Lessons from the Met

As a teenager, I worked in a retail store called the Met, short for Metropolitan (but a three letter sign cost a lot less than a 12 word sign). It was the worst summer job ever. As soon as school was out, I went to work in a dingy, dark basement putting price stickers on back-to-school supplies for the next school year!

Although the work was mundane, my manager, Peggy, was great. She was the first real manager that I worked for and learned from. She demonstrated respect for everyone including customers such as my seventy-something year-old grandmother who used to bring me diet cokes and teenage employees who would rather be outside playing tennis. Peggy had us focused on taking care of the customer.

Here are my lessons:

  1. Your customers are there to buy. Help them buy. Engage them in a conversation, make suggestions, take them to where the stuff is and help them decide.
  2. If you give them one product choice, they may take it or leave it. If you give them two similar products at different price points, they’ll usually pick one.
  3. If the aisle is too crowded for a shopping cart, the customer will get frustrated and go somewhere else.
  4. If their hands are full carrying stuff they’re buying, give them a basket or a shopping cart. Don’t ask, just give it to them.
  5. If I wanted to get promoted out of the basement, I needed new skills such as sales or working the cash register. I preferred exterior maintenance as it got me outside. I spent a lot of time on the roof with the pigeons, making sure they didn’t steal anything.
  6. People want value for their money. It didn’t matter if they were spending two bucks or two hundred.
  7. Part of the value for shoppers was the shopping experience: interesting merchandise, attractive displays, friendly staff, and a clean store (I could sweep 5,000 square feet in nine minutes flat).

High-end retail such as Apple, Mont Blanc pens or Tumi luggage engage their customers, educate on product information, and make you feel good about spending your money. Why else would my house be full of iPods, snow-capped pens and briefcases?

In today’s market of low-cost dollar stores, no service warehouses and self-serve gas stations, it’s not hard to stand out in a crowd, delight your customers and increase your sales.

Copyright Phil Symchych 2011. All Rights Reserved

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