Case Studies

The Making of A Great Retail Store: Will Discouraging Stealing Become Fashionable Someday? (Case Study Great Store or Restaurant – Part 14)

Today’s San Francisco Chronicle was good reading. The article I liked most was about shoplifting in Holiday season and it being a crime of “opportunity.” And why don’t we design our spaces around that? Corporate stores are the ones that do because they have resources. Hard core retail does as always and make up the losses back in higher markups. The problem is American society has taken a recent change not noticed until enough history is accumulated. The Generation Y are here. When I got my first retail store to manage about the year 2000, FBI tried to teach me the proper loss prevention was every single American coming in the door is a thief. This was not a rule to work by percentages and that is where we disagreed. They literally meant 100 of 100 people walking in the door were intended on stealing if they could. I disagreed but they NEVER backed down on their opinion. That was another generation. Were they right or wrong? Who cares? Today they are absolutely right. Generation Thief is here and intends to stay. Nike has released a retro Air Jordan and violence has flared up all over. Will this get better next year? I think worse and worse. The generation have-not is here and those who have really like it this way. I wrote once before and ask again why not redesign all sales floors? Why not assume every shopper is a thief (though wrong) since Generation Y is shopping and robbing? Why is it so hard in the case of where I work to line up glass displays as in a traditional retail store and keep valuables behind the counter and junk on the floor? Why is it so hard? Someone told me most retailers steal from their own stores in guise of secret shoppers testing the store and so on. And some use this as a means of revenue with proper book keeping. The idea makes sense in high fashion stores. One single item can be worth a fortune for an over-the-counter junk. Whatever the reason, violence is an indispensable part of the new retail trends of our era and has to be prevented. Even if open floors bring more sales in general, the likeliness of increased violence by encouraging theft as part of marketing should be a factor in designing better interiors. Since the business puts profit before safety, it is duty of authorities to ensure retail stores are designed to discourage theft, violence and what else many follow on a regular basis. Sad as it is, we have to take into account some retailers may want a sales floor that encourages stealing. 100 million Generation Y will descend upon and live in America eventually. Whether or not, that is 100 million dedicated thieves is a big argument but enough will be to justify workspaces designed with safety against unusual dangers in mind. There will be hundreds of millions of shoplifting attempts every year now and prevention is necessary. America will turn into a huge ghetto over a few years if something is not done.

Written on Blackberry Curve WiFi-only Handset


The Making of A Great Retail Store: The Discovery of DooDoo Phenomenon (Case Study Great Store or Restaurant – Part 12+1)

Today is Thursday and the week is almost over. However my days off are spread across the weekly schedule and my week has no start nor end that is noticeable. Busier schedule was an inevitable consequence of lowering my commute time. When I was first trained in sales, I learned highly productive people get buried under a lot of work and their productivity is directly related to the “overload.” The busier person learns to develop more and better skills to handle the overwhelming work I was taught. As the saying goes if you want something done, give it to the busy person.

The past few weeks since I transferred to my present store have brought to my attention the significant difference between two groups of retail workers. I named the first group DooDoo Team and the name does correspond to a term only a child would use to refer to something messy and dirty (if not worse). The biggest characteristic of a DooDoo is the fact that they hardly move. A strong bias toward staying in one spot and not moving identifies a DooDoo. The truth is plenty more can be said but basic information is most useful in management situations versus complex information that is difficult to apply. The DooDoo Team is headed by a senior staff (a company veteran) who may be qualified in numerous ways to lead in productivity but simply won’t move for anyone! Retail work requires movement in response to the activities of the operation and refusal to move seriously affects productivity.

The second member of the DooDoo Team is an iPhone addict who finds it not necessary to look away from the screen unless absolutely necessary. As I have put to him several times, he awaits a customer to approach and plead for assistance and is only then that this person will physically move. I also pointed out to him the fact that his “sales” are “orders” because he makes no effort and simply helps with outward requests. A very basic difference between salespeople and ordertakers has been historically known (in retail) to be the effort required to create sales versus little or lack of efforts made by those waiting for arrival of purchases. The second member of DooDoo Team is in danger of becoming a vegetable as the Team Leader. He expressed satisfaction in this transformation and I decided he is beyond my help.

The third member of the DooDoo Team is a new employee who was once manager of another store. I had him marked for D Team membership because of the tiny amount of transactions to his credit. He has since expressed a desire not to be a DooDoo Team member and is willing to move away and approach customers. That is the hallmark of a DooDoo Rep and this employee has no problem fleeing the doomed future of a DooDoo. That has been a success in my part to convert DooDoos to productive employees.

Since my announcement of the identification of a DooDoo Team at this workplace, efforts were made to label me as a DooDoo also in retaliation. I realized the damage my scientific work would suffer if terminology was violated by the idiots I work for and a solution had to be found. The Energizers Team was the solution. In spite of the fact that my study had little interest in anything but the DooDoo Phenomenon, an opposite had to be identified to create and maintain a dichotomy. Western thought relies on dichotomy and a wholistic system is confusing for lay individuals. Energizers identify an opposite group to help see what DooDoos are in better details.

The Energizer reminds us of the Energizer bunny. It has been questioned many times how some retail staff are able to jump around so much and not lose steam. Their study is besides the point here but they do exist. A very basic definition (with attention to the DooDoo Phenomenon) is an Energizer is willing to move from one spot and approach the customer. This may seem basic but the number of staff who are incapable of such action (in retail field) counts to many millions only in America. Worldwide numbers? Energizers are able to move around and assist customers for hours and hours throughout the long retail days that can last 10 to 12 hours easily (for management). They help and keep our systems going. They are not the subject here. DooDoos are the subject.

The little amount of work done by a DooDoo is what marks this problem. The nature of retail requires activity and DooDoos are believers and practitioners of inactivity. Is this a new problem? Can it be solved by typical actions of retraining, re assigning or discipline? Is it manageable at all? Too many questions can be asked and many are mine. I find the DooDoo Phenomenon interesting and genuine. The first step has been taken by this article to remind us of an old problem in the industry. Lack of productivity is a huge problem and manifests in many guises. The DooDoo Phenomenon is an old problem in a new appearance. Old solutions should help but fundamentals need to be addressed. What is a DooDoo? How do employees turn into DooDoos? How do we handle the loss of staff to vegetables? What is left of businesses if more and more turn into DooDoos and are lost but get paid? Some of these questions will be answered by me for my own interest but will they be answered industry-wide?

The Making of A Great Retail Store: The Case for Physical Agility (Case Study Great Store or Restaurant 12)

This article was simultaneously published in

Summer has arrived and living outside of San Francisco has many benefits. The weather is warmer and drier and one wishes to go out and do things more often. Today, it is very nice. I really enjoyed my walk to do my laundry and look forward to my other chores. One big event in near future is I can exercise often. My years of experience of years of sport activity and more than a dozen gym memberships has taught a good few things about what works and what does not. Tennis was the plan for last year and remains so for this year for reasons besides this writing. I expect to play tennis casually until I have a routine. Frankly, I just need time with the machine throwing balls twice a week and I am done. That costs $35 a month and club membership is ok but is so far up the hill, it is completely inaccessible. The situation is same as last year and I will deal with soon.

One of the more interesting events of my transfer to this store has been the realization of what I already knew. Sales requires a great deal of energy. I remember Brian Tracy teaching years back how marathoon runners make good sales staff and so on. I have to agree once again. I mentally divide our store into two zones. The front half is our cellular store and the back is electronics hardware store. After a few weeks here, I am once again seeing the same happening again. Our staff may have been trained for retail or not but they tend to stay behind the counter in the retail area waiting to be approached and take an order. Since I am committed to cellular, my mind is in the front half of the store and I constantly find myself there speaking to customers or just fixing displays there. The results are beginning to show in numbers. What is most important is I am convinced one big reason I am the lone attendant of the wireless area except when very busy not only because of old work habits of staff or pure laziness but because physically the sales activities are so demanding. Movement from place to place and energy needed to communicate enthusiastically to customers demands a great deal of energy which many lack. I still think the separation of store into wireless and hardware in a literal sense will fix many problems but regardless the staff of wireless SALES need to be in good physical shape and take care of themselves to have enough stamina for 8 to 10 hours of non-stop movement and speaking. Sales requires energy. I work for a company that is headed by a worldclass endurance athlete and I think this minute but vital point was missed by all higher-ups: Cheap labor has to be in good shape to sell. The strategy of hiring younger people only works if they take care of themselves. Otherwise, they are as useless as any out of shape, poor health and tired old retail clerks. Energy is a vital requirement for high wireless SALES in the long run. Retail clerking (aka retail sales) can go on with any physical condition of cheap labor but sales in a real sense requires abundance of energy. Those with histories, experience and interest in sport activities are most likely to be able to function on par for such demands. Getting in shape is a must for survival and subsequent success and has to be emphasized from top to bottom. Sorting staff and firing them based on what I wrote is a not the answer. Creating a bona fide standard will force everyone to change. If that means they move on, then they will. I think the emphasis is on taking care rather than cosmetics. Endurance makes the difference.

The Making of A Great Retail Store: How To Succeed At Gaining More New Business (Case Study Great Store or Restaurant 11)

This article is installment number 11 of a case study on the makings of a great retail store or restaurant and published in Wine by Cush blog.

Why is that greatest customer service will not result in increasing sales? That is a question I was asked by someone regarding T Mobile winning award after award for its awesome customer service but not benefiting in higher sales. Why is that? That is a good question and can be answered in many ways. I think the problem is it cannot be answered in simple terms and remains a question. I have my own answers. Eons ago when I was training to be a manager, I took many seminars in Silicon Valley and learned a good deal that parallels what one learns in traditional management classes that I have also taken. Seminars are much more practical and do benefit in ways no classroom would. One of the classic and older theories involving motivation is Herzberg Theory of Hygiene. In short, a long time ago an experiment on workers proved if the working conditions were improved, the workers would be more motivated and productivity would increase. There is more to it but it was also learned that the motivation would stop once the problem was solved. These factors were called “demotivators.” Their absence results in lower motivation but their presence only helped until they were no longer absent. If the lighting was bad, or workplace was filthy or what not, the workers would like their work less. Once these were fixed (the hygiene factors), they liked working more and motivation increased. But this motivation increase stopped at that point. If the lighting was changed to the best lighting available, the motivation DID not increase. The absence resulted in less motivation but the abundance did not result in higher motivation.

How about our sales situation? Some carriers have poor customer service or service overall. AT&T gets many complaints. I asked an AT&T rep how many iPhones were in use in San Francisco. He counted in his mind and told me. I forget the number but was huge. No wonder, the unexpected amount of traffic slowed networks and dropped calls. They will get by that problem by acquiring T Mobile which increases their cell site capability by 30%. In the meantime, they are behind in customer service and overall service. The question is what if they did fix the traffic problem overnight, will the subscribers stop whining and be more motivated to be on AT&T and use the services? The answer is obvious. Yes. However, what if AT&T went beyond fixing the service problems that lag its operations and increased its network to a supernetwork and supercustomer service. Would more and more people jump over to AT&T? The answer most likely is no if we are to listen to what our T Mobile question was earlier in this writing! The absence of good network service, and call droppings “demotivated” subscribers from liking the AT&T service but will overabundance of network capabilities mean “overmotivated” subscribers? The answer is not that obvious but is No most likely. Both T Mobile and Sprint have a right and do brag of how WIMAX and HSPA+ 4G is similar to traveling a freeway with SO MANY lanes compared to the few lanes of 3G. That may be true but do they really get that many subscribers based on that? The sizzle of 4G sells but does the actual experience brings folks over? The sales numbers for both carriers shows. I spoke to a Sprint store rep once and the staff quotas are huge but the goals are NOT new activations. The corporate store staff are expected X number of “upgrades” monthly and I was told everyone DID make quota. The existing customers did move over to 4G devices in droves but did the new ones. Sprint announced a few months ago the huge number of its subscribers only to admit later in the announcement, the majority were “no contract.” That is no 4G. T Mobile’s case is not any better. Being the first 4G network to function was great but stops there. The absence of necessities or problems with them do demotivate the subscribers but doing a job over and above the call of duty is simply NICE. Nobody does anything based on it as we see in the case of T Mobile customer service.

One final side question remains, how do we increase sales. The networks are the best. The handsets are the best. The customer service is the best. The sales staff try very hard. What now? Where is the overwhelming response? One thing I can suggest is what I was taught about marketing. Most business people do not understand the difference between marketing and advertising. I was taught advertising is justified for keeping market share. AT&T and Verizon are right in spending whatever they spend on advertising to keep the huge market shares they possess. That is the proper way to go. How about Sprint and T Mobile in their quest for more market share by their 4G networks. Both spent a great deal on advertising and continue to. Does that really bring overwhelming response? It does bring much attention and we see it in awards (which have a little bit to do with public perception if we are to be fair!), the number of “inside” upgrades (in Sprint’s case) and no-contract activations (in Sprint’s case again). Advertising does work for maintaining market share. Nobody should argue with that but what about acquiring new market share. Superb customer service would not do it for T Mobile year-after-year. Super devices would not do it for T Mobile nor did their super advanced network. Their giant advertising efforts did not either. So what is to do? The best in marketing teach us when it comes to new things and gaining market share, etc. “word of mouth marketing” is the way to go. How is that absent in T Mobile and Sprint operations? If 4G is so great and really worth so much and one can increase sales and market share based on it, advertising it will not do. It WILL help but most likely not do it as we see from experience. Advertising will be great to keep what one has since it hits the existing subscribers so much closer to home than the other public. If 4G is so great, and does such great things, the word of mouth should spread ON ITS OWN of how great it is. Word of mouth can be started and managed but needs to run ON ITS OWN. The excited users of 4G networks and devices should be the ones going around (literally and via other means) telling others how great their tools are. That is the marketing key to gaining new market shares or what our T Mobile folks were curious of: More sales. Word of mouth marketing of how great the new services and products are results in “the other public” moving over to this side. What can be done in that direction. Ultimately, products and services need to be strategically placed in the right hands to spread the word. Some companies (I DID NOT SAY SPRINT. You did.) are very stingy while others are more liberal in sharing. No actual, personal and hands on experience means nothing to genuinely share. Enthusiasm is contagious as we are taught in sales. I sell by transferring my enthusiasm EVERYDAY to ALL of my customers. There is no sales pitch. There is not game of salesperson and buyer. It is a conversation between an excited (about some products and services. OOOOH!) and qualified sales professional and someone who will share the excitement and enthusiasm if can be TRANSFERRED to that person. If there is nothing to transfer through sales conversation, or writing or other media, how can word of mouth spread except artificially? Fake word of mouth is worthless and one may as well spent millions on advertising to save face and look good. Let the right people have access, support and USE of products and services and (yes it is risky and such is life.) if your stuff are good as you say, they just may be so excited to have something to pass on to the others. Think of how many good and bad things in our lives SPREAD just because of this one incident: if enthusiasm and excitement is generated, THEN can be shared. Adios. Have a nice day folks.

*This post belongs to this week’s edition of Wireless by Cush blog and published early in World of Cush also.

The Making of a Great Retail Store: What Can Be Done for Those with Obsolete Jobs? (Case Study Great Store or restaurant 10)

Yesterday I had to make stops by two stores to pick up some cellphones that we need and are not in stock. In the meantime, I inquired about someone I know who is having many ups and downs.

Two generations ago, when the Baby Boomers ran America one could get any okay American job and expect to spend 30 to 40 years there. That was ruined when my generation (X) entered workforce seriously and Internet Revolution hit all economies. I was taught in college to expect to have 6 to 8 CAREERS and many jobs in each field before I retire. The rate of change had changed because of Internet and jobs became obsolete every few years. That is another story.

Our friend has worked for a retail electronics firm for 12 years. Personally, I think his biggest accomplishment is he can be on vacation all the time. Not too long ago, a typical retail worker was valued for being around more than anything. The low number of workers because of low population of Generation X had put everyone in demand. Manufacturing had been shipped overseas because too few here wanted too much. Many harder jobs were filled by millions of new arrivals from South of the border for lack of available persons. And jobs such as retail which hired but had not easy working conditions tried hard to keep good workers around. Our friend qualified as a very good worker and went as high as assistant manager until the newer economy replaced the economy again. He and many others were no longer valued for reliability and meeting minimum requirements. The nature of the job and the industry had changed.

I remember efforts being made as long as a year ago to push many employees and managers out. The company explanation is always available but it just happens the payrolls would be so much lighter with the departure of senior staff and other reasons. Our friend survived much pressure and many attempts (one may say because he had so much paid vacation time and was not around to get stressed or fired) but the efforts continued. The harshest treatment came a few months ago when I heard he was demoted ( was demoted to regular employee from assistant manager long ago) to store stock person. He was not allowed to sell. It is a bona fide fact that selling is much more than putting numbers on paper (or in computer) and I can best state much by saying if another person is allowed the same selling opportunities, the quality and quantity can be dramatically different so why waste good selling chances?

I checked indirectly as I check on everyone who works in the district for any of 22 stores and our friend’s number showed he worked but sold hardly anything or was on vacation and sold hardly anything. That was the case until very recently when I noticed his numbers were back to normal matching his hours. My visit yesterday also gave me a chance to check on him. As it turns out, he is allowed to sell but not allowed to sell any wireless.

I have been thinking about all this since yesterday and there are many ways to handle a situation such as this but the last solution applied to this employee problem made me think why not? This employee has worked here for many years and qualified for many tasks. Why not assign some staff to doing only older functions of running a store and assign other staff to other functions that demand different skills. In this case, a retail electronic store is half an electronic hardware store and half advanced electronics including wireless sales. Since it is in fashion to wear jeans and t-shirts at work (to be like Apple store) why not make those not qualified for advanced devices wear a humble color shirt and those selling the cool stuff a nice-looking color t-shirt? That is how it will be eventually anyway, right? Whoever made our dress codes was insane anyway. Jeans with polo shirts tucked in? The word “dork” finds new meaning? I have a feeling this person or persons has never wore a polo shirt. That is a different tale but am sure “proper” attire can be assigned by this person for the two groups (nobody tucks shirts in!) and not only a few ten thousand experienced (only some are clock punchers and dead wood. The rest are good but the old job is obsolete.) persons can be productive by keeping jobs trained and experienced in but others can be identified for the new and more challenging positions that are result of new economies? I am not suggesting the answers but one I came across. The problem and problems remain and how we define them will have a great deal to do with the solutions we find. What of this problem? What can be done? Is the only solution abuse and mistreatment till the person gives up what was (fairly or by doing a minimum job) earned over many long years or can some other ways exist?

The Making of a Great Retail Store: Let’s Have More Black Fridays! (Case Study Restaurant or Retail #9)


black friday logo

(Photo from Google Images)

Today is Saturday and I have finally made it to the cafe. That means I am done with my errands and also my Saturday rest has begun. The weather has been mixed. I expected rain and morning was rainy but turned sunny and nice. Now, it has been raining as was forecasted. I had to take a short trip to get another phone. I fried my Blackberry when I changed phones and though the fixing seemed simple it was turned impossible and I just switched the phone. I now have a white Blackberry 8520 and admit it looks more distinguished than the black one I returned. It looks like a plastic phone but has a different look for a Blackberry and I like it for now. I have to charge my battery and install the many apps I use and once everything has been configured, I will be able to use the phone. I expect that to be no sooner than tomorrow. That has been the more interesting part of my day besides the fact that my cooking has improved and is expanding into new ingredients and handling of what I cook. I expect to continue experimenting based on what I am doing at the time until I am comfortable with the ingredients and have tried everything I could. I expect to be interested in classic recipes at that point as standards for doing what I do now (cooking?) at accepted levels. I finished Black Friday last night. The worst part of the experience was waking up at 3:15 am. The rest was easy and went through as I had expected though seemed taking alternate courses at times. I think the occasion of a one-day sale similar to Black Friday serves many and should be practiced more often. Black Friday is probably created both by the market forces (the public going out to shop after Thanksgiving) and the business establishment (an organized effort to push the public into shopping mode) but as a single event works on many levels. I am personally interested in the potential of doing an event similar to Black Friday more than once-a-year. The dynamics of Black Friday event serve the public by providing many items at prices that are competitive and the experience of shopping for them is worthwhile. The public are willing to repeat such experience more than once-a-year if organized and arranged for properly in advance. The concentration and the focus prior to the event excites the public and 80% of the value of the Black Friday event is in the excitement built prior to the event. The actual event unloads the energy and soon is to be forgotten. The physical activities resulting from the release of such energy force the public to choose from many available choices some of which are special values and many of which are not. This practical mandate results in replacement of many necessary things that would otherwise remain as they are. The practice benefits the general public greatly and may be similar to Spring cleaning for the benefits provided only-once-a-year. The public gets much more from this emotional event than a few cheap items and lots of media attention. It is necessary to shop and replace many items regularly and only a small percentage of the population are disciplined enough to actually monitor such needs. An occasional event similar to Black Friday forces everyone to move in the direction of maintaining and replacing at least a few (and if not many) things in their lives. The benefits are necessary for a balanced living. In a perfect world, people would buy and replace things as needed but in our world, that is done based on many criteria and most of them have little to do with genuine needs. Occasional but highly organized events such as Black Friday enable EVERYONE in the general population to make an effort to maintain a balanced standard of existence. The negative side-effects are many but can be handled easily and the overall benefits fulfill a giant need that has been going unserved culturally. The occasion may be a good opportunity for the sellers to remove many items from their inventory that need to go but cannot at regular prices or even sale prices. The public can be a great beneficiary of such items if the organized event is socially developed and efforts are targeted at filling needs rather than shopping for the sake of shopping. Practical bulk selling of items at very low prices by having a one-day event prove practical because many items will also sell in the process at regular prices thus making the one-day events cost-effective as vehicles for removal of inventory. I have worked in retail on Black Friday events and yesterday was my longest day making me ponder. Black Friday has a few good things in store for the general public and a few for the sellers but overall is a disorganized effort that is hard to manage but can be done. One of the reasons for the difficulties of Black Friday operation is it happens only once-a-year. If such a sale took place universally more often, it would be possible to use the event as an opportunity to replace and acquire many needed items for the benefit of everyone in the general public (and not to spend the most possible once-a-year) and provide an organized and efficient event. The retailers can benefit tremendously from the spike in purchases and relieve of many items while the public can improve quality of living on a regular basis. All of this is possible by developing the dynamics of a once-in-a-while event such as Black Friday. Regular industry-wide events similar to Black Friday (and they have to include everyone in all industries or will not work) make for good economy and allow public to have enough money available for maintaining and improving of the quality of living.

*This post belongs to this week’s edition of Wine by Cush Magazine blog and published early in World of Cush also.

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The Making of a Great Retail Store: How to Prosper in Buyer or Seller Market (Case Study Restaurant or Retail Store #8)


Today is Tuesday. The weather is nice in San Francisco and the sun is hit as it hits you. I expect a mixed day and frankly do not care about the weather. I have ample time before work to get a few things done. I am getting closer to doing active marketing. This requires arriving and setting up at specific location to sell wireless devices. The basic concept is easy to grasp for anyone who understands how conventions work. This approach works the same way. One needs a location or occasion with many and many potential prospects. It is a gathering of similar vendors (as in a trade convention) or different vendors (as in an ad hoc market of some occasion or event) and provides the pool of prospects for a few hours or the whole day at the most. The work is tedious and long but is far more rewarding and productive than traditional indoor retailing especially in a buyer’s market. The buyer’s market by definition means too many vendors compete for the few buyers and the buyer rules the market. This requires marketing approaches different from those of a seller’s market. Most retail locations are established to be productive in a seller’s market. The location is available and the many buyers compete for the products and services offered. Today, the poor economy and the availability of products and services through the many vendors means a strong buyer’s market exist and those waiting in stores for consumers are at a disadvantage until the next seller’s market arrives which may be never because Generation Y has changed the way we shop. This approach is new and always misunderstood by the morons who hold corporate jobs but is frankly one of the only means left to make money by a retail company in a buyer’s market. I have no doubts I will be doing it and no doubt the process will work. The process is tedious however but no alternatives unless one is lazy or does not care and would rather hide inside a building. The same should work for food establishments. Food trucks are a sign of the times by taking the cuisine to the buyers at whatever location for the steady revenues it brings. The established location still works but has problems and will have more and more problems in the long run because of the changing tastes, fashion and the competition for the limited number of spenders. A combination of mobile and fixed offerings should provide some flexibility in all economic times by benefiting from whatever is available in a buyer or seller market. It will work.

*This post belongs to this week’s edition of Wine by Cush Magazine blog and published early in World of Cush also.

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