Wednesday, April 18, 2007

One more cup of coffee for the road.

This weekend I was in desperate need for a new coffee maker. A new, workable burst of caffeinated love. And I need it RIGHT NOW before the MORNING COMES and I’m forced to drive without caffeine.

So I went to my nearest home-supply/housewares/lifestyle/autoparts/kitchen-cabinet/leisure/get-my-taxes-done superstore.

After I had made it through the blizzard of confused and chaotic themes and focus (Why can’t these places figure out their core business?) I found the coffee makers in aisle 73.

Shouldn’t be that hard – they were advertising ‘em on the big ol’ street sign for $19.95 as I drove by.

Which is why I came in.

Which proves that price point marketing works.

But enough of the niceties. The whole experience was annoying, frustrating, and surreal…and after I huffed and puffed my way outta the lifestyle big-box purgatory, I thought to myself, “Sheessh is this what it is like to buy textbooks?”

Worried that purchasing a coffee maker was like buying introductory accounting textbooks, I thought a few reminders of the shopping experience for essentials (yes - coffee makers are essentials) are in order:

1. I Need it NOW
Yah, it’s essential. I need one like now and no, I can’t wait for the backorder to arrive. Tomorrow morning comes wayyyy too soon – so now do you understand my hysterical pinched face when you are sold out of the model I need and I really really want you, oh charming, 16 year-old, part-time sales associate with the bad skin and sullen demeanor to pleaseeee go check in the back for me?

When you gonna get more??

No, oh sullen, pimply-faced sales associate, I don’t want to spend $150.00 on a coffee maker that knows my birth sign and brews according to my mood. I’m sure these packaged extras are a wonderful thing but I’m looking for the basic model. Pour water. Add grounds. Press button. Brew. I’m sure the online coffee maker resource and learning videos are a wealth of edutainment; I got it down to a science now. Pour, Grind, Button, and Slurp – it’s pretty straightforward.

Thank you, gum-smacking cashier at register 12. I finally understand your muttering and my arguing that the SHELF TAG was for the model from last week and someone part-time and pimply forgot to change the tag, and now you are smacking your gum in my face and wondering if I’m gonna continue to be a cheapo and want to pay the shelf tag price ($19.95) and not the scan price ($29.95) ‘cus the “scanner -like- doesn’t make mistakes and that’s -like- the price and I can’t override.”

I get the basic coffer maker presence but honestly--chubby oh-too-cheery, middle-aged evening manager-on-duty Mike--I don’t get it. How come the same supplier, model, and features could differ from $19.95 to $29.95? It’s the same freakin’ coffee maker.

“It’s the new edition Mark” sez Mike--licking the remnants of Easter egg from his bottom lip. “…Charcoal is in for 2007 – but it comes with a free 90-day trial to coffeemaker times.”

“Don’t worry, Mark, everyone will expect you to have exactly the same thing as them. It will be exactly what you need to excel in life. It’s an investment aint it? An opportunity to health, harmony, and happiness! And after all, once you’re done with it ….it still has value as a used item provided that ebony doesn’t roar into vogue this fall and it’s all worthless.”

Yah, Mike You’re right. I’ll take it and suck it up. I'll use it all the time. At least for 4 months, and then I'll be back for another one. I’ll keep the receipt though—‘cus you know I just might be able to borrow one from my friend!

Mark Patten
MacEwan Bookstores

(Photo by Chance Agrella;

Monday, April 09, 2007

The Mall at Millennia – Ideas & Innovation

The Retail Muse welcomes Guest Blogger Vicki Wade, Services Coordinator, Office of College Services, Grinnell College.

Vicki muses…

While attending CAMEX 2007, I had the pleasure of participating in the Mall at Millennia learning excursion on Saturday afternoon. I love innovative displays and this Orlando mall did not disappoint. The following is a list of notables I scribbled in my Moleskin journal while perusing the shops:

a. Anthropologie displays books, bowls, and stationery (yes, all together) on rustic, backless, stacked wooden cubes. The cubes have a homey feel to them and are ultra-versatile display units. They are inexpensive too!

b. More and more clothing lines are attaching sandblasted fabric hang-tags to their garments for higher perceived value.

c. “Clothing” stores are incorporating large kitchen bowls, aluminum tubs, and huge baskets into their d├ęcor. Not only are these storage solutions unexpected props, but they add touches of color, texture, and humor to the displays.

d. Innovative displays tell a story. For example a group of mannequins dressed in beachwear do not stand alone. You’ll find sand on the floor, a (real) sailboat in the background, maybe even a tattoo on one of the mannequins! One attendee saw a stack of mattresses dangling from a ceiling cable and another stack on the floor below. In between was a bowl of canned peas. This was part of a display centered around the story “The Princess and the Pea”!

e. Large department stores have introduced creative programs and displays to attract youth. Bloomingdales has its own candy store, complete with a child’s eye-level candy-by-the-bulk dispenser. I’ve heard they sponsor weekday storytelling sessions and parents can reserve the area for birthday parties. What a way to draw shoppers into the store! Neiman Marcus ropes off areas of their ladies’ department for designer trunk shows. Department stores have rewarded shoppers with exclusive gifts and samples for many years.

What can we learn from this?

Open your mind to displaying merchandise in creative ways.

First, consider a display based on a childhood story or game. Tell the story through props, but don’t make it too obvious or you risk boredom and redundancy. You want to provide enough of a teaser to draw your shopper in for a closer look. Make sure the story or game is easily recognized by your target audience.

Second, shop hobby or craft stores for inexpensive props or make your own!

Finally, consider a loyalty rewards program for your frequent shoppers and make the participants feel extra special. That way, everyone will want to belong to the “club”.

Vicki J. Wade
Services Coordinator
Office of College Services, Grinnell College
(Photo by Chance Agrella;

Respect the customer...please!

The Retail Muse welcomes Guest Blogger Tom Shay of Profits+Plus Seminars and crowd favorite at CAMEX 2007.

Tom muses…

A personal shopping experience in the last couple of days provides me with good material for the readers of The Retail Muse.

Walking into a store, we were promptly met by a young lady who was bright and cheerful. You might think this is a good thing. However, as soon as we were in the store, she went into her "pitch" that she had developed for the day.

"Here is what is new. Here is the rest of the series of this product. Here is why you should buy it. Here are my testimonials from customers of how much they love it."

There were two glaring errors in her efforts.

The first is that she failed to recognize the "decompression zone". That is, the space and the time a customer first experiences when they enter your store. If the customer is walking in from outdoors, the “DZ” gives their eyes an opportunity to adjust to the indoor lighting. It is the time the customer gains their "bearings”, determines the type of store they have just entered, and what their senses are telling them about the place.

The second error was her pre-determination of where the conversation was going to go. She was intent on telling me about her store. We refer to this as "informational throw-up" or "verbal vomit". It sounds ugly…and it is. It’s an open demonstration of the sales person’s dis-interest in learning from the customer (like what the customer is looking for). I see this type of situation in two common instances - technology sales and “trained” salespeople.

“Verbal vomit” happens in technology sales because there are a lot of features and details to the product. Unfortunately the salespeople do not realize that many customers are not interested in all of that. They just want to ask their questions and find the best solution.

“Info throw-up” also happens when staff members are “trained” instead of educated. Trained sales people are told what to do and what to say. They are not allowed to do any of their own thinking. Compare this to staff that are educated on the finer skills of interacting with customers and engaging the customer in a conversation. These staff members will know the proper steps to greeting and conversing with customers. They will also know to listen first, ask questions to clarify needs, and THEN recommend products to meet the customer’s needs and make a sale.

Tom Shay, Certified Speaking Professional (CSP)
Profits+Plus Seminars