There’s no doubt 2012 has been a turbulent year. Retail has certainly been one of the most challenging industries with the market demanding daily changes to the status quo as it moves from a purely static experience to an online / offline multi-disciplinary space.
But internet shopping is not a threat to your business if you manage the strengths of bricks-and-mortar, according to Director & Image Advisor of Image Quest, Helen Robinett. She believes every retail business has the ability to maximise sales and retain good staff. It’s all about creating a unique buying experience within your fashion retail business that makes your customer a `fan’ and keeps them coming back.
Helen recently joined forces with TFIA Textile & Fashion Hub to devise an intensive retail training workshop around the Six Crucial Steps process to help retailers get results and dramatically increase sales.
We took five with the presentation personality to get her thoughts on how retail can improve sales despite a challenging economy; how poor customer service skills are damaging the retail experience; and her tips on how to build a ‘story of garments’ to increase items per sale.
Helen’s 20 years+ experience in sales, marketing and advising leading corporate and individual clients have given her the understanding that helps develop a personal and professional image which are key ingredients in business success. With her extensive retail experience in men’s and women’s leading fashion labels on both national and international levels Helen works with clients to develop a comprehensive image-management strategy and ensures that staff reflect the image and branding of the company.
The media constantly reports challenging trading conditions for retail, as someone who is a consumer and works in image consulting, what are some of the key areas retailers can improve on to bring customers back in-store?
Knowing their product, which means how it fits on particular bodies, fabric, wear and care aspects. Another crucial area is being skilled in the fine art of communicating effectively with the client. This is quite a complex question to answer in a snap. It’s about language, and not being on a mobile phone on the shop floor (yes, this has happened to me).
Your new TFIA workshop insists there are ways to maximise sales and retain good staff with your Six Crucial Steps process – one of those steps is improving the customer service experience – why is this area in need of improvement? how does this service need to change to so retailers can understand and authentically connect with their customer again? And why is this important?
This area is in dire need of improvement. Women crave an experience and are seeking service. The feedback I am getting from clients all over the country is that the service levels in retail fashion are very poor.
It’s clear to me as an image stylist that some stores are fabulous, and others a complete disaster. Some are clearly trained and others have no idea or just don’t want to be there. It’s not an environment conducive to buying. When you can create an environment where the client will buy, the average sale will increase. I’ve seen this happen for real!
Staff who are engaged in the process and meeting and exceeding their budgets love their jobs and stay. The risk retailers face by not adequately training their staff is that they will have a disaster on the shop floor and sales walking out on a daily basis. Some retailers may argue that training is expensive and what if they leave anyway? Well, what if they stay?
Tom O’Toole from the Beechworth Bakery subscribes to the theory of ‘what if they stay?’. Bugger it, train them! It’s time we made retail fashion a career of choice and gave it some prestige. It’s a brilliant career. Good retailers have a lot of power with clients – they trust them.
The authentic connection is really what the client wants now. Everything has turned full circle. Internet shopping will never take over a live experience. A great retailer has the ability to empower the client and turn them into a raving fan sending all their friends there – this means great turnover of stock.
Can you talk us through your profession as an image stylist and mentor? How has this background prepared you for this workshop?
I’ve been working as an image stylist for 10 years. Most of my clients are professional women who have the budget and want the service. I’ve seen both extremes of the good retailer and the disaster! Some of them are really quite laughable.
One store I love to take clients into hover about the change room and tell my client they love it when I come in because they learn new skills from me. Makes me wonder what’s going on in head office at a training level. I think not much.
More recently in the past 18 months I have been mentoring and coaching image stylists on how to attract more clients into their business and work smarter with retail fashion. My experience has shown me that many retail stores are not image stylist friendly. That’s a topic that opens up a can of worms!
Internet shopping is constantly blamed for the demise of bricks and mortar, but your workshop aims to prove that it’s not a threat to your business – what are some of the strengths people can build on to improve their boutique/fashion store?
It all comes down to building on the client experience. Honestly, most of what I recommend needs to go in a client’s wardrobe, is an internet purchase. So many of them just don’t work. Yes people will internet shop, but they are sure not buying their entire wardrobes online.
Women crave an experience and so many of them have no idea what they are doing. My motivation is that I believe every woman deserves to walk into a store and get the service she is deserving of. Not everyone can afford the services of an image stylist but they all want to know some of the key secrets.
One of the topics you will cover in the workshop is how to develop a customer ‘snapshot’, can you explain this in more detail?
This is a big one and too complex to do it justice in an article here. In simple terms it’s about looking at the client at the front door. How are they dressed, groomed, accessorised? What language are they using as they respond to your greeting?
I will train staff on how to identify who this client is in terms of their style direction and asking some key questions, so that they will be able to bring forward pieces in the collection that this client will resonate with. Tough to explain but easy to achieve once you know how. I love this segment. It’s my favourite part of the program.
You also suggest building a ‘story of garments’ to increase items per sale – what do you mean by this? And how is this executed?
It’s about bringing a collection of garments together that build a story and all go back with each other. This makes the cost per wear very low and the investment very attractive to the client. We start with core basics and inject seasonal pieces (not many) and some bridging pieces. This is the key to the story.
The bridging piece is the one that makes all the others work. It will transform a core piece from day to night. Clients love to see how smart their pieces are and what options they have. If they are wearing it, it’s not a waste of money, it’s a smart purchase.
With so many people crying time poor, juggling business, family and lifestyle, why is it important for them to take time out for education and workshops such as this?
It’s about investing in the business and staff. Actually it’s simpler than that – these strategies will increase sales. It’s just that simple!