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Consultants Put Home Furnishings Retailers to the Test on 10,000 Mile Road Trip Across America

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It started as a joke. After all, who would be willing to drive 10,000 miles across America to do nothing but shop? Well, the two people willing to do just that are retail sales and service consultants Richard Fenton and Andrea Waltz. Of course, this was no ordinary shopping trip. Fenton and Waltz, who for the past eight years have provided keynotes, workshops and designed training programs for some of the nation’s top retail organizations (including Furniture Row Companies, Jennifer Convertibles, Mattress Firm, JC Penney, Eddie Bauer, Coldwater Creek, Discovery Channel Stores, and Macy’s to name just a few) set out on a mission to measure the service level of America’s retailers. The 37 day cross-country marathon started in Portland, Oregon and passed through Seattle, Denver, Kansas City, Minneapolis, Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Dallas, Phoenix, Los Angeles, and twenty other major cities. Using an observational data-gathering approach developed and fine-tuned during thousands of store visits over the past decade, they visited 987 stores and cataloged data from over 3,000 sales interactions to measure the effectiveness of what they refer to as magical metric moments… specific times in a shopping interaction where sales (and customers) are won or lost. At the tour’s conclusion the numbers were crunched, results tabulated, and feedback provided to sponsor companies that paid a fee for data on their stores as well as their competitor’s performance. And to say the data is enlightening is an understatement. The pair looked at 30 specific sales and service behaviors, or performance factors, which influence a retailer’s success; from the moment a customer enters a store until they exit. For example; how long does it take the average retailer to greet and approach a customer? What is the average customer-to-associate ratio? How many questions do sales associates typically ask before showing merchandise? How proactive are retailers when it comes to showing “add-on” merchandise? How many items do sales associates proactively show to customers without being asked? Fenton and Waltz now have the answers. The hard data gleaned from the research project is contained in their 100 page Retail Service Across America Report which includes a plethora of fascinating facts for any retailer. To make the report user friendly, the data is broken into 19 store categories including athletic/sporting goods, women’s specialty, men’s clothing, big box stores, personal care/vitamins, gifts, home furnishings etc. The big question is: How did Home Furnishings retailers fare? Here are some of the more interesting statistics along with Fenton and Waltz’s commentary for why some of the results are what they are, and even more importantly, what can be done to fix them! These and other questions will be answered in an upcoming feature article in FURNITURE WORLD Magazine. - 47% of all customers entering retail stores go “un-greeted”; in home furnishing retailers the number was 51%. - When greeted by an associate, the average number of seconds from entry to greeting is 32 seconds; home furnishing retailers were slightly better at 30 seconds. - 72% of all customers entering retail establishments are never “approached” by an associate; in home furnishings the number was a staggering 81% - 22% associates offered “unsolicited” information to customers. - Associates only asked questions to determine needs 36% of the time in retail stores overall; in home furnishing stores the number is only slightly better at 38%. - Of questions that were asked, only 27% of the questions were merchandise oriented, 72% were customer oriented. - 76% of the time some form of merchandise “presentation” was made. - Associates focused on price 32% of the time. - Associate asked for a buying decision 23% of the time. Richard Fenton and Andrea Waltz are recognized as two of the leading experts in sales, customer service and management within the retail industry. Since launching FentonWaltz Retail Training & Consulting in 1997 they have written four books specifically for retailers and have had over 100 articles published in retail trade journals, magazines, newspapers, and Internet based publications. As a member of the National Speakers Association, Fenton has spoken to over 40,000 retail associates, managers and executives over the last 8 eight years. For more information or to order a copy of the Retail Service Across America Report, call 800-290-5028 or visit www.fentonwaltz.com.

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