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Monday, March 20, 2017

Retail Failings

In the 1960s they were considered the “Big Three.” In sales volume and in physical size, Macy’s, Hudson’s, and Marshall Field ruled the department store kingdom. One Hudson’s location had 25 stories and 16 of them sold goods. At its retailing peak, close to 12,000 people worked for Hudson’s. And 100,000 people per day shopped there.

We had a version of Hudson’s in Minnesota named Dayton’s that was part of a merger. Later they took on the Marshall Field name. Then they became the parent company of Target.

Today, Dayton’s is gone. Hudson’s is gone. Marshall Field stores are gone. In Pittsburgh in the 1990s, there were Kaufmann’s and Horne’s (later Lazurus) department stores. All gone.

Macy’s hangs on, but it has its share of problems. I once worked for Montgomery Ward. It said farewell in 2001. JC Penney had a mild recovery last year but is struggling. Sears is on life support, dropping 2000 stores between 2011 and today.

The list is way too long to mention all the department stores we’ve lost or are losing. But if you’re interested, Wikipedia has the lists for your state. To me, it’s sad.

What is the future of retail? Grant Cardone is a New York Times bestselling author, speaker, and CEO. He’s a popular speaker on selling. And he’s gloomy on what lies ahead for the retail world.

In his recent article, “Retail as You Know It is DEAD,” Cardone lists his four reasons why brick-and-mortar stores are in deep trouble. Interestingly, he doesn’t blame location. Or outdated mall shopping. Or Amazon.

Instead, he focuses on customer treatment. His overview perspective goes like this: “For a retailer to be successful in 2017—and all those who work in retail—you need to commit to service. You must exceed your customer’s expectations and deliver outstanding customer service.”

See if you can agree with Grant Cardone's four turnaround principles:

  1. Retailers Don’t Know How to Greet. Grant likes the idea of putting greeters at the doors who can actually direct you to what you need. 
  2. Retailers Believe Customers are “Just Looking.” Cardone wants employees to engage a customer. Find out why they came in. Turn their attention to specials or items not on your website.
  3. Retailers Allow Customers to Wait. Make your sales process fast and easy. Long lines and delays are killers.
  4. Retailers Ignore Second Sales. One sale should trigger another. Be sure to offer suggestions.

Okay. It’s a good pitch—from a guy who makes his living promoting how to sell. Can we reduce retail’s massive woes to just that? I doubt it. But all of his points are on the money, so to speak. I walked through a local Penney’s store last week and no one greeted me the whole way. I even stopped and looked around. No sales person ever approached me.

Deep, personal care of others is a center point of the Christian faith. The Bible encourages us this way, “Each of you has been blessed with one of God’s many wonderful gifts to be used in the service of others. So use your gift well.” (1 Peter 4:10, CEV)

People of faith need to apply this in all of their business thinking. Any enterprise would do well to step back and determine how to make the customer’s experience more pleasant and easier. Serving well is so basic. Better address it while you can.

The business graveyard is full of careless victims.

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Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.

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