busy world, now it is just stories and abandoned, falling down buildings.

In our world, something could be a wonder today and nothing more than a story in the back corner of a library tomorrow. Think about the idea of ghost towns. In our country, they usually are small towns that built up to serve a gold boom or silver boom. Then all of a sudden the boom dries up and there is no need for people to stay there anymore.

Today, many people were up at four and five o’clock to be at the doors of some store to get some deal. It’s the time of year where we all start our frenzy to buy our Christmas gifts. But is the retail world dying?

Every year you hear more and more how people are starting to buy things online. I even have read more and more articles about online Monday shopping, which has its own name: Cyber Monday. More people are now buying what they need on Monday – online. They decided they no longer want to deal with the lines or the sales people in retail stores. Well I do not feel retail is dead; there are still going to be people who are going to always go to market to get there goods. However in favor of this week’s topic it’s fair to say that to keep our retail word going something needs improvement. That something is “professionalism.”

I have worked in retail: five years with Starbucks, two years in car washes, and here and there in local stores and auto shops over the years. I had a few places where I got to deal directly with those customers who helped keep my company in business and helped give me a paycheck.

My post today is not to claim that I always did things right; I’m here to make you all wonder what the real story is behind retail – like people are wondering all over again what the real story was behind the death of Natalie Wood, thanks to some recent books being published commemorating the 30th anniversary of her death. It’s time to ask questions and get people to think, “How can we make it better? How can we improve to keep our jobs, and still make a profit in the retail world where store after store is closing down locations that just don’t have enough traffic anymore?”  So, how do we keep professionalism in retail to keep it alive? Here are my three points to improve the process.

1.  Show a genuine concern for your customers’ needs and wants. More often than not, I have had someone try to tell me how the special they are trying to promote is what I need. It reminds me of the salesman trying to tell how great his car insurance would be and each time you try to stop him he just gives you more info. Finally you get to tell him you don’t own a car. Value the time your customers give you and learn which of the products or services you offer they need before you sell them. There is nothing worse than being in sales and having a customer bring back what they bought because it was not what they wanted or needed.

2.  Value your customers. They came into your place of business. There is so much competition and they could have gone to any store but chose yours. So what can you offer them of value? Nowadays I hear more and more about how people are able to purchase something online for a lower price. They tell how even with shipping it was still cheaper and they didn’t have to wait in line, they didn’t have to pay tax, and they didn’t have to deal with a salesperson. As a salesperson, when you work with a customer, give them value in product, yes, but even more treat them as if they are a valuable part of what keeps you in business.

3.  Build a reputation. As we mentioned on Monday, many people are shopping around on things. So even if you miss the sale this time, treat them right. They will need something else you sell in the future. If you treat them right, you will be able to show you value them, no matter what. If you are selling big ticket items, these people will need service and accessories to those things they may have bought from your competitor. When I bought my first Harley, I started buying Harley gear to go with the bike. I noticed when looking for a leather coat that prices on the coat I wanted ranged from $400 to $575 in stores. Then I searched online and on eBay and found the same coat for $385. So who sold me a coat?  It was the store where we were treated the best. And, even though I hadn’t bought my first bike from them, they began to do our bike services and have now sold us two bikes – all because they treated us right, even though we hadn’t bought our first bike from them.

The retail business is not a ghost town yet. But with the online world getting to where you can find things cheaper, we need to set standards of professionalism. If you work in retail, make your store stand out.

I’m Tim Gillette, the Rocker Life Coach. It’s time to live your dream, love what you do and those you share life with. Set a new level of professionalism and become a RockStar in your world.

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