Feature

Inside Retailing

Peter_Parkinson_headshotMost of us enjoy buying new clothes or shoes, but we often flinch at the thought of trawling through a maze of stores with the expectation of little or no assistance. As consumers, we are not generally familiar with the features, benefits, and composition of the many products we purchase, so we are often in the hands of the un-enlightened, the mediocre or indifferent sales staff to blindly navigate us through a purchase.

Peter Parkinson is the Chairman of the National Footwear Retailers Association(NFRA) and proprietor of the iconic McCloud Shoes on Queen Street, established in 1949.

Dennis Price sums it up in one line from his “Inside Retailing” article by suggesting – ‘…that even robotic courtesy would be better than what goes for service in most stores.’ The joy in salesmanship is connecting with your client and providing the best possible product and fit to suit their needs.

Service industries can be so personally fulfilling, but we must be watchful not to develop a mechanical approach that can make our work dreary and repetitious. If we have chosen a vocation in sales, it is important to have a genuine interest in people, and be prepared to tolerate their idiosyncrasies. There are many clients who are difficult to connect with, so we are challenged to establish some sort of rapport with them, because problem clients are not problems, but opportunities to gain their confidence about your ability and the store.

Selling and fitting footwear at all levels can be a satisfying experience, as you are working with a product that has to endure the harshest of treatment possible from consumers, and yet it must be a comfortable fit, and generally be visually pleasing. During a sale, offer constructive and logical advice, and be cautious about trying to pre-empt how your client is thinking. Clients will quickly discern if you are patronising them with commentary that is overly flattering or fallacious.

couple-holding-shoes2To my way of thinking the foundation for successful footwear selling is dependent upon your Product Knowledge and Fitting Skills. Confidence to Sell starts with our product knowledge; otherwise this technical inadequacy can easily erode your personal confidence to communicate with a stranger, who is asking questions which we should be answering with informed product patter. Any reader who has attempted to sell when NOT understanding their product will know precisely what I am alluding to. It is a deep void of insecurity. Remember, we are not talking about ‘super glib salespersons’ here, but regular bricks and mortar staff that we employ in our own businesses and who should be able to structure a sale.

The National Footwear Retailers Association Fitting Course is the ideal platform to re-educate staff about Selling, Fitting and Product Knowledge. One of the many principles of business that I can assure retailers about is this: The greater degree of confidence that your clients have in your staff, the more frequently they will return to your store. This is not Rocket Science.

How many complaints do we hear about the major retailers where clients cannot find service or co-operative sales staff; and in many cases they walk out! Our desire should be for our clients to leave the store with a sense of satisfaction about their purchase and good vibes about the store. It sometimes takes a little effort to discover what is pleasurable in our work, but remember the alternative is far from palatable to live a repetitious life as Bill Murray played in the movie, “Ground Hog Day,” where every day can just replicate the previous day – if we let it!

women-shoesIt is not easy to find satisfaction within yourself, your work, or your life, but many of the skills we learn from dealing with the public are the skills we carry with us for the rest of our life.

The National Footwear Fitters Course will be held next weekend from August 20-21 commencing from 1 pm (registration and lunch) on the Saturday at the Medina Grand Melbourne. Cost for members is $400 and $490 for non-members. For 2 or more persons it’s $400 for members and $450 for non-members.

The intensive two day course will cover Interactive selling; Podiatry – tailored for retail staff; Shoe construction, components, the relationship to orthotics and helpful hints; Correct fitting theory and practice, including a segment on children’s fitting.

For more information and to register, visit the NFRA website, www.nationalfootwearretailers.com.au

 

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