Retail Lessons from Love Songs: A Valentine’s Day Review

By Gordon Hecht, Serta Simmons Bedding

It’s not a day off from work (yet) but Valentine’s Day is that undeclared holiday that ranks in the top five in cultural importance.

Placing somewhere between Halloween and Mother’s Day in gift spending, it’s an extra-special time for those in the candy, greeting card and restaurant categories. It’s less so for the mattress and home furnishings businesses, as we put our promotional firepower behind the adjacent holiday, Presidents Day, with major weekend sales events.

Regardless, Valentine’s Day remains a great time to listen to love songs. As you prepare for the start of the home furnishings selling season, take time to listen to some of those love songs; there may be some hidden messages there that will make you fall in love with sales and profits all over again.

“I Want to Hold Your Hand”

It’s hard to beat Lennon and McCartney when it comes to ’60s love songs. And if you want to be successful in our business there is some hand-holding that you must do. Never assume that your sales team has a full grasp of what you expect of them. Chances are they may not understand how to work your current promotion on the sales floor, like the step up, the step down, or financing to build tickets. Your team also needs to hold your shoppers’ hands as well. Ask the right questions and then take them by the hand to the products and solutions that will work for them.

“Muskrat Love”

Originally recorded by America and then shamelessly ripped off by The Captain and Tennille, this song tells the story of two muskrats that are crazy in love with each other. The message is that even if you weren’t the head cheerleader or captain of the football team, you deserve (and will find) true love. Chances are good that you may have a few muskrats in your showroom — you know, the merchandise that is less than desirable, doesn’t shine, or was passed by and over-parked too long.

The more you and your sales team look at it, the plainer and uglier it becomes. However, there is a body for every bed in your store. During this floor-sample clearance period, rather than pass it by every day, make a point to show it to any shopper who may see it as a valuable solution. Beauty is truly in the mind of the beholder and that old floor sample is the perfect product for someone out there. Go and find them!

“Love the One You’re With”

An upbeat classic from Stephen Stills, this song should be the anthem against showroom distractions. The most beautiful, valuable and important person in the world is that shopper in front of you right now. Your sales team will never make a worse impression than when they leave that shopper for a phone call or look over at more incoming traffic. It makes that shopper feel like they are playing second fiddle, even when they were first in the store.

Make it a rule to not page sales team members for a call when they are with other clients. On heavy traffic days get your office team out from behind the counter to greet incoming customers or do it yourself. And, when in rare instances your sales team must break away, be sure they are trained to ask permission (“Would you mind if I excuse myself?”) and give a time estimate for return (“I’ll be back in less than 2 minutes”). The follow-up upon return is an apology, and then back to business.

“Bubbly”

Moving into the 21st century, Colbie Caillat’s hit from nearly a decade-and-a-half ago can get you swaying to a tune about a young woman who is enthralled with and tingly about her new love. This year is all about new programs, new merchandise offerings, new shoppers and new beginnings. We’ll all be a bit tingly when these items arrive and are ready to show to shoppers. Our goal should be transferring that tingly feeling to our customers, so they are outright giddy, and giddy-up to buy. The next goal is to keep our store teams tingly about their new loves throughout the year. Your new loves will keep you smiling; just keep the love alive!

“Michelle”

It wouldn’t be Valentine’s Day if we didn’t include one more Beatles classic. “Michelle” is a song about a guy deeply enamored of a girl, but he’s having a hard time communicating his feelings. Your store traffic probably includes people whose native language is not English, and your staff may feel stymied in their attempts to connect with them.

But it takes very little time and effort to learn and train your team in a few short phrases. Just saying “Hello,” “Welcome” and “Thank You” in your shopper’s language, along with naming a few products, will go a long way. Learning to communicate and observe body language will also help. Your team can even use their phone and Google Translate to break the language barrier.

Be a little different than the store down the street and you will find the merchandise that is très bien ensemble for your shopper!

Gordon Hecht is Senior Regional Manager/Strategic Retail Group at Serta Simmons Bedding and a regular contributor to YSN. You can reach him at ghecht@sertasimmons.com.