by Ellen Lewis
The most important part of a retailer’s job is to seduce the customer. Everything that a merchant does should be a performance staged as a response to the customer’s needs. I am sure that you have heard the industry-old expression that the customer is always right. Every step of building a profitable business is based on this premise. But before you, the retailer, can take those steps, it is critical that you have clearly determined the profile of the consumer who shops in your store. The relationship between the retailer and the customer is a dance. The correct product is the music, but then you must take the necessary steps to persuade your customer to be your partner.
How appealing is your merchandise presentation?
From the moment a customer looks in your store windows, she or he is given an impression of what your store is all about. It is the first impression and it is critical. What do you think when you first see a house from the curb or pick up a book to read? Your windows should tell a story and that story should change regularly. The windows should entice the customer inside.
Once the customers walk through the door, what do they see? Are the fixtures arranged by vendor, classification, color, size? What story does your store tell? Do you believe in a particular brand? Is a color story prevalent for the season? Is this important to the customers that come to your store, or are they a no nonsense person who just wants to shop for their size? Does your store make a statement?
How well trained is your staff?
Who greets your customers when they enter? How sensitive is your staff to the customer’s immediate needs? Does your sales staff know the product well enough to accommodate the subtle differences between sizes, tastes and expectations? Have you given them incentives to build particular brands and categories without being overbearing? Your staff is your lifeline to your clients. Are they given the tools required to treat your customer like a guest in your store?
How comfortable is the environment?
In a lingerie boutique, the fitting room is a pivotal part of the buying experience. Because the experience is intimate, the environment matters. It’s important that the time spent in the fitting room is positive, that it is a warm and attractive space. The elements that enable the trying on process should be readily available, including items like T-shirts to show the “look” of a bra, and a robe for modesty if needed.
Do you use focused marketing tools?
Keep records of your customer’s profile. Do you know their birthday, what size they wear, what brands they like? Communicate with your customer when new product arrives at the store that might be personally appealing. Send emails, postcards, and make phone calls to keep your store on their radar.
Are you marketing your store by setting up events, promotions and incentives that are interesting, present value and tie you to the community? Appeal to your customer’s imagination by creating a marketing calendar that is innovative and engages them in the process.
The customer/ retailer relationship should develop over time and become a lasting bond. You need to work at it to insure loyalty, respect and consistency. It is like a marriage. There needs to be mutual understanding. You provide them with what they need and they will reward you with the business you seek.
Ellen Lewis is a 25 year veteran of the Intimate Apparel industry with expertise in both the wholesale and retail side of the business. An experienced merchant with vast knowledge of the lingerie market, as well the ability to analyze retail figures in order to position a store for long term growth, she can provide buying, marketing, sales and visual input. Visit her blog: lingeriebriefs.com/blog