Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Learning from the Mouse

The Retail Muse welcomes Guest Blogger Pat Krivonak, Education and Development Specialist with NACS.

Pat muses…

Who wouldn’t want to see behind the Disney World show?! Learning tips and tricks from people who can sell millions and millions of rats?! OK, mice. I’m in. I took the trip to Disney World during CAMEX. I saw excellent examples of merchantainment strategies. My favs were…

1. Use the windows to tell a story. Disney creates windows that make potential customers curious enough to walk into the store. Don’t show too much in the windows. But do put higher-priced items near the door (to draw customers in) and lower-priced merchandise away from the doors to draw them in further yet.

2. Notice how the customers enter the store. Which door is used most frequently? (Disney ensured that a particular door would be used most often by installing a Disney character on the roof; he spits on the ground below every minute or so.) What side of the store do customers walk through first? Adjust your merchandise placement and other store environment elements as needed, throughout the day and year.

3. Adapt to the customer’s shopping habits. When it rains at Disney World, ponchos are re-stocked in anticipation of increased unit sales. When a large or heavy item is purchased, it is shipped to the customer’s home.

4. As with any retailer, Disney stores cannot sell what they don’t have on the shelves. So it is key to keep top-selling items in stock. Notably, Disney store employees can tell you the:

a) top selling items in their stores
b) time of day and/or under what conditions they sell the most units for each of the top selling items.

And remember, what sells the most in the morning is not the same as what sells the best in the afternoon or evening. Disney stores take hourly register readings to gauge traffic and discover the most popular products.

5. Hire actors not employees. Disney hires people who can and will play the part of providing a great customer experience. And everyone is expected to be “in character” whenever in a public space.

6. Supervisors at Disney stores spend almost three-quarters of their time on the sales floor--supporting and coaching front line employees. Customers are not in the back room. Moreover, retaining good employees and building store morale hinges on helping employees to be successful.

7. A cornerstone of Disney’s philosophy is the leadership chain. Managers spend almost ¾ of their time supporting and developing their supervisors, who in turn develop good front line people, who in turn provide great customer experiences. For example, Disney asked their employees what they wanted to have in their break rooms and what kind of music they wanted to listen to during their breaks. This allowed management to provide them with what they needed to refresh themselves.

It’s not about selling. It’s about a great experience. Disney continues the theme park experience into the store. Employees are focused on providing a memorable in-store experience and the sales follow. Disney effectively sets its stores apart from competitors selling similar merchandise by providing a genuine, uniquely Disney experience. Disney feels the competitive heat from online businesses and big box retailers like Wal-Mart, too.

If Walt were here what would he tell us? I think he would probably say something like this, “Bring the collegiate experience into the store. Make the in-store experience memorable. Everyone in the store should act as if they are the friendliest, most helpful student assistants in one of the greatest collegiate stores in the world. Make it fun! Always have what the students most often need. Put the most exciting products near the entrance, gradually decreasing to the least expensive and urbane, but don’t forget to keep an eye on it! As for the future, even TomorrowLand has been re-created two times, and we are thinking about doing it again.”

Pat Krivonak

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