‘Need not apply’ no longer.

By Gordon Hecht, Serta Simmons Bedding

It’s almost half-past 2021 and it’s business as unusual out there.

In this second of a two-parter on the new rules of retail, we share three retail practices that are ready for retirement.

‘Long-Haired Freaky People’ Can Now Apply*

It’s a great time to look for a job! And in a weird way, a great time to hire people too.

In many parts of the nation, the best paying job is staying home and binge-watching Jerry Springer. Consequently, too many retailers tell me that they can’t hire, and that their “Help Wanted” posts bring in “the wrong people.”

But that means anyone who applies for your open position has the most valuable human resource: They want to work.

If you believe in “Hire for attitude and train for aptitude,” then this is the perfect time to hire. And, as we move toward the mid-2020s, it’s never been more important to have your sales and operations teams look like the people they serve.  Why not take a chance and title your next hiring ad “Long-haired Freaks with No Experience and Lots of Tattoos Wanted”? You may just find a few diamonds in the rough.

King-for-a-Queen Sale

From our lofty retail perspective, the “King-for-a-Queen” price promotion looks super groovy. It’s a big sale with big savings. But looking out from your shoppers’ eyes, it doesn’t make sense.

It’s a fact, queen-size mattresses still dominate the market with 50 percent of sales. There’s a better-than-even chance your shopper has a queen mattress at home — along with their investments in queen headboard, sheets, comforters and cases. That, plus the extra room they get with a queen vs. a king, and there’s little chance they will upgrade in size.

Your bank account will also tell you that you sacrifice too many margin dollars in the K-for-Q deal. Convert it to a “Queen for a Twin” (or full) for the same price and you will attract more likely buyers, save more precious gross margin dollars, and put a few more shekels in the sock drawer.

‘I Know My Customers…’

Loyal customers (people who shopped and purchased from you multiple times) are the lifeblood of building your business. They are attracted by your location, marketing, merchandise selection, person-to-person relationships, and the services that come with that. It’s estimated that it costs six times more to attract a new customer than to retain a loyal one.

Many retailers make their purchasing, display and advertising decisions by catering to their loyal customer base. That may sound good, but it is an essentially flawed strategy — especially in the durable goods business, with its infrequent return purchases.

Every year there is a drop-off in the number of your loyal customers.  They are saturated with the merchandise you sell, they switch loyalties to another retailer or, in the case of baby boomers, they’ve gone on to a better place. (You know, like Ormond Beach, Fla., for the sun, or Whitewater, Wis., for the fine cuisine). In essence, you are continuing to market to a shrinking pool of likely buyers.

Yes, you know your loyal customers. If you are the dominant retailer in your market, loyal customers only comprise 20 percent of the potential buyers. Why not flip it around and market to the other 80 percent of the folks who don’t know about you, what you sell or what makes you remarkable? You may lose a few of your raving fans, but you are losing them through attrition anyway.

*It wasn’t the Five Man Electrical Band that sang The Times They Are a-Changin,’ but in their 1971 hit Signs, they did tell us that “Long-haired freaky people need not apply,” as well as “Sign, sign, everywhere a sign.” And the sign says the times are indeed changing.

Business as usual is a no-win strategy in unusual times. Sign up for changing a few practices and taking a few risks, and like the song says, you’ll be “alive and doing fine.”

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.

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