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Furniture Retail Tip #26 From Grandpa Mike-e-e! at 90 - Customers, And How To Enjoy Them

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Michael Greene (Grandpa Mike-e-e at 90)

If you don't enjoy the challenge of people it's impossible to enjoy retail. And if you don't enjoy retail no way can you be successful at it.

Of course, you're going to point out the retailer down the block who seems to growl at everyone who comes into his hardware store (including the mailman) and he still keeps on "running" the show, year after year. In my experience, the man down the block usually is guarded by his wife who artfully dodges between him and his customers and thereby keeps the peace while the sale is consummated.

It has also been my observation that the gentleman has been in the neighborhood for a long, long time, and has served up fine goods and services for forty years and then just simply burnt out of finesse. . . but his wife and neighbors know it. It happens to Hollywood stars, big-time executives, comedians and even to Presidents whose business edges have frayed by being in the fray too long.

No way could our hardware friend have been barking for forty straight years and still be around to count the years, unless one way or another he had cornered the entire market of light bulbs that never burn out or had one steel nut that fits any size bolt.

To enjoy customers you have to understand them and who they are. You, firstly, have to understand that not every customer is a customer, meaning ready to buy. Some may just like your air conditioning on a blistering hot, city day.

Some, on the other hand, though very positive in their shopping attitude, shop forever because unfortunately, they can't afford to buy what they need. None of this endeavor is a sin. It's all part of our retail lives... the challenge to change a visitor into a buying customer.

I say "buying customer" because one of my very close friends once whispered to me about the woman who walked into his furniture emporium and quoted a price from "down the block" that he knew was ridiculously low and told her so.  At which point the visitor snapped back: "Don't you know that the customer is always right?" At which point he politely answered, "You're right ma'am but you didn't buy anything yet so you're not a customer." He didn't make that sale.

The reason you have to enjoy people is because many "lookers," who never buy a thing are still a joy to talk to. Such people when approached tell you, right off the bat, that they are "really only looking" which they believe serves to immediately take you off the offensive, and places them in a neutral non-disappointing position.

That's when the retail fun begins. If you like people, before you know it they might let you know that "they always wanted to come in here" and usually end up with remarking about how lovely your shop and it's selection is. No way can you get peeved at such a "looker" A-n-d you've probably laid the ground for a future sale... or even a recommendation to a buddy.

Of course, there is the other end of the spectrum: The Stonewall Visitor who when politely approached and asked, "May I help you?" never answers and impolitely looks over your head.  Or the Encyclopedic Visitor who is intent on teaching you everything he or she has learned about your products but never really has any intent to buy them... from you or anyone else. It's sort of a hobby. Not to forget the Checkbook Visible in Back Pocket Visitor, usually male in gender, who is sending out a signal that he means business... sooner or later.

And finally there's the Dead End Visitor who with a flair lets you know that "Money is no object" you know with assurance that it is.

Again, none of this is a sin.  It's the retail living game: To attempt to service most of the people most of your time with expertise and honesty. And to try to enjoy that attempt backed up with quality: top notch display; fair profitable prices and the right person to sell and service. Again, it will produce a higher batting average and in turn make you and your clients happy.

The true test of a store's caliber is not how many people you sold today but rather how many people come back to buy tomorrow, after having gone home to "think it over".

Thanks, again, for listening.
Grandpa Mike-e-e! at 90

Got a question? Got a comment? Great!! E-mail: grandpamike-e-e!@furninfo.com

PS. See the new YouTube music video staring me, Grandpa Mike-e-e! with my granddaughter Becca in a supporting role at  http://bitly.com/qALkrX

About Michael Greene (Grandpa Mike-e-e!)

Retailer, author, columnist, lecturer, composer and lyricist.

Came to US with immigrant parents in 1924 at the age of three.

Graduated high school at 16.

Managed a small bedding retail and manufacturing company at 18 in 1939.

Hired as Assistant to the VP of Purchasing (Sweets Corp. of America... approximately 500 employees) in 1940 at 19.

Drafted into US Army Signal Corp - Communications Personnel Div., Fort Monmouth.Tested and selected for Army Specialized Training Program, Rutgers University. Qualified for O.C.S. - Officer Candidate School and graduated as Second Lieutenant, Inventory/ Personnel Division in 1944 at 23.

Married his sweetheart, Anita, and he gives thanks to the Almighty that they are still sweethearts... after 73 years.

Rejoined Sweets Corp as Director of Personnel in 1945 at 24.

Joined his suddenly widowed sister as President of a small retail/ manufacturing company in 1946. Stayed on for 46 years managing the custom designing of over 20,000 childrens rooms and master bedroom beds.

Attended Hofstra University (evening program), and graduated in 1968 at age 47. Two of his kids followed right along at two other college campuses.

Applied for 30 day temporary columnist opening offered by the Reed Business Newspapers in NC and stayed on for 27 years. His retail columns were distributed everywhere from Brooklyn to Bangladesh, to Belgium to Beijing.

Traveled the US and visited with 3rd/ 4th generation retail owners.

He was admitted to the Writers Hall of Fame for, "Conspicuous Excellence In reports and appraisals of the furniture industry."

Retired from retail management at age 70.

BOOKS: (1) At age 72: published first book "Where's The Green Pea?" vegetable character stories including his original music and CD.

Designed programs for primary and pre-K schools and presented them with his Anita. (2) At age 76: Gee! I Wish I Had A Bedroom All My Own," lectured in middle schools (teenage), with tech info for parents, teachers and students in Home

Science. (3) At age 80: Tzedakah - Caring And Sharing classic book with original music CD and illustrations for high school chorales and drama groups.

At 89 -- published Retail Life: How To Get In, Stay Alive a-n-d Love It! in online and printed version for business schools, industry, and entrepreneurs. Includes how-to educational section for "Wise Women Who Love A Challenge" and "Oldtimer Retailers Who've Missed Some Basic Goodies In Business Promotion. Also provides business professors and career students seeking everyday practical trade experiences and business thinking.

Invited to address Levitz Furniture retail salespersons, Furniture Designer Associate members,

IHFRA sales associations, High Point University students and F.I.T. retailer evening sessions. Also accepted as an ASID associate member.

At 90 plus... is a musical playwright, composer and lyricist with original music and thinking for very young and very old America.


Grandpa Mike-e-e

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