Friday, 9 September 2016

20 years and going strong

The entire month of August has been full of celebrations and ponderings of what it actually means to be 20yrs old in retail.

In human years, I feel like I have only ever been on two sides of twenty. As a young child I would always say “wow, 20 is so grown up”, and now in my end thirties it seems so young and I have moments of wishing I was 20 again!

Twenty is an interesting age. You really start feeling like an adult at twenty. You think you know everything about everything at twenty. The world is at your feet, you are more care free, you’ve tossed the shackles of school aside and everything is now finally possible! It’s only when you reach your latter twenties that you realise you were still a baby at 20 and actually had no idea what you were talking about.

In retail, twenty years old is something totally different! Twenty years is not the beginning of adulthood by any means. If you have survived 20 years in retail, you already have a few grey hairs I can tell you. You are mature, but not old. You are not the new kid on the block that gets chewed up and spat out anymore. You are kind of like a fine bottle of Brandy, a 20yr bottle of KWV if you will. Bought on occasion, savoured and enjoyed by those that love you already. By now, customers know you. They know what you look like, what you have to offer and what they can expect from you. The challenge is to keep them excited about coming back to you.

Clothing retailers use seasons to keep you coming back. They take us from Spring to Winter using different styles from around the world. We wait in breathless anticipation as to what is coming next and as the big sales hit to clear out the season that is nearing an end, we start getting excited about what the new trend will be.

Food retailers on the other hand, might change their menu around a bit to suit the seasons, or add new flavours to already popular dishes or drinks. Electronic stores will always bring in the latest and greatest to replace the last latest and greatest before you can say “outdated”.

Well, here at Crafters Market, we play the same game but with a twist. You see, being a company that does not bring in its own stock, but rather affords small businesses and Crafters the opportunity to trade in regional and super regional malls, we have a constant turnaround of Crafters and stock. This keeps us exciting as we have such a wide variety of products in each store. We don’t get to go on sale to clear out the old stock as our Crafters can constantly check their sales and see what stock has lost its appeal, what stock is flying off the shelf and rotate their range as often as they want.

Our only challenge is coming in at the right price. With most of our products being hand crafted and not just imported from China, we do sometimes struggle to compete. The difference would obviously be in our quality, but with everyone needing to tighten their belt even more with our current economy, we sometimes find ourselves being the second choice to customers.

What most customers don’t know though, is that at Crafters Market you can pretty much find anything for anyone across all budgets. We have some unbelievably well price products that are an absolute steal! The challenge for our customers would be to find these products. Our stores can be a little overwhelming at times with the amount of great Crafters we have. If you had to have a proper browse at every product it could take you a while.

Luckily we have very hands on staff! Each staff member knows every product and Crafter backwards. If you had to walk in our store and say “I am looking for a gift for a woman and my budget is between R100 and R300”, they could take you through all the Crafters within your budget in no time at all. They are also all aware of which Crafters in our store can do customised gifting if you wanted that extra special gift. The only challenge for you as a customer would be to use our staff to your advantage.

It’s tough to not have a knee-jerk response when welcomed in a store and say “Hi. I’m fine thank you. I don’t need help”. I know I do it. As soon as someone greets me, my first response is “No thanks”. Really? No thanks! I once had a beggar at a robot ask me for change and I said “No Thanks”. When I drove away I just burst into laughter. It doesn’t even make sense, but I have programmed my mind with a two word response to not be bothered by anyone.

Would it really be so hard for me to say “Hi” back to someone when they greet me in store? If you actually look around at staff sometimes, they look more scared to approach me than I am to be approached by them. This is probably due to their heads being bitten off by people like me saying “No Thanks” to a “Hi”. I have conditioned myself to the point that I am completely unapproachable and then when I do need help I complain about what poor service I get. I am not disputing though that there are some staff members out there that do not care about their job and no matter what you do, service will be shocking. But do I ever take the moment to distinguish what kind of store I am in? What is the energy like in that store? Are the staff hassling me? Ignoring me? Pushing for a sale? Or are they merely saying “Good Morning. Let me know if I can help you”.

At Crafters Market we try and keep our staff motivated at all times to be of great assistance to customers. Not to push sales, but to educate customers on our products and assist them in finding what they want amongst all our other treasures. They are the map to lead the way to your final purchase.

So what has 20yrs in the retail industry taught us? Customer “experience” is very important to us, not just customer service. Our stores are magical lands to get lost in, but when someone needs something in a rush, we are ready to get them in and out with the right product in their hand.

I leave you with a challenge: Trust us to give you the tailored customer experience you are looking for. And we hope that you keep challenging us to give it to you!

Happy Birthday Crafters Market!
Blogger: Yolande Niemandt

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