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Black Friday shopping, and the in store experience, as observed by the customer.

I have done team development, as well as training and development in retail environments for years in correlation with several other industries. This however, was my first time actually going out and shopping on a black Friday in a very long time.

What did I see and experience?

I witnessed retailers that were unfortunately not prepared, that had no strategy, no back up plans in place, lack of training, and lack of pre-gaming their biggest money making days! I was in shock to be perfectly honest, and this was on a whole across the board. This was not just one major retailer but most!

I believe that our retailers, and the retail environment is suffering from the same that most do when they are not doing well, it is called excuses. It has become an excuse driven business. The mentality becomes one of “we can’t hit our numbers because everyone is online shopping now.” Let’s stop right there for a moment. If people are moving towards online shopping, shouldn’t we ask ourselves why? Why are people opting to online shop vs. having the in store experience other than convenience? Could it be because we have developed so many excuses for not obtaining our performance numbers that we no longer have to do our job as store Management?

When is the last time you walked into a store location with the eyes and ears of the consumer? When is the last time you looked at cleanliness, paid attention to the five senses, and ensured that your teams were impacting as many of them as possible so that your customer is having the optimum experience? What was the temp in the store? Were people cold, hot, or comfortable? What is the cleanliness of the store inside and out? What were the expressions on your team’s faces, and on the clients? What kind of lines, floor staff, inventory levels were you seeing on the floor? Was there music playing and were toes tapping? What was the level of staff to help people on and off of the floor? I can tell you from my experience that not many retailers are doing this exercise on a whole. You need to up your game, and those in top Executive Management, and or CEO spheres need to stop accepting excuses, and rather you should drive your teams to meet expectations of the highest customer experience standards. This is what is lost in todays shopping experience, as well as lack of planning and strategy. You are losing thousands, upon thousands, on a whole because of it. Not only is it not convenient to shop in the stores anymore, it is simply not a positive or happy experience on average. There is nothing special about it. It looks and feels like a grind instead, and that starts with the lack of preparation, trickles into the people working in the stores, and it then spills over into the clients experience.

Who had music on? Who had their A teams scheduled for black Friday? Who had back up plans in place, call in shifts on their schedule, in the event people no showed, or called in sick? Who had extra staff on the floor to assist with the customer shopping experience based upon peak trends from the prior year, and to answer questions? Who had the right people, in the right place? The best cashiers running the cash register as an example. Who had stock people running additional inventory in the back out to the floor? Who was making use of headsets to increase communications on the sales floor, and in the back with an inventory person? Who ensured the smoothest and happiest shopping experience for their teams, as well as their clients? Who held the pace, and who was driving excellence? If you did all of this, congratulations, you are now the rarity in the market place vs. the norm. Kudos to you!

I shopped one store, out of the dozens that I went into on black Friday that actually had a decent attempt at some of the above things that are listed. I know for a fact, without even seeing their performance numbers, that they came the closest to hitting their performance goals over the countless other locations that I went into.

What I saw was droves of lost money across the board, lack of service, lack of strategy, and lack of overall business success. It was a disaster out in the field people. It was not an experience of any sort, other than that of a nightmare. Then we, the retailers, have the audacity to say our brick and mortar business is failing because of online business. “NO, the business is failing in brick and mortar locations because of lack of strategy, care, and customer service across the board.”

Many of you, especially those of you in Management levels will want to disagree with this. You will be mad that I had the boldness to write this. You will come up with more reasons for why this is not accurate. This will be a harsh response to the rebelling thoughts already running rampant through your mind. The reality is, that this is, the exact reason why you are failing, or failing to the extent that you are. Bring up your game. Come to the playing field with your best effort in place! You need to plan and look at everything on a whole with a fresh set of eyes and ears. Train and develop excellence, as well as pride in your teams. Be the coach, and lead by example. Take the time to strategize exactly how you, and your teams, will hit the financial goals. Have that plan in place like a well-oiled machine, well before the money-making season hits.

My hope is, that for some, this will be a wake up call. I hope this allows you to be honest with yourselves, assess your teams, your locations, your management style, and your business strategy, to deliver the optimum shopping experience. Please bring back the customer service, and experience, that your clients are starved for and deserve. Create some change before the next big rush that is just around the corner.

To those of you who are nailing all of these things and possibly more, be proud of yourselves, and know that you are the rare few.

Cheers to success, and Happy Holidays to all!