Many things are different now, post-pandemic. The number of differences varies based on person and place, but one thing is certain: everyone’s lives have changed in some form since early 2020.
The question we ask is, “What have you changed in the way your business looks to your customer?”
If your sales floor looks exactly like it did pre-Covid; if you have a tasting bar and nothing has changed; and if your shelves and checkout counter have remained the same, then we think now is an opportune time for you to consider observing customers in other businesses, and give consideration to potential changes.
Below, we make suggestions for changes that help customers enjoy the shopping experience more, and feel more comfortable while doing business with you.
Let’s start at the top. Take a look at the air returns and registers in your ceiling. Are they clean, or is there dust hanging from them? Be honest! And while we are at the top, we suggest you look at the lighting.
Replacing those old T12 and T8 fluorescent bulbs with LED bulbs can do two things for your business. One is to throw more light on the sales floor, especially in the corners where you may want to add additional light fixtures. The new LED bulbs cost as little as $4 each, and they allow you to remove the ballast in the fixture, which is a big energy eater.
Let’s look at the shelves. The old adage, “face and front,” which we learned in a grocery store, is always apt. We turn merchandise so that attractive labels face the customers, with the merchandise pulled to the front of the shelf. If you have shelves of various depths, the narrow shelves should be at the highest.
As you set your shelves, you should do so by placing the top-shelf merchandise first. Space between shelves should be at a minimum, but not so close that customers must wiggle items to remove them from their places. If there is additional space leftover, it should be between the bottom shelf and the first shelf above it.
Stackouts and endcap displays should be no wider than the adjoining counter. Customers can suffer flashes of claustrophobia when they get to the end of an aisle and have to wait for another patron to pass before proceeding. These stackouts and endcaps should have a theme, or a singular focus in the products displayed. Properly created, stackouts and endcaps can produce twice the sales per square foot as the rest of the sales floor.
One potential sign of too many choices: Putting bottles on a shelf so that the only way a customer can get one is by holding the bottle by the neck. We understand that your store wants to take care of all customers’ needs. But research shows the closer a store gets to having everything that everyone wants, the slower the inventory turn Ñ with decreased profits. You cannot be everything to everybody.
Last point: What about the sales floor, literally? Has it been cleaned? Waxed? Polished? A floor well maintained is going to do a much better job of reflecting those new LED lights, so that the store appears bigger because of the extra light.
The last word is that of cleanliness. Definitely a word we have heard quite often during our recent, challenging years of Covid-19. But it’s time to feel good again. The efforts outlined above should help customers feel more comfortable as they shop. BD
Tom Shay is a lifelong small-business owner and manager. He has authored 12 books on small business management; a college textbook on small business financial management and co-authored a book on retailer/vendor relations. Read his recent column, How to Have Legendary Customer Service.