Sunday 24 June 2018

The Big Lie of Retailing

Much of retailing is built around salesmanship, yet that is the ingredient that many traders have lost sight of.

When a customer considers your product(s) their minds are balancing competing needs and wants. In fact, if the current public discussion is correct, there have never been so many competing needs for consumers. Things like mortgages, energy bills, and mobile communication are sucking consumers wallets dry before they even consider what is displayed on your stall. So we need to give them a really good reason to buy. We need to shift focus or put a new perspective on their decision making. We need salesmanship.

But salesmanship doesn’t have a good rap. We are even told that in this current retail environment you have to let the customer do their thing - don’t get in their face. That is the big lie of retailing. Yes, some customers will strenuously resist your advances but there is another thing we are told about retailing - it is all about entertainment. Customers are out for entertainment, and that is why we go to so much effort to provide fun, and festivals, usually with food, to entice them.

But entertainment takes many forms. I am reminded of a trader neighbour who used to sell luggage. He would often fight his customers, particularly if things were quiet. I don’t mean fisticuffs of course. He would say something provocative to get their attention, sometimes bordering on rudeness. But invariably he would start a conversation, often a lengthy one, that would result in a customer walking out with a set of his suitcases. Even if they didn’t buy, they would walk away feeling entertained, and he had the happy knack of leaving them with a smile on their face.

Being rude and getting away with it is not for everyone, but you get the idea. We are here to entertain, and sell. Sometimes that means taking a chance, but with many customers, their appearance in front of our stall is the only chance we are going to get. We might as well make the most of it and entertain the hell out of them.

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