Start Up Blog

Retail Apathy: Target

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on May 13, 2013

On the weekend I went into a Target store to purchase an Esky for a pitch presentation I was doing where the reference was brands becoming generic terms for a product. Rather than walk around a giant retail floor, I thought I’d ask a staff member where I might be able to find one. I approached a staff member and asked. He was friendly and attentive. He almost cared and he said:

“To be honest, that is a seasonal line. I know we have them in summer, but I’m pretty sure we don’t carry any stock in winter. But, to be sure let me check.”

He then reached for his internal walkie talky and spoke with a colleague.

“Yeh, like I said we don’t have them this time of year. Sorry man, maybe try Bunnings.”

So while he was civil, approachable and nice he didn’t solve my problem. He didn’t even offer to to walk to me to where these items would be on the shelf during the warm season. (He was very busy fixing a shelf) He suggested I go to a competitor, which can be a valid customer service response, but certainly was not on this occasion and here is why:

I didn’t believe what he told me. In my 40 years I’ve been in enough department stores and discount retailers to know I’ve seen them ‘out of season’. I know enough about how poor Australian retailers are at selling excess stock to think there might just be a few left overs. I’ve also had enough retail staff give me false information over the years to test my intuition and have a look around for myself. So I did that and below is a picture of what I found. A wall of Esky type chillers.

Esky

And they got my sale, despite their retail apathy.

But it’s a pretty bad situation when the customers know more about a retail store than the people who work there. It got me thinking about how many times this must happen through the entire store. How many customers are sent away, told an item is not in stock, or don’t even know what product the customer is asking for? Multiply this by 305 retail stores, 10,000 items in store and thousands of uninformed, uninspired staff and it is hard to see this type of retailer competing with on-line options. How can a staff member even know what’s in store as well as a search engine can on line? They simply cannot.

For retailer to survive the transition to online the first step is for them to realise that it’s actually not about product and price point. It’s primary about the experience and how much the people that serve customers actually care. Both of which are deliberate strategies that are not born at store level.

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5 Responses

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  1. Damien Donnelly said, on May 13, 2013 at 11:38 pm

    Hi Steve,
    Next time you find an Esky like that, help out a fellow shopper with Lasoo.it (shameless app promotion). But seriously, I really think Australia needs this. I’m @ddonnelly

  2. Wes said, on May 14, 2013 at 7:54 am

    Reblogged this on Sunshine and Inspiration and commented:
    I love this blog post from Start-up Blog. This is a real pet peev of mine I’ve experienced numerous times.
    The message I take away from this is that success online or offline is about really caring about your customers and this is a function of your company culture, not technology or retail channel.

  3. Fabian O. Schultz said, on June 12, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    Undoubtedly, the biggest casualty of Brookes’ comments is the Myer brand itself. Sidney Myer’s iconic department store in Bourke Street, Melbourne was opened in 1914. Myer himself was a businessman, just like Bernie Brookes. A point of difference, perhaps, is that Myer was also a man firmly focussed on contributing to his community. Well before any other businesses were thinking this way, Myer introduced innovative work practices like free on-site health and dental care for his employees and offered company shares to staff. When business was bad, he opted to lower salaries, including his own, rather than cut staff.

  4. Dave(e/id) Payne said, on March 22, 2014 at 6:06 pm

    This might have been a better place for the comment I posted to http://startupblog.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/i-wanted-to-give-them-my-money-vans/#comment-21563 .

    Once the (former) Coles-Myer group stores were noticeably worse than their rivals for things being in the wrong place so you had to look for the right place to see the price. I’m not sure the other monstrosity is any less bad now. I used to wonder why they were better, given no direct incentive for waged workers to build the business & a disincentive against encouraging more customers. (Until the failing business decides they have too many employees.)

    On the other hand, the commission incentive leads to annoying, pushy sales people who discourage my custom even more! Maybe a commission for shelf-stackers & a small one for sales people is the way to go.


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