Every Santa Needs a Break! Put a Bench in Your Store

Every Santa Needs a Break!

Have you considered available seating as an integral part of customer service?

The weary, bag laden, and soon impatient non-shopper leaves to shop elsewhere or coaxes the rest of the groups to leave. It’s a lose-lose for you and your shoppers. So, why encourage the non-shopper to become grumpy and negatively influence your happy shoppers?

The most overlooked fixture for your store could be a simple bench.

A bench (or seating of any type) is an important facet of good customer service and therefore, an item with a deceptively good ROI. For mostly unjustified reasons, small shop owners often have a negative mindset toward extra seating in a store.

Rethink. During the holidays, gift shoppers are often in groups – family, visiting relatives, vacationing couples. And they get weary. And since not every member of the group wants to shop in your particular store, there is that awkward, and often uncomfortable, situation of waiting for others to shop. Big deal, you say? You’re not in the business of providing seating?

Everyone stays!

Small business brick and mortar is typically limited in floor space, but there is always place for a strategically positioned chair or bench. Isn’t it better if no one leaves until the active shoppers are done shopping your establishment? You may even leave a positive visual imprint for the next shopping visit. They’ll remember, “They have a place where I can sit.”

And because of certain health issues, seating may be a requirement during long shopping days. Do you want anyone to avoid your establishment due to lack of seating for Aunt Sally with her arthritic knees?

Do be mindful of positioning seating in a positive manner. Find a spot that creates a sense of belonging rather than of being placed in a cramped corner. And if you are a clothing store, place seating near the dressing room to enable “show and tell.” Shoppers are more likely to buy when they can get that “second opinion.”

Seating means comfort

Ask other shop owners who DO have seating in their store. What benefits are they reaping?

They’ll likely tell you potentially grumpy and impatient non-shoppers are relieved to find a place to sit. Their mood shifts more positively and the begin to observe the surroundings. They soon notice the inviting displays and consider shopping with you, too (because you have invested time and good marketing principles in your merchandising and displays, right?).

Create a sense of welcome

You absolutely must train your staff to take a moment to engage with the seated! The power of interaction is immeasurable for positive reinforcement. Keep bottles of water and snacks on hand. It all goes together.

QR codes – a Marketing Opportunity not to be ignored

You can easily create QR code and signage to enable seated visitors (and everyone else):

  • to go to your website
  • to read your blog
  • to subscribe to your newsletter
  • to become a follower on Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, and all your other Social Media sites
  • to leave a review on sites like Yelp and more!

Give the seated an excuse to post or tweet about their experience waiting for their friends!

No money in the budget for a sturdy bench or chairs?

Buy used. Craigslist, Ebay, your local consignment store, used office furniture stores (very sturdy furniture), garage sales, … even your house!

Seating really is so simple and yet frequently dismissed. Don’t overlook it – especially through the holidays.

Is KMart Abusing Employees with No Time for Thanksgiving?

This is just a quick poll to get your opinion on the insanity around Black Friday.

In case you aren’t aware, KMart recently announced they were opening at 6 am on Thanksgiving and remaining open for 41 hours through Black Friday. I tweeted them about it and later learned this is their standard reply for any negative social media comments around this decision.

@KMart replied:

“Our decision to extend hours is based in part on fdbk from our Members, who sought more flex holiday in-store shopping times.”

This is a case where the customer is not always right. Businesses must consider the impact on employees.

Huffington Post has a screenshot of a Facebook thread with this discussion.

As a Retail Career Dog, I remember that Thanksgiving and Christmas Days were the only 2 days a year I could promise my family I’d be there. Not the case for today’s employees… Soon they’ll be open on Christmas Day. Oh, wait, I think they did start that in 2012… :(

(Note: Sorry to pick on just you, KMart. Yes, I know many retailers are open on Thanksgiving. But that doesn’t make it right in a day and age when family ties are so fragile and family traditions that help hold them together are disintegrating.)

Being an Entrepreneur Means You Only Sleep When the “Baby” Sleeps

Parent watching baby sleep

I went to LinkedIn early this morning looking for inspiration for my next post. …Early morning is my favorite time for LinkedIn because that’s when you catch the entrepreneurs.

Oddly, I flashed back to my son’s birth while I was noticing these motivated and energetic LinkedIn users contributing their thoughts and sharing their expertise.

I began to think about why successful entrepreneurs usually appear most on social media during early coffee time. I believe it’s because they use their coffee time to catch up on the world. You don’t see them during the day on Social Media because after that coffee, they switch to 100% focus on their business  (unless their business IS social media!).

So that somehow had me remembering how during those first few weeks after my son’s birth, my husband and I thought we might never see the luxury of a full night’s sleep again for a very long time. We were pretty much right! We also coveted the ability to shower as needed, eat a full meal, and yes, even use the restroom when nature actually called and not when it was convenient for our infant son.

I remember telling people how the first 2 weeks with a newborn was a bit like taking the hardest 80 hour work weeks you ever had and multiplying by 3, and sometimes 4. At least on those 16 hour days at work, you got to just “die” on your bed until the next morning! Not with an infant… If the baby is awake, so are you – even if you haven’t  slept. If they are hungry, it doesn’t matter if your own meal isn’t cooked, the baby must eat now… and so on.

But you don’t care. It is physically hard, but emotionally? No. The joy that child brings far outweighs any of the losses of a previous lifestyle. All your previous priorities take a major back seat to the wonder of this new life.

I now know that having a baby was fantastic training for entrepreneurship. The joy from the prospect of success doing what you enjoy as your own business far outweighs the long days and nights, the un-showered mornings, the lost days, even some lost friends who have no patience with your latest obsession.

Your best idea can’t wait until the next morning. Your inspiration for your next article or artwork might be gone after you go out to the movies with friends. The words flowing through your fingertips onto the keyboard won’t let you stop to go reheat your coffee or eat.

But when you’re done, it’s exhilarating! And you can’t wait to get started on the next project or challenge!

Entrepreneurs, just like new parents, can only sleep when their “baby” sleeps.

How millennials might kill a Boomer sale

Sometimes you just have to vent, so today I will.

Boomers are not little old women or men

I’m a boomer. 53 going on 54 in a couple of months. I’m not old. Older, maybe, but not old. And today, with so many centenarians around, I think I can actually get away with being called middle-aged.

So why are young salespeople are calling me “Young Lady”?  “…And if the young woman will just sign right here,” they say with a condescending smile as they hand me the merchant copy of the sales slip. REALLY?!

It’s not cute. I am not flattered. Next maybe you’ll pat me on the head or start talking louder to me.

And why don’t I ever hear them say  “Young Man” to my husband?

Granny can make it across the street

Yes, maybe I’m old enough to be their grandmother, but I am not the little old woman who needs help across the street or old like the “Veteran Reporter Herb Welch” on Saturday Night Live.

But I’m definitely young enough to stir up some trouble with the manager if I get one more condescending or patronizing smile. Actually, I am looking forward to getting really “old” just for the perks George Carlin mentioned in one of his later shows. (See video – R rated for language in case you weren’t paying attention when I said it was George Carlin.)

So, in the meantime, until I really get old, the next time a young, perky salesperson condescendingly calls me “Young Lady,” I’m afraid I won’t be quite the lady in response. And I’ll tweet all about it, too!

Sorry, Mom. I know you brought me up better…

Why you should stop reading shopper strategy analyses!

I was at the mall last week. I rarely go shopping in malls anymore since I prefer specialty shops for the great customer service. But there I was, reminded of my many years working retail.

You do a lot of observing customers when you work in retail, especially in a mall… and management time is often spent reading a plethora of corporate analyses of shopper habits and strategies. After my most recent visit to the mall, I can’t resist adding my own tongue-in-cheek counter comments…(sorry no graphs or bar charts here).


It’s not so much that I disagree with these studies, it’s just that my observations indicate that most mall shoppers just aren’t as serious about shopping as most reports make them out to be. And now you have to add the unknown of new Social Media discount and bar code scan apps throwing everything we thought we knew about shoppers out the window.

Apologies to Mother Goose…

Monday’s shopper returns their weekend shopping mistakes

Tuesday’s shopper still didn’t get it right

Wednesday’s shopper has nothing else to do

Thursday’s shopper is planning for the weekend

Friday’s shopper needs more stuff for the weekend

Saturday’s shopper brings the whole extended family in after brunch for a few necessities and double the amount of impulse purchases.  Teens come in after dinnertime to hang out.

And the shopper who shops on Sundays either forgot something on Saturday, or they are a working pro who hates to shop (but finally must).

It’s really not all that complicated!

And for those of you who haven’t suffered this post enough…

Let’s get more specific in this  “highly sophisticated” analysis:


Shop mostly for themselves and usually only in spurts, therefore driving themselves and salespeople crazy trying to accomplish a fiscal quarter’s worth of shopping in one lunch hour because they don’t want to shop after work or on weekends (unless there is absolutely no choice, i.e., holiday or special occasion shopping)

They are thrilled when mall shops take returns on online purchases!

The stroller crowd:

Shops 3-5 times a week because the pretty lights and sounds keep the babies happy and the stay-at-home moms/dads get to use polysyllabic vocabulary with other adults!

Purchases consist primarily of children’s clothing, toys, household goods and decorative items, and comfort clothing and footwear for themselves. And lots of coffee and chocolate.

The after school Crowd:

After school shopping for the next size assortment of their teen’s wardrobe because they woke up a size larger that morning or because they have worn the same shirt to school twice already.

Or after dinner shopping for the red shirt they have to wear for drug awareness day tomorrow (schools assume every child has a red shirt), school supplies and unusual items for the school project due tomorrow (assigned 2 weeks ago).

Weekend shoppers:

  • Weekend gardeners/ home project enthusiasts and sports nuts are waiting at the door anxiously waiting for you to open so they can get in and get out and have the rest of the day to themselves. They are annoyed you don’t open earlier.
  • Seniors who have been up since before dawn and are now half way into their day. Waiting for the doors to open is a social event for them. They also are annoyed you don’t open earlier.
  • Families sleep late and eat late on weekends, barely bother to change into street clothes (bordering on pj’s) to spend the entire afternoon with other first time home buyers to find lots of kitsch to fill all the new space (gnomes not excluded).
  • They also bring their toddlers and unwilling teens as this is their quality family time. You’ll find bored teens and dad’s escaping to the Electronics and TV aisles or sitting in the furniture section tweeting, texting or gaming. Smartphones and 3DSs are today’s replacement for social interaction or simple awareness of where one is at any moment in time.
  • Teens in heat – Weekend evenings are reserved for the cliques of teens strolling for admiring glances and ego boosts from their peers. Their purchases consist mostly of pushing their peers to buy things their own parents won’t let them buy with an underlying desire to get them in trouble.
  • Teen girls spend lots of time in makeup aisles in anticipation of when they are finally allowed to wear it. Earrings are allowed, so every pair must be held up to the ears for friends to oooooh and aaaaahhh.
  • Teen boys have no idea why they are there. They don’t want to buy anything, but they are told they can cruise chicks best at the mall. This is not true (see above re earrings and makeup), but they get occasional reinforcement at the food court which is enough for them to validate that flawed theory.

Well, that’s most of it… Malls are a virtual microcosm of suburban society.

Oh, I forgot! You can eat, go to the movies and shop for some great stuff, too! Oh, yeah, isn’t that what they were built for?

Feel free to add on!

If You Haven’t Got the Holiday Spirit Yet, Just Watch This…

How Powerful the Hallelujah Chorus is!

This video of spontaneity of sorts is good for the spirit no matter what faith you are. Watching this video brought back  memories of Catholic school, Midnight Mass, shopping and dining with my family, and all the childhood memories that come with traditional holiday music. The Hallelujah Chorus always brought chills to my spine every time I heard it when I was a child and it still does.

Tradition is the glue that bonds us.

There were 5 kids in my family and often the last thing we wanted to do at Christmas was be forced to be all together “for Mom’s sake”- especially after Dad had died. And Mom was very Polish Catholic traditional and required the religious rituals and foods that accompanied the holiday – most of which we didn’t like to eat – like the Christmas Eve fish dinner with mushroom soup.

In our teenage years (the 60’s and 70’s), Mom’s insistence that we all be together – even though we wanted to go to our friends’ houses, or just be left alone  – was a point of contention. But always, by the time we sat down to dinner and said grace, we would all be together as a family and we sensed that it was special to be together.

Holiday Decorations at the Big Department Stores

I remember how special Christmas shopping was then. We weren’t used to having everything we wanted throughout the year, so we truly expected to wait until Christmas to have our wish list fulfilled. We never expected to get the special things we wanted except on birthdays and Christmas, so it made it that much more special. Now kids have come to expect the latest new technology or cool toys as soon as they come out with the next version or when the associated movie is released.

And it seems the emphasis is on the sales – not decorations. And the state of the economy has guilt-ed the merchants into even minimizing the decorations. So, frankly, our trip to the mall this season did not feel particularly special…

Back then, the major department stores like Macy’s and Rich’s were our “malls” of the time. The downtown stores were absolutely huge with floors and floors of merchandise. Each floor and window was so beautifully decorated – it was magic just to see the decorations.

I remember most of all the joy of finding just the right gift for each person on my list.

We would all go together and dressed nicely to go shopping downtown. No blue jeans or athletic shoes… It was Christmas and it was special! There were plenty of salespeople all about to help you find what you wanted and they all seemed to have that Christmas Spirit.

My list was carefully thought out for each person – picking up their hints and preferences in the months preceding – and my greatest excitement came when I knew I had found just what I knew they each wanted.

Sometimes the day of shopping may have ended with a meal at a downtown restaurant – eating out was also usually only for special occasions then.

Maybe keeping family traditions has something to do with how we treat each other – even strangers.

Our mobile society has placed distance in the way of carrying on traditions, but recently, TV shows like Brothers and Sisters, Blue Blood, and even Modern Family have revisited the importance of family. Perhaps those old fashioned family traditions gave us a better level of tolerance for our fellow man.

Our ability to interact with others on a more positive level reveals itself through work, play, and especially through our interactions with strangers – like while shopping… Perhaps we take our anger out on salespeople and customers as a result of  a lack of family connection – a missing connection with those who ground us.

Maybe reviving family traditions could “force” us to interact with others on a regular basis (regardless of our current relationship with them) and teach us tolerance, patience, and empathy.

Well, I have rambled, but hearing that Hallelujah Chorus sung in that video really got me missing the old fashioned Christmas…

If you are separated by distance from your family, how do you stay connected?