Articles for Retailers - by Kizer & Bender

Make Your Store a Stand Out!

It’s a running joke, but it’s not funny.

Customers shop in strange patterns, and their choices tend not to be divided equally among retailers. If you want them to choose your store over the competition you need to create a unique in-store experience. And if that’s on your to-do list, you need to start now:

Say Hello: Break the ice with greeting techniques that make customers feel at home.  Focus on how to greet customers without ever saying “May I help you?” – a greeting that almost always invites a “No-thanks-I’m-just-looking” response from the customer. (It’s only okay to ask that question when you sense the customer is in a hurry or if they show a profound interest in a particular product.) Instead opt for questions that are sure to get the customer talking. After a little schmoozing, you can move onto why the customer came to the store.

Adopt our 7-Tile Rule™:  Every customer should be acknowledged by every associate every time they come within seven feet of a customer. A simple smile or nod is often enough. Your associates can judge for themselves if more conversation is needed.

Plan In-Store Events & Promotions: You have brick and mortar stores, online retailers, catalogs, and more out there coming at you from all sides, all vying for the customers’ attention. You need to be ready to hit the ground running with one major, and one to two minor events on your calendar, and then follow through with the same amount of events scheduled for every week of the year. The ENTIRE year. Plan for them, buy for them, and get your team involved. Remember, in-store events do not always automatically equate to running a sale, although that’s a smart option. You can do makit & takits, demos, seminars, even in-store pet adoptions – your options are endless. Visit our and put “Events and Promotions” in the search box for lots of free event ideas.

Hire and Train Your Team. You can’t do everything by yourself; you need a team of strong associates backing you up.

Be specific about the kind of people you are looking for, and be upfront about what is required to do the job. You can teach about product and how to deliver exemplary customer service, but you can’t teach nice so start there. Once you have new hires on board, commit to a training schedule that lasts all year long. You’ll also want to employ our Buddy System and partner each new hire with a seasoned associate who can mentor them as they learn about the store and the products you sell.

Create a Never Out List. Every retailer needs a “Never Out” list of the things you need to have in stock one hundred percent of the time. During peak times of the year this list takes on an even bigger significance because being out of one of these items can literally make or break a sale. If you have a POS system it will likely create this list for you, but make sure to do frequent physical counts to make sure your POS list is correct.

Sell, Sell, SELL Gift Cards. Gift cards are your secret weapon. Notice we said gift cards. That’s because a recent study found that retailers who switch from paper gift certificates to plastic gift cards increase gift card sales from 35% to 50%.

There’s more: 55% of gift card recipients require more than one shopping trip to the store to spend the balance of their card – that’s good news for you. In addition, 61% of gift card holders spend more than the amount of their gift card, and 75% of those people spend 60% more than the value of their card – you can’t lose.

Here’s the thing: A gift card or certificate that’s presented in a boring paper sleeve or envelope doesn’t look like much, even if it’s for big bucks. You’ll want to package your gift cards with a creative look that’s unique to what you sell.

Create a Weekly Bag Stuffer. Bag stuffers are easy-to-create ads you make on your own computer. You can use your most recent email blast, vendor produced POP materials stamped with your store’s information, or create a bag stuffer you specifically design to bring customers back to shop with you again. Now, if you merely stuff them in bags you’re wasting paper and an opportunity. It makes more sense to hand your bag stuffers to customers while explaining what’s on them. Consider it a one-on-one 30 second commercial.

Make Sure Your Return Policy is Competitive. If every one of your competitors accepts returns and exchanges but your policies are a jungle of NO! NO! Nos!, customers will go someplace else to shop. If you don’t have a return policy here’s a good place to start: “Returns and exchanges gladly accepted within ______ days. Your receipt guarantees it.” You’ll save more sales if you train all your associates to politely offer an exchange or a gift card before offering a refund.

Be Prepared for Markdowns. You need a markdown strategy for every piece of merchandise that you purchase. You will need to determine which merchandise will be discounted, how much it will be discounted, how it will be signed and displayed on the sales floor. Unless you are having a big sale, display clearance merchandise near the back of the store so shoppers have to pass through displays of new product to get to it.

You’re exhausted just reading this, right? You wear a lot of hats! Being a retailer means long hours and juggling tasks – make it easy on yourself: If you haven’t already begun, start planning NOW.

Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender are professional speakers, retail strategists, authors and consultants whose client list reads like a “Who’s Who” in business. Companies internationally depend upon them for timely advice on consumers and the changing retail market place. KIZER & BENDER’s observations are widely featured in national newspapers, national and international industry and consumer publications, and on radio and television programs across the U.S. You can learn more at