I was watching Sunrise on Monday morning (my preferred morning show of choice) and came across a story on a recent undercover shopping survey that took place across Sydney and Melbourne.
The survey saw secret shoppers go in-store to score hundreds of major retailers. The stores were scored based on factors like customer service, staff attitude and store atmosphere.
The most shocking revelation was that over 70% of bricks-and-mortar retailers failed, with the shoppers claiming staff were nowhere to be found, that they weren’t friendly and that they didn’t make the customer feel welcome.
Now, I know that you have to take these surveys with a grain of salt at times, but it has made me wonder about the future of these retailers and how we’re going to shop for homewares, furniture, lifestyle products and clothing moving forward.
So today, I ask you: how do you feel about bricks and mortar stores?
Personally, I adore an in-store experience. And that’s coming from someone who has recently launched their own online store. I love nothing more than entering a gorgeous homewares shop – especially an independent – and browsing their collections. I love to meet the people, I love to wander about and I love to take it all in.
It’s one of the dreams on my bucket list, actually; to own a bricks-and-mortar homewares store. I also, especially leading up to Christmas, live for seeing the festive decorations in shopping malls like Westfield. The David Jones windows are by far my fave.
So trust me when I say that this is not a retail-bashing blog post. My book, which is coming out in Jan 2016 (yay), is all about the best places to eat, drink and shop in Sydney. So I am ALL about supporting local businesses and championing the ones who are doing it right. That said, I have genuine concerns about the way some stores operate.
A few weeks ago, actually, I went into a homewares store near my house. Being a newbie to Melbourne, I’m on a mission to check out as many local homewares boutiques as humanly possible (please list some in the comments below – I need to know where the good ones are at).
Upon entering the store, I greeted the lady behind the register. She didn’t greet me. Now, the one thing I will say about myself is that I am all smiles, sunshine and rainbows when I meet people – especially in a setting like a homewares store. But this lady wanted nothing to do with me. As I got closer to the register, I actually asked her how she was. To which she muttered, faked a smile and went about drinking her coffee.
I did a few laps of the store and left, a bit downtrodden, actually. The store looked so good from the outside and I expected – at the very least – I’d get some warmth and service. One thing I did notice her doing, though, was watching me like a hawk as I walked around. Was she expecting I’d steal something? Whatever her intention was, it made me feel uncomfortable.
Needless to say, I won’t go back. And this isn’t me doing a ‘do you know who I am?’ thing. It’s just about basic customer service and how retail staff should make you feel. If you don’t have a passion for it, you’re in the wrong job. Sure, she may have been having a bad day (and trust me, as someone running their own business, I get it), but we’re in too volatile a market now for bad face-to-face service. Or bad service in any aspect, come to think of it.
I’d love to take over the store and show her how to make a local feel welcome. I wonder how much longer the store will be around for, actually.
I imagine in this modern age, where almost everything is done online, that it’s bloody tough to keep a bricks and mortar store going – and to make it profitable. But I do think it comes down to making people feel a part of something. It’s human nature to want to belong, to feel part of a club or a tribe. I think if a bricks and mortar store makes you feel like part of the family, and continues to stock products you love, you’ll be back time and time again. I know I would.
But if you give your customer one bad experience, as I had in that local homewares shop, they’re gone for good.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic in the comments below. Do you go to shopping centres anymore or do you only shop online? Do you own a bricks and mortar store, because I’d love to hear from you too! Have you had a phenomenally good experience in a store?
Boutiques in Sydney who do it well and who always gave great service when I was in-store include Koskela, Clickon Furniture, Garden Life, Humble Beginnings, No 12 Trading and more. What are some of your faves?