The White Glove Inspector Is Heading Your Way

By Gordon Hecht, Serta Simmons Bedding

It should come as no surprise that The White Glove Inspector is heading to your store.

After all, you invited her! She doesn’t work for your landlord or suppliers, but her opinion of your store’s appearance is vital to your success.

If you haven’t guessed by now, The White Glove Inspector is your next shopper (and the one after her). She alone determines your success, and worse than that, she will rarely share her opinion with you. She simply walks out of your showroom and buys at the next store or website she visits.

You’ll never get a medal for passing inspections, but you will close more sales due to your shopper’s confidence and trust in your business. The good news is you can affect the outcome of the inspection. Here are some of the ways that stores pass muster:

Store Exterior

Your exterior signageis clean, up-to-date and not faded.Old-fashioned letter reader boards or new-fangled electronic displays are complete and current. Sidewalks and the entry door are clean.  Decals on windows are kept to a minimum and are fresh and not faded. If you have a “No Food or Drink” or “No Cell Phone” warning on your door, remove it. Shoppers hate to see the word “no” before they even enter your business.

Store Interior

The first 10 feet inside your store is critical. Your shopper makes up her mind about you within 10 feet and/or 6 seconds of entering. Remove clutter, make sure the floors are clean, and use mats during bad weather. Wall art and signage also needs to be fresh and timely. Take down the Labor Day Sale sign if it’s still up! Let the merchandise be the star of your show, not promotional signage.

Speaking of which, floor samples must be spotless and accessible, with fresh point-of-purchase (POP) promotional collateral and crisp, clearly displayed price tags. For mattresses, the less on the bed the better, and pillows should be placed neatly at the top like you’d make your bed at home. Power beds need to be in the flat position, and remote controls can be hidden but accessible to your sales team.

Also, use music to set the mood. Your shopper is likely to be 25- to 49-years-old, meaning they enjoy 1990s and Y2K music. Lawrence Welk will make them bored and headbanger tunes will send them running.  Talk radio or news will alienate 50 percent of your shoppers. Music levels should be within a range of 3 to 5 on a scale of 10 — clearly audible, but soft enough to allow for a private conversation to stay private.

Sales Associates

Your sales team can be a turn-off. Freshly cleaned and ironed shirts, shiny shoes, and a name badge will get you a lot of credit. Mustard stains, cigarette smoke and overwhelming perfume or after-shave will cost you points (and dollars). Facial hair also needs to be clean and trimmed, and jewelry needs to be kept to below the bling level of Mr. T.

Rest Rooms

Your toilet tells your attention to detail.  A clean bathroom means a clean operation. Sloppy, smelly, under-stocked, and non-working fixtures tell her that you just don’t care. And magazines in the bathroom … really bad. Think about restrooms in a nice restaurant or hotel; a fresh coat of pastel or muted-tone paint, air freshener, and upgraded soaps, paper towels and TP go a long way to getting you extra points. Potpourri and pleasant artwork are great extras. And be sure the door lock works!

Also, don’t forget the men’s room.  Sometimes The Inspector has to take little Aiden or Grayson to the potty.

Office and Desk Area

This is where at least half of all stores fall below average. The area where you collect money or process credit is the last section of your store that The White Glove Inspector sees. Keep the area clutter-free and remove all handwritten signs. And destroy all the negative material that tells the shopper what you won’t do. Signage that says, “No Evening Deliveries,” “No CODs,” “No Exchanges or Refunds,” or “Not responsible for…” will send her running or ensure a next-day cancellation. You can re-phrase each of these negative statements into positive ones, but if you are compelled to share them with a customer, you can do that privately via a short handout.

That’s a five-point checklist of what The White Glove Inspector is looking for. How did you score? Will you pass or fail the next customer visit?  And since many checklists are ten points long, let me know what you would add.

After spending money on building costs, displays and advertising, don’t lose your shopper because of store appearance. Exceed her expectations every time and you’ll sail past inspection and sales goals.

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.