You've heard about the big mistakes that can ruin a retail business.
(article continues below)
But when it comes to retail, the devil really is in the details. Everyday, little mistakes take down stores of all shapes and sizes, even though it would have cost next to nothing to correct them.
Most retail owners are obsessed with management issues like pricing, marketing, and inventory. However, when a customer visits your store, he isn't thinking about any of these things because he is more concerned with a pleasant buying experience. In other words, you can do all the big things right and still get it wrong if you don't pay attention to the little things that contribute to an enjoyable buying experience for your customers.
Cleanliness tops the list of qualities your customers are looking for when they enter your store. Dirty floors, water-stained ceilings, and messy shelves signal that a business is in trouble and that the customer would be better off shopping somewhere else. You also need to consider areas of the store that appear hidden but are highly trafficked by customers, i.e. bathrooms and dressing rooms. If anything, these areas need to be even more clean than the rest of the store.
At some point, you need to ask yourself whether the ambience of your store is designed to please your staff or your customers. Is the overhead music soothing and relaxing, or is it blaring your cashier's favorite hip-hop CD? Are there any smells that you have grown accustomed to , but that others might deem offensive? Since these are important issues for the people who shop in your store, they need to become important issues to you as well.
Customers can't buy what they can't see. Bright, overhead lighting is standard in most retail spaces, but if burnt-out bulbs haven't been replaced it will be difficult for your customers to see the merchandise. Poor lighting also casts a depressing pall over your store's interior which will be interpreted as another sign that your business is struggling.
Most customers like to see professional signage. Hand-painted signs appear cheap and may be difficult to read. Today's technology has eliminated the need to spend a fortune on printed signage. All you need is a computer and a printer to create signs that are far superior to the best hand-painted signs you can produce.
You also need to make sure your customers are able to easily navigate your store space. If appropriate, shopping carts and baskets should be readily available and the aisles should have enough clearance to allow shoppers to easily pass each other with or without a cart.
The check-out lane is your last chance to make an impression on your customers so make sure it's a good one. A messy and disorganized check-out experience all but guarantees they won't be back, but an orderly and pleasant one can compensate for a few minor mistakes in other areas.