Everyone who walks into your store represents a monumental victory for your marketing campaign. The chain of events that leads a person through your front doors is both long and fragile. One link not pulling its own weight is all it takes to lose that person forever. I for one hope you feel a definite surge of pride anytime a person pays your efforts the compliment of stopping by for a closer look.
As richly deserved as your self-congratulation is, this is no time to rest on your laurels because plenty of things can- and far too often do- go wrong. I dont want that to happen to you because youve worked too hard to get to this point. Here are just a few of the many questions you should ask yourself on an ongoing basis:
Is your space appealing to as many of the five human senses as possible? Trash, dust, clutter, foul odors, disorganized displays, etc. have no place in your business. Lighting, scents, samples, décor, music, and more can combine to create a harmonious environment- or not.
Are your aisles wide enough? In his book Why We Buy, Paco Underhill talks about the butt brush factor and its deleterious effect on sales, something I trust I need not explain in any detail. Just as judicious use of white space on a written page enhances readability, open space in your store enhances product visibility and gives customers room to move around each other sans collisions. This can even be a safety issue: One store I worked at in my youth was literally packed to the rafters. On October 17th, 1989, everything came crashing down when the Loma Prieta earthquake struck San Francisco. Had the quake struck only seconds later, Id have been directly underneath a falling 5-gallon bucket of roof tar. By contrast, you dont want the picked clean look I recently saw at a shop in Medford. Find a happy medium.
What about your product organization? Should you organize your merchandise by department (furniture, electrical, plumbing, kitchenware, etc.), gender, function, subject, or � ? What creates the most logical traffic flows through your store? Can you take any positioning cues from places like supermarkets and others to position staple items towards the rear of the building to enhance sales?
As important as physical layout and ambience are, there are other factors that can make or break the final sale. If youre thinking that Im talking about yourself and/or your employees, then youre right on the money. Great customer service can cover a multitude of sins but the best physical layout cant save you from yourself. If you are not 100% dedicated to providing a superb experience for your customers, then you need to either hire people to handle that for you or strongly consider selling your business. If your employees are not 100% dedicated, then you need to find new employees. Its that simple.
I am a huge fan of mystery shoppers, customer surveys, and other means of garnering firsthand information about what your customers really think about your store. The simple truth is that your opinion really shouldnt matter all that much. Ive visited enough businesses to know that success depends to no small degree on the extent to which you can set your druthers aside to zero in on- and cater to- your customers wants and needs.
The bottom line is that you are paying good money for every square foot your store occupies. If you are not getting the maximum possible return from every square foot, then your profits are suffering. Remember that revenue is meaningless as a barometer of success. The only thing that matters is how much you have left over by the time youre done paying everybody.