R is for Retail. R is also for…..

Recent announcements of the government’s definition of Australia being in a recession caused me to cast my mind way, way back to the “recession we had to have”.  Early 1990’s.  Times, when most businesses cut back on recruitment and cost wherever they could and made, do with the resources they had.

I was lucky enough to work for The Body Shop Australia during this time.  The directors announced to the business that while other retailers were cutting their training budgets, they were increasing theirs.  Their belief was that in a time of cut backs, it would be the way we made our customers feel that would bring us the sales results we needed.  And they were right.

The 90’s was a golden age for The Body Shop – not just because of its excellent product range: to do so diminishes the retail experience.  Anywhere I travelled in Australia, taxi drivers would tell me how wonderful the service was at The Body Shop once they knew where I worked.  It was widely known FOR ITS SERVICE.  The experience.

What would today’s taxi or uber drivers say about the retail experience at your stores?  Would they even know who you were?  (Don’t blame marketing if they don’t).

For a while now, I’ve been reading articles written by so called retail experts talking about the high costs of rent and labour as the primary culprits for the demise of some of this country’s former giants of the industry.  There’s little to no discussion on service, product or experience.  It’s almost as if retail has forgotten itself.

The reality is rents are ridiculous.  And labour is high relative to the price of some goods and services.  It’s true.  So if this is true across the industry, why are there so many high profile retailers falling?  Hint: it’s not because customers are just going online.

Customers have more choice than ever before about where they shop, when they shop, how they shop and what they want from the experience.  Retail has trained customers to only buy during sale so we’re perennially on sale.  We’ve taught customers to buy on price.  And now we believe it.

We must take responsibility for what we CAN do, rather than just complain about what everyone in retail is facing.

Retail will be saved by how we make our customers feel while they’re in our stores.

Do our customers feel welcome?  Do we make them feel like they belong and that we’re glad they came in?  How well are we ENABLING our people to connect and provide real service?

 

It’s time.  Recessions sort the wheat from the chaff.  Which will you be?

 

 

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