Monday, June 15, 2009

I'm raging against retail.

Ok, I'm not raging in the way I did the other week which led me to being locked in the managers office at Natwest to "calm down", but a simmering rage against British retail and the way it's failing to give this recession everything it's got. Just twenty minutes in Covent Garden on Saturday made me chronically depressed at the pathetic excuse for customer engagement from two of our leading highstreet brands. First up, the new Nike shop, which replaces Shelly's on the corner of Neal Street, had two rather embarrassed looking live models in the window. Nice idea on paper, but shoving two reluctant sales assistants in the window to be gawped at by daft American tourists does not exactly create the 'wow' factor. This is a shame, because I was recently much impressed by the Nike id section in Niketown on Oxford Circus. Way to let the side down, Nike.

And number two to name and shame comes Marks and Spencer. I regularly let them get away with their shocking excuse for fashion, on the basis that their food halls are second to none and that they have an endless supply of matronly women whose only joy in life is to make sure British females wear the correct size bra. Or so I thought. I don't want to go into details, but I'm pretty sure the buxom lady from their ad campaigns was not fitted by a painfully shy, hijab-wearing girl who thought an accurate measurement is best taken over a Wonderbra.

In a recession, people want value for money. This does not only mean quality, it means proper service. It means getting to know your customers, catering to their every whim, enchanting them, exciting them and sending them home with more than they came in with. Even if they didn't buy anything, even if they leave only with a story about some crazy live models they saw frolicking in the Nike window or the knowledge that they're a 32C, rather than a 32B. Build a relationship, start a conversation and your customers will stay loyal. Simples.