Sunday, December 09, 2007

Retail is in the Details

That's one of the concepts that Dr. Joseph Michelli talks about in his book, The Starbucks Experience. Dr. Michelli spoke at the 2007 Xtreme! program NACS put on in Seattle. He'll also be talking at CAMEX '08, in case you'll be attending.

There are many directions you can take a discussion on the meaning of "Retail is in the Details." But a sign I saw in a shoe store recently inspired me to focus on the simple side of this topic.

I was home in Texas for Thanksgiving last month and went to visit my mother at the little shoe store where she works. The store has been on the town square since about 1932. It's a simple place with a direct purpose. Not the kind of place you'd necessarily expect to find retail inspiration.

But two things came through loud and clear during my visit to the little shop:

1. My mother is a great salesperson. Not because of a career of sales experience, an expertise in shoes, or just because she's MY mom. But because she cares. And she makes sure her customers know it. I saw her in action (as unlikely as a customer visit was in that store during my short time on site). Would our average customer leave our stores knowing that "we care"?

2. The store has a history that is part of the community. Around the shop are pictures of the store from its early days in operation. The current owner took over the business from her father. His personal collection of early footwear adorns the walls, with labels telling the style and year. The earliest piece dates to the 1800s and the most interesting had to be the TINY children's items.

After spending only a short while there, I can say that it's a quaint little place with a story to tell and a practice of focusing on each customer as if they're the only one. All potential jokes aside, the experience leads to some worthwhile pondering.

- What little things do you do to connect to your customers?
- In what little ways do you communicate what your business is about?
- What do the details of your business say about your business?

Of all the things we do to try and drive sales and outpace the competition, perhaps the most important thing to remember is that "retail is in the details."

Tony Ellis, CAE