What’s Right with Retail


First, I want to thank all the people who emailed me about the article last week. It was good hearing from all of you and I appreciated your comments. As I told each one of you in my reply email, please leave your comments on the site for all of us to enjoy.

This is part 2 of the series on retail. I’d like to share with you the stores I feel are doing an exceptional job of being great retailers. So, in no particular order:

1. Apple Stores. Thanks to Mike Hyatt for his comment and I agree with him 100%. I am a Mac user and my first purchase resulted from an extremely positive experience in a Newport Beach, CA Apple Store. Apple stores create a tremendous experience both visually and personally for the shopper.

2. REI. I’m not a camping enthusiast; however, I go into REI whenever I can just to experience their environment, great inventory selection and evangelists (some well-meaning people call them "clerks") that serve their customers.

3. Barnes and Noble. This store does the best job of showing the shopper, "what’s new", "what’s hot", and "what’s on sale". These are the three most important questions to answer for the shopper entering the store and B&N nails them. Like most of the stores on this list, they sell most of their merchandise at full retail (better operating margins). Throw in their Starbucks oasis and you have a real winning experience.

4. Build-a-Bear Stores. These folks truly understand that people buy more when they are having fun. The experience is a major part of each sale and it’s memorable for everyone involved. They understand that markdowns devalue the products and lessen the value of surrounding products.

4. Chicos. I don’t buy women’s clothes; however, my wife, daughter and daughter-in-law do and this store has captured their attention because of service, attention to detail and customer-friendly, personal mailings and frequent-buyer program. In most cases it’s not "shopping" at Chicos, it’s an experience.

5. Best Buy. I realize there are some stores in this chain that don’t deserve to be on this list, but on the whole Best Buy is a great retailer. With average transactions that are double Circuit City, Best Buy leads the way. They need to be careful with some non-customer-focused policies that have recently crept in the store, but they truly understand how to build traffic, entertain and sell.

I am sure I might have missed somebody and would really enjoy hearing about your favorites. Bottom line, the customer craves experience. 75% of this year’s holiday shoppers left the stores before noon. They went, conquered and left. How much more money would they have spent if the stores had spent some time creating experience? How much more margin would the retailers made if they hadn’t retreated to the rut of clearance and sale pricing this early in the season? How memorable will this Christmas be for a shopper who had a tremendously positive shopping experience?

Far too many retailers today have become addicted to sales which teach customers to visit their store only when sales or clearance markdowns occur. Memorable experiences, on the other hand, create loyal customers who return. The lifetime value of a loyal, returning customer is…priceless.


2 Responses to “What’s Right with Retail”

  1. Indeed, all of the businesses you mentioned are doing a wonderful job creating a superior customer experience. Two out of these five companies made it on to Fast Company’s “Annual Customer First Awards.”
    Want to see thirteen more? http://biz.yahoo.com/special/customer05.html

  2. BJ Bueno says:

    Great post. It amazes me how many retailers don’t tell the customer what is new and exciting. Most retailers miss an amazing amount of opportunities to be relevant and sell product by not embracing the “New.” ROI is important, but there is another ROI — Return on Innovation. The “New” will always be part of what helps the customer make a buying decision.

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