Woes of the Retail Industry

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Typically, I use this blog to highlight outstanding businesses, however, from time to time I address particular and pressing issues that impact consumers or businesses.

The other night I was in one of the grocery stores in my area, to pick up a few items that we needed the next day.  I arrived at about 8 p.m., and the store was fairly busy with at least five customers in each checkout line, waiting to pay for their groceries. One of the five cashiers had just closed their lane, and despite the long lines, a second cashier indicated that she was closing as well, informing a customer in her line that he would be her last checkout of the evening.

In more recent times I’ve had similar experiences at other grocery stores and retailers alike.  In addition to the frequent frustration that customers are having trying to obtain assistance from a sales person (especially in big box or department stores), retailers are now making it more difficult and time-consuming to pay for purchases and get out.

As a person who works with many companies in the retail industry, I often hear from my colleagues that “the industry is changing” or that “retail is having its challenges.” While this may indeed be the case, I’m beginning to wonder if the industry is partially responsible for causing this to happen.

Let me explain…to be successful in any business, you have to provide an excellent experience for your customers. Time and time again, surveys show that customers want friendly and knowledgeable staff, products readily available, the best possible price, and in many cases, speed of service is also a factor.

Assuming that these businesses have the product in stock, their most important asset is their employees, and they are marginalizing their company’s strengths. As people’s lives become busier and more hectic, retailers are actually pushing their customers to look for better ways of getting what they need.

To add to this, there currently exists a giant online retailer, that provides outstanding service in a very efficient manner, and gets products to their customers in a short amount of time. Is it really any wonder that the retail industry is getting its ass kicked by Amazon?

Make no mistake about it, while Amazon is an amazing company, and gives customers another option for buying products and services, many people still like to see, touch, feel, or try on items (especially clothing) before making a purchase.  This results in them coming to a store and giving that retailer the first…and best…opportunity to make the sale.

Until the retail industry improves the shopping experience and reconnects with their customers, I’m afraid that their woes will continue.

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