Donna Geary

Article Summary:

How to see your retail store through your customer's eyes.

Retailer Checklist from the Customers Shoes

We all suffer from being stuck in our own `boxes' from time to time. You know - that feeling that you've lost all perspective and can't see the forest for the trees! Here's a little eye-opener if you have a store that you've looked at time and again and perhaps missed the bigger picture.

Tip - This checklist is best completed after a day or more away from your store. If that's not possible, take a different route to work, stop for a coffee or a tall latte and put yourself in `customer mode' as you pretend you are a customer in a store you have NEVER seen before.

1. Stand outside your store and do the Blink Test.
Close your eyes and open them - count to seven - one, two, three, four, five, six, seven! Close them again.

That's how long you have to make a lasting first impression. What do you remember seeing?

2. Look at your windows and/or entrance.
Are they clean and enticing or cluttered and boring. Do you have a "welcome" sign or a "no shirt, no shoes, no service" (or equivalent) message that subliminally screams "Go Away!"?

3. Walk into your store (pretend you've never been it before) and turn to the right.
80% of your customers are inclined to do just that. What's there? Hopefully, not the check-out counter, unless you are a totally full-service store.

4. Borrow a wheel chair, baby stroller or shopping cart.
Carry a 10 lb. bag of potatoes under your arm. Try to push the chair, stroller or cart from the front to the back of your store; select a product, then proceed to the check-out or cash desk. Find a place to set down the bag of potatoes. Take out your wallet and find a space on the counter to sign the credit card receipt.

5. Listen. What do you hear?
Staff chatting and giggling on the phone? Soft or loud music that echoes your store image? Taps dripping?

6. Take a deep breathe through your nose.
What do you smell? Nothing? Odours from the staff lunchroom? The discreet, enticing scent of Ylang Ylang?

7. Look at each wall and fixture of merchandise from left to right (like reading a book).
Does it go on forever? Are there gapping holes on the "page", where you are over-sold? Is it easy to read? Is the best asset of the product facing toward you? Is the same product behind it? Are larger items on the bottom and smaller ones on the top? Can you reach the merchandise, without stretching, pole vaulting, or getting down on your hands and knees?

8. Look at your signing.
Is it tattered, torn or hand-written? Can you find price tags or sizing information? Do you have to pick the product up to figure out what it is? Do the signs tell you something you wouldn't know from looking at the product? Are they friendly signs?

9. Look up.
Are your lights working and properly focused? Are the lights shining on blank walls or product? Is there enough light? Is there too much light?

10. Leave the store.
What do you see on the way out? What do you remember about the overall impression and shopping experience? What would you tell your friends about it?

Donna Geary is the founder and Executive Director of Impact Visual Merchandising. For the past 16 years, Donna has consulted with clients in the retail, tourism, museum, attraction, service, wholesale and banking sectors. Academically, Donna studied Fashion Design and Merchandising, Visual Merchandising, and has an MBA, with a Major in Marketing from Concordia University. She was formerly a senior executive in the Marketing departments of The Hudson's Bay Company and Woodward Department Stores. Donna is the author of Maximizing Store Impact: A Retailer's Guide to Profitable Visual Merchandising. She has instructed courses in Marketing, Visual Merchandising and Business Communications at Ryerson University, The International Academy of Merchandising & Design, CLDC in Brazil and Fleming College in Peterborough, Ontario, where she now resides. Donna is a sought-after keynote speaker, workshop leader and has developed customized merchandising training material for dozens of retail chains. For more information, visit:

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