By Gordon Hecht, Serta Simmons Bedding

Way back in 1959, when “The Sound of Music” premiered on the Broadway stage, Mary Martin starred as the original Maria.

She sang many memorable tunes, but it was Julie Andrews who helped make “My Favorite Things” a classic with her appearance on a 1961 Andy Williams special.

On a recent auto journey, my ever-lovin’ bride and I streamed “My Favorite Things” performed by The Supremes, Kelly Clarkson, John Coltrane and Mary J. Blige, along with the more familiar version by Ms. Andrews.  With many miles of generic American highway ahead, I got to thinking about some of my favorite things in our retail world.

Favorite Retail Thing No. 1: Passionate retailers who provide a grand customer experience in-store and online

In a difficult decade like the last 12 months, it’s easy to lose the drive and desire to provide a terrific shopping event every time, and to do it with a smile. And it’s harder to scrounge up the bucks to have an engaging interactive website. But so many of you continue to suit up and treat every retail encounter like “It’s showtime!

Favorite Retail Thing No. 2: Seeing beyond the book’s cover

Retail is fraught with prejudices of its own. A shopper’s ability to purchase is judged by age (too young or too old); fashion choices; the car they drove up in; marriage status; and local or foreign accents. It’s a delight to see retail sales associates (RSAs) who have the ability and desire to help all their guests find just the right products (a.k.a., close a lot of sales). Those RSAs aren’t blind; they just have the gift of treating everyone with dignity, understanding and joy.

Favorite Retail Thing No. 3: The retail store hotel

You’ve heard the old saw about treating your store like your home. It’s a nice thought, but often our homes are too lived in. At home you might not mind a bit of worn carpet, a few smudges on the window or having to shake the handle to stop the toilet from running. But your showroom guest does. Consider your store a boutique hotel: More than just cleaning it, add a few extra touches like a welcome bottle of water or hot beverage, or a charging station or coat-check counter. Some considerate retailers stock the ladies and men’s restrooms with baby diapers in a few sizes, just in case. Presenting a small, inexpensive gift at the end of every sales presentation makes a nice souvenir too!

Favorite Retail Thing No. 4: Handwritten thank you notes

It must be a lost art to send cards to customers thanking them for investing in and trusting you.  I didn’t get any for my last automobile purchase, kitchen remodel, flooring buy or insurance renewal. However, I did book a short, inexpensive vacation, and my travel agent surprised us with a thank you card and two keychains (with charms from the place we visited). I know it’s 2021 and not 1921, so perhaps a thank you text is more in order.  But today’s mail mostly consists of bills and junk, and your thank you note might just make someone’s day. (Hint: A thank you postcard is more likely to be read and costs less too.)

Favorite Retail Thing No. 5: Positive reviews

Word-of-mouth is the most effective and least costly advertising method for your business. It used to take the form of neighbors talking across a fence, and today it’s people posting on your website or social media from next door, the next state, or across the nation. In the Dark Ages of 1991, we’d just ask our customers, “Do you know anyone who may need our merchandise?” But in 2021 you still need to recruit reviews and court positive remarks about your business, products and services. Encourage shoppers to post a review at the time of purchase and delivery. Earn and attract those positive remarks and you will be quite remarkable.

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.