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November 29, 2008

The Irvine Spectrum

The season is upon us, Black Friday is past, I like many people ventured out yesterday afternoon to the local mall (The Irvine Spectrum) to see whether people were carrying shopping bags and busy in the stores. While there was definitely more traffic than usual and some stores were filled to capacity (Apple) there were     not many people carrying bags. I asked a local retailer how business had been so far and she said it has been busy, a good day but nothing spectacular.

Later in the evening on the local news a report featuring an outlet mall showed masses of people all carrying multiple bags, retailers with smiles on their faces and crowded walkways. Clearly the low end and discount stores are attracting buyers this year.

The advertisements are promoting the best deals of the season, one to three day only sales, pre-dawn openings and extended hours. All this hype is to encourage the consumer to shop early, to shop now, and to shop. One worker was even trampled to death when the doors to a discount store opened in the wee hours of the day and a gunfight at a toy store ended in death as well. Is this really what this season is all about?

In the casual furniture industry I wish to believe that our consumer is intelligent, respectful and unique. They are more cautious consumers this year due to the economy and they are spending less, holding back to see what direction this country is going, but does this mean that we need to lure people into our stores or temp them with deals that will end in a day? Why not try a different approach and advertise integrity, customer service and value instead?

This is the time of year when some casual retailers sell seasonal holiday merchandise, and others sell fireplaces and hearths for the winter season. I’ve watched buyers walk the halls of the Merchandise Mart carefully and thoughtfully selecting just the right merchandise for their store, quality products, and unique products that they are proud to stand behind and proud to represent.

This is the message that you should be promoting to your customers. They are too smart to believe that the sales for one day are gone, you and I both know that there will be more sales and deeper discounts as we near the New Year. So don’t try to trick people into believing that they have to rush into your store now to get the best deal of the season. Instead have them come into your store for the Best Products, Best Value and Best Customer Service they will find.

It is important for people to spend their hard earned money on merchandise that will last a long time, rather than the cheap discounted items that will be useless before long. Teach and encourage the thoughtful and careful approach to spending and your customers will come to value you so much more.

These are my outside views… what are yours? Marcia Blake