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Seven Deadly Sins of Retail

Furniture World Magazine
Volume 145 NO.4 July/August


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The retail home furnishings business may seem simple and easy to your shoppers, neighbors, and maybe even some of your employees, but those of us with long-term involvement know IT’S HARD! In your Circle of Concern, those things you have little or no control over are your competitors, interest rates, the weather, advertising costs, and the local economy.


“Chances Are If...

you haven’t painted, steamed or cleaned 
since 2013, your structure is DIRTY- and who 
wants to buy clean furniture in a dirty store!”


In your Circle of Influence, those things you do have some control over are the Seven Deadly Sins. Avoid them and your business can flourish. Ignore them, and you will miss opportunities for growth, profit, and comfort. Don’t chance losing your retail soul because many factors can be fixed with little or no cost; others require investment. But business is a game of invest wisely and reap returns. It’s up to you to make that investment.

#1 SIN:
Don’’t offer your customers Legendary Customer Service.

I have rarely spoken to an owner or manager who does not believe that it’s a sin to not give good customer service. The problem is that many companies give good service, and good is just not GOOD ENOUGH. Companies with legendary customer service win the war for scarce retail dollars. In order to be legendary, you must remember that shoppers are not an interruption; they are the reason for your existence. Shoppers are one of your costliest Paid-in-Advance assets when you consider the cost of advertising and occupancy. And, with the daily war for retail dollars hotter than ever, your relationship with shoppers and customers is more delicate than ever. Protect that asset as if it were gold, and handle it like porcelain!

FedEx grew from a college term paper to a multi-billion dollar company with the service motto, “the sun will never set on a customer issue”. Be sure to return all phone calls, e-mails, and Facebook posts. When in doubt on how to resolve an issue, err on the side of your customer. Be sure that your frontline troops dress professionally, and provide shoppers with a logical buying experience so they can more easily select furniture that fits their lifestyle and budget. Thank you cards and follow calls are old-fashioned and take time. However, they are still very much appreciated by your customers, so see if you can squeeze the 15 minutes it takes to send them, into your day.

#2 SIN: fail to invest in your building.

Houses and stores have a lot in common. Farmers think it’s a sin to “fix the house before you fix the barn”, meaning you have to take care of business first if you don’t want to end up sleeping on the street. Starting today, look at your carpeting, walls, and windows. Chances are if you haven’t painted, steamed or cleaned since 2013, your structure is DIRTY. Nobody wants to buy clean furniture in a dirty store! Make sure your store sign lights up completely, and if you are lucky enough to have a reader board, be sure the message is timely and changes weekly. Make your restrooms a SPA, and fix that leaky roof.
Want to know if your building is in top condition? Here is a simple test. Imagine you were going to lease a new building for a store. Would you lease YOURS?

#3 SIN: Never recruit until you need someone.

Take a tip from major retailers, recruiting is a 365 day a year job. Wal-Mart, Old Navy, McDonalds, and Macy’s recruit EVERY DAY. It’s sinful for an HR manager in any one of those stores to not have a drawer full of resumes and applications! It’s time to recruit today if you are:
  • Opening another store location any time this year.
  • Are not 100% delighted with the performance of everyone on your team. 
  • If you have another competitor opening a store in your market.
  • If you don’t have a $800,000 to $1,000,000 writer on your sales team. 
You can start recruiting by posting a sign in your window, and adding a recruiting box (Come Grow With Us - Business is Great) on every print ad. Even consider adding a recruitment tab to your website.

#4 SIN: Turn your store into your home.

I don’t know about your house, but at my house we are not ready to receive guests 365 days of the year. We don’t vacuum the floor every day, sometimes there are dishes in the sink, and other times we can write “I love you” in the dust on the coffee table.

You and your sales team spend a lot of time in your building, including evenings and weekends. Store owners that allow the sin of letting the front desk get littered with coffee cups, pop cans (soda cans for those not in the Central Time Zone), and food wrappers, signal to customers that they are an interruption, not a reason for existence. Same goes for playing computer games or updating Facebook on cell phones, having a TV in your store on and tuned to a news channel, reading the newspaper, or not standing up BEFORE the customer enters the building. There are a lot of empty hours in the retail furniture business, try to make them productive. Maybe make a thank you call or write a card!

“Not everyone shops

for the cheapest price. Some of the most expensive places to buy cigarettes are convenience stores, and yet 7-11 still sells a ton of them!”

#5 SIN: Prejudge.

There is still some prejudice in retail, but not the sin you may think of first. We often get an ill-informed impression of our incoming shoppers based on the car they drove in, clothing, other appearance, single versus couples, too young, too old, local speech accent, number of children, and the #1 prejudice of all time; Not treating the shopper who has been in five or more times and has not bought, as well as you treated them on their first visit. All of those people have something in common. They all SLEEP, SIT and EAT! And your store sells stuff to help them do that. Treat them all like guests and they will buy.

#6 SIN: I never sell THAT model.

Not as bad as pre-judging people, but another business sin is not presenting all of the merchandise in your store. I love to hear about premium upper end furniture purchases! selling leather sectionals, fancy bedroom sets, and dining rooms that seat twelve are awesome! Sell those and sell them often, and your business life will be amazing. But don’t accept having RSAs forget the mid-line and budget line product! If you want your sales team to become great closers, they have to sell all models that you show, not just the ones they like or that pay the most commission.

#7 SIN: We can’t sell these items because they are much cheaper at Ginormous-Mart.

There are bargain hunters everywhere, but not everyone shops for the cheapest price. Some of the most expensive places to buy cigarettes are convenience stores, and yet 7-11 still sells a ton of them! If you guessed that the benefit is convenience, you WIN! Shoppers will buy lamps, rugs and mattress protectors from you, just because of the convenience factor. The sin is in making accessories “add on”, instead of must-have parts of the purchase. If you want to sell accessories, learn what makes them great, price them right, show them to every shopper as part of the purchase, and include them for two to seven dollars a month on a 60 month contract. Shoppers will buy from an expert!

Don’t fall victim to the Seven Deadly Sins. Commit to developing and executing a plan to resolve the issues plaguing your operation. The alternate is to ignore them, and then you will find out how deadly the Seven Sins can be!

Gordon Hecht is Senior Manager-In Store Concepts for Serta Simmons Bedding Company, introducing and expanding bedding business in conventional and non-traditional venues. He started his 30+ years experience in the Home Furnishings industry in Las Vegas, NV as a delivery helper and driver and later served in sales, retail management and consulting roles.
Read other articles by Gordon Hecht