I’ve had the opportunity to shop casually a few times this week. Yes, I am one of those people who have their Christmas shopping done before Thanksgiving. Ever since we have been married I made it point for us to finish our shopping early so we could enjoy the season with our families.
One night this week my Mom and I found ourselves at our local mall. I decided I “needed” a Christmas necklace. I have had a snowman necklace for years, and I mean years. I had this as a kid. Now as a 40-something I have repaired, soldered, and replaced parts on this little guy too many times. It was time for a grown-up necklace.
We were looking at the charms at Brighton. There was a really pretty Christmas tree charm in their Christmas charm display – but not a price or salesperson in sight. I fiddled around with the charms a bit to see if there was a price tag anywhere, but alas none were to be found. We left with me thinking “I’ll find one online.”
Next up we were in Dillard’s. My Mom was looking at the Alex and Ani bracelet display and wondering what the price was for some of the bracelets. Being the Alex and Ani fan that I am I was able to give her ballpark prices since I have purchased two, three…or maybe even eight or nine of them. I did eventually find a code on the labels, and the last two numbers of the code matched what I thought the price was for each bracelet.
The next day my Mom and I were again out shopping (it is one of our favorite activities) at a local gift store. They carry Brighton, so I was looking forward to hopefully finding the price on some charms. When we got to the Brighton display it was covered with a plastic/plexiglas cover. I went to remove it and found it was locked on in some way. This was quite irritating, but a salesperson quickly materialized with a “magical” magnetic key that unlocked the display. I then looked at a charm – without a price tag, of course. When I asked what the price was the sales person had to remove a shelf in the display and find prices on a small card under the stock.
I found all of these experiences interesting. We live a time when retailers are yelling and screaming about “monsters” like Amazon, Walmart and Target driving them out of business. I will not discount the impact an Amazon has on a small gift shop, but the gift shop should stop taking the easy way out and blame the popular villain of the day. They should take a hard look at themselves and ask “Why is the nice lady who has a blog and lives blocks away from our store not shopping here?”
Well, in addition to the mystery pricing, I also had to stand in a long, slow line. The first customer was correcting a personalization mistake on an item he was picking up for his wife. The next customer wanted all four of her items individually wrapped (a complimentary service at this store), and I was still waiting.
During these busy shopping days why haven’t they streamlined their processes? Prices can easily be displayed for charms by having the paper tag on display with each charm. There should be a personalization desk, a wrapping line, and a plain old just “pay and leave line”. In fact, for the wrapping the customers could pay first, then receive a number (or even buzzer like at restaurants) and have that number called/buzzer buzzed when their gifts are wrapped. This gets rid of the wrapping line around the register. When people walk in a store and see long lines I bet one of the first things they think is “can I get this online without waiting?”
As a marketer I understand there is a science behind retailing. We will continue to lose local retailers, and even national retailers (think Kmart, Sears, Sports Authority, etc.) if they continue to take the easy way out and point their finger at Amazon, Walmart and Target without looking at the science. They need to take a long hard look at themselves and understand why we are leaving them as customers. I could have found the charm I wanted and ordered from Brighton direct online in less time than I spent finding mystery pricing, standing in line, and paying.
Retailers large and small need to realize time is commodity in today’s world for today’s customer. Once retailers understand that commodity has to be a part of their value proposition and change their processes we will shop with them once again. Until then, if we can find it on Amazon and buy it in one click, or consolidate our shopping into one trip at one store (Target, Walmart) we will.