Make Peak Trading Work

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Peak trading season is a great time for building long-term relationships with new customers, retaining existing customers and building the chance for word-of-mouth recommendations.  Get it right and it can be profitable both now and into the future, revitalising your business and building a sense of community around your store.  Based on my own experiences in retail I’ve put together a few reminders and ideas of how to maximise the opportunities.  These are things you are likely to be doing all year round, but it’s always good to run through them…

  • Remember the two things that can pull potential customers into your store – a great window display and an engaging home page on your website.  This is the start of a customer’s experience; get it wrong and it could also be the end of their interest.  As part of this, remember to check your details are up to date on Google, including opening times.
  • Make sure your store is as accessible as possible, leaving room around displays to enable customers with disabilities to enjoy looking, and be ready to make any provisions you can to meet the needs of customers.
  • It sounds simple but so many retailers in all sectors let store presentation slide. It can be more challenging when footfall is high but keeping the store clean and stock presentation at its best with clear pricing has a hugely positive effect on customer impressions and confidence.
  • A visit to your store to select and purchase any instrument, accessory or book should be an experience rather than simply being transactional.  You’re a specialist, not a box shifter.  This is what sets bricks and mortar retail apart and it’s a chance for you to build relationships and share the expertise that will bring your customers back.
  • This quarter is peak-trading season because it’s a time of festivity and people having fun following the challenges of another difficult year.  Create a sense of theatre in your store; decorations, appropriate displays, and live music are all good things for creating a welcoming atmosphere.
  • Help your staff and colleagues to be happy in their work and make it clear to staff that your door is open without judgement if they have any concerns or grumbles.  Unhappy looking staff or staff discussing their issues on the shop floor will not be conducive to successful trading.  Customers want open and friendly professionalism from staff who genuinely believe in what they are doing.
  • Awareness is part of retail 101, but how many times have you been waiting for assistance when staff in a shop have been unaware of you and carried on gossiping?  Remind everyone to offer the standards of service they would expect themselves.
  • If you offer in-store collection for online purchases make the collection process as smooth and frictionless as possible.  Have their item(s) ready and treat them as you would an in-store buyer, asking them if they need any further help or advice and making sure they are aware of any accessories they may find useful without being pushy.
  • If customers are buying online and ask questions offer them a live video chat.  It shows the customer you are interested in them and can help them to feel confident and at ease buying from you – much better than a pop-up chat box on your website.  It also gives you the chance to sell them the right thing instead of simply taking an order.  You could use this as an opportunity to invite them into your shop for an appointment to compare the instruments they are considering.
  • Fast delivery times offered by big online suppliers have created a culture of instant gratification.  Where possible keep good levels of stock for smaller items and those items that could be impulse purchases.  These may be smaller sales but they all add up and customers leaving satisfied are more likely to return when they’re looking for a new instrument.
  • We’re all aware of how long lead times are on some products at present.  Have a strategy for explaining longer lead times, reminding the customer that it is an international challenge and not limited purely to your shop or the retail sector.  The key is being honest from the start and setting a lead time that you feel is achievable.  Assure them that placing an order now puts them on the list and that you will keep them fully informed as their instrument becomes available or if lead times change.  If you offer a set-up service you can also remind them that when they get their instrument it will be performing at its best and so worth the wait.

To end, here’s a key piece of advice I was given by the franchise owner when I was working at a Sony Centre back in 2007. “People buy from people”. 

We hope these reminders are useful. Don’t forget we’re here to engage with you if you need us, and everyone on the MIA Executive Team and Board wishes you a successful and happy peak trading period as 2021 comes to a close and 2022 opens its doors.