This is How Traditional Retail is Going to Survive


Traditional retail is in trouble. More and more people are buying products online. It’s convenient, easy and, for the most part, cheaper than going on a shopping expedition to the local mall. Retailers have noticed that and are trying to figure out what they need to do in order to be competitive. Unless you are Walmart, the retailer behemoth, you know that you can’t compete purely on price. Not long ago while exchanging some Christmas gifts at The Buckle store at the Cool Springs Mall,  I was reminded that as far as retail is concerned there’s still no substitute for a great sales person.

If retail is going to survive this is how: a lesson from The Buckle

I went to the store to exchange of couple of items with no intention of spending any extra money. An hour and a half later, I left with three extra bags. I was thinking on my way out of the store, “what just happened?” Well, I met Logan Lewis; that’s what happened.  Here’s how Logan changed my mind from exchanging a couple of items into buying several more pieces:

He positioned himself as a fashion consultant and expert. They guy not only knows the merchandise well, he understands fashion, trends and loves to talk about what different designers are doing with their clothing lines. During our exchange, Logan went from salesman to fashion expert. His knowledge and enthusiasm moved him from someone trying to meet a quota to a trusted source of information as well as as new trends on men’s wear. I found myself trusting his opinion on what looked good on me. I didn’t mind buying more from him because I knew the stuff would look good.

He gave me what I wanted but didn’t stop there. I was looking for t-shirts and he pointed me to their collection and then said “we just got a shipment of Roar shirts in yesterday, I bought this one for myself. Take a look at these.” Suddenly I went to trying on a t-shirt to trying on a series of high-end designer shirts. He put together a jacket, shirt and jeans combination that looked great. I had to try them on.

If traditional retail is going to survive, it will have to be on the shoulders of a great consumer experience. I could have bought most of the stuff I bought from Logan online, but I would not have done it. Not only I spent more money there, I enjoyed talking fashion with someone knowledgeable and friendly. Simply put, you’ll buy from people you like, and you’ll buy even more from people you like who are experts.

What was your last great retail experience?

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  • I could not agree more. Retail has to become about the experience and creating a desire for people to want to hang out in the store. Time spent hanging out will eventually turn into dollars.

    I think The Mac Store has proven this to be true.

  • I can tell you my worst retail experience. When we were church planters in France, I hated going shopping. The whole experience stressed me out. It was my onus to say bonjour and au revoir to the sales people, and if I forgot, they wouldn't talk to me. That was fine. I learned to do that. But what frustrated me was when I took something back with a receipt and a legitimate complaint, I was told the whole transaction was impossible. So I said, "Well, then, I just won't come back to your store."

    The clerk smiled and said (in French), "I don't care if you ever come back." He scowled. I grumbled. And then I left.

    • Ah, the French. There's so much I could say about my experience vacationing in France, but their national sense of entitlement and lack of customer service has gotten them in the poor financial condition they're in.

      • Steve Shantz

        While living in France, I always felt that the shop owner felt that I was privileged to be in his or her store and made sure to communicate that through body language and customer service.

  • Lisa Spene

    I has a great experience at the Nordstrom's in Chicago not long ago. The sales person helping me was just top notch. She opened a dressing room for me and kept bringing me items to try out. It was fun.

    • Nordstrom's is one of my favorite places to shop, not as much because of the merchandise but because of their sales people. They have the shopping experience thing figured it out.

  • Mike

    I am starting to think that The Buckle may have an advantage because they have discovered they need to hire the right people, not just anyone that is passes the drug and background checks. My wife and daughter shopped at The Buckle for the first time last week and were completely blown away by the salesguy and the whole experience. They will go back…unfortunately for my bank account. I think Eddie Bauer has figured that out as well and are linking there stores to online making it somewhat seamless. If they don't have what you are looking for in the store, they can have it shipped to your house with no shipping fees. It gets you hooked to their online. Online orders can be returned to the store with no questions and no return shipping, and they help you find what you do need. On the other hand, walked into Aeropostale during a sale…clothes everywhere (a mess), LOW prices, no assistance, walked out empty handed and no plans to return.

    • Great comment, Mike. Make it a good experience for the consumer and we'll reward you with sales. It's that simple.

  • Jennifer Szunko

    They say that if a customer has a great experience they might tell one person and if they have a bad experience they will tell ten…unfortunately your story brings to mind a bad experience I had recently at the store next to The Buckle (in our mall that would be Pac Sun). My thirteen year old had a gift card and cash burning a hole in his pocket so we walked in ready to spend about $100. One employee in the entire store during Christmas break so if you wanted to ask a question or have a dressing room opened you had to wait in line. Lucky for them the gift card kept us there, otherwise I would have been heading for the door! Next time we will try the Buckle.

  • There is definitely no substitute for great customer service (including product knowledge). A sales agent who is part diagnostician makes for a great sale. A generous return/exchange policy makes for a loyal customer.

    I keep wondering how to apply these principles to the church. Do I anticipate the needs of the people who walk into our church? Or do I/we try to shove everyone toward our special of the day?

    This is harder to do than it looks.

  • juliekolb

    Great post and great comments, too…Jennifer is exactly right about telling a good experience and a bad experience..

    My background has always been in retail..I was manager for a Victoria's Secret lingerie store for 6 years and now work at a 35 years old family business "Kolb's Farm Store"…You hit the nail on the head with customer service…Just as "location, location, location" is to real estate…"Customer Service" is the same for retail..A happy customer will always buy more and will stay loyal (and in most cases, stay loyal, regardless of the price they must pay)

    Thanks for the post and happy shopping!

    • On the eve of getting married, I went to a Victory Secret store to get some silk boxers. As I was checking out, I lady approached me and said, "I'm from Texas and we usually get what we want. I'd pay money to see you in those." I remember turning three shades of red and bolting out of the story. That was a long time ago. Today I'd say: "Lady, how much you've got?"

  • RCM

    Maurilio, great insight and great post! It is so true that in a world where the ease of online shopping dominates, we are more hesitant to make our way to the busy mall. However, I always find that when a trip to an actual store is absolutely necessary, I make it even more of a point to only visit stores where the customer service goes above and beyond. Why bother if it doesn't?

    I operate a music/fashion/lifestyle blog called Rock Candy Music, and we would absolutely LOVE to feature this post as a guest post on our blog! It sounds like Logan's service made an impact on you, and I think your story would have a pertinent impact on our readers, too! Let me know what you think about being a guest blogger.

    Thanks for the great post!'

    • I'd be honored to guest post on your blog. Email me the details.

  • All good points about this idea. Yes, the way I envision this the demo fee could be applied to purchase. thanks.

  • S.Merritt

    The sales people at Buckle are great. Very attentive. But their corporate office is terrible. I was told two days ago that I would be charged a penalty fee for paying my bill on time (the due date), but could pay my bill one day late in the retail store (a one day grace period policy). This makes no sense. I'm a person that does not pay bills late and to penalize me for not risking my life to pay instore is silly (my state is affected by the snow storm, 3 days and counting)

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