By Gordon Hecht
The Batman has gone through several transformations, from comic books to the 1940s movie serials to the Dark Night of this century.
But the most entertaining version for me was the 1966-69 ultra-kitschy, brightly colored ABC-TV series featuring Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin.
Airing 30-minute episodes on Wednesday and Thursday nights, the primetime program featured over 700 cast members, including three actresses as Catwoman, two actors as The Riddler, and walk-on appearances by Rob Reiner, Allen Ludden and Francis X. Bushman.
Although considered a superhero, Batman had no real superpowers. He relied on his fists, his superior wit and cunning, and a very cool and very yellow Bat utility belt. He and Robin would safeguard the city of Gotham by speedily identifying criminals like The Joker, Egghead and King Tut, along with the aforementioned Riddler and Catwoman. Looking back, I suppose they didn’t need that much cunning to spot criminals wearing jump suits painted with question marks or headgear with pointy ears and whiskers.
When confronted with the peril that comprised the cliffhanger ending of Wednesday’s night episode, Robin would summarize the situation with a Batman statement. Some weeks it was “Holy knit one, purl two, Batman”; other times it was “Holy hole in a doughnut, Batman.” They all led to us to tuning in the next night (“Same Bat time, same Bat channel”) to witness Batman pulling the proverbial rabbit out of his utility belt.
While you may also have some colorful characters as customers and on staff, you can be sure that preparing your sales team with a full retail utility belt can turn the most harrowing situations into profitable sales.
Batman’s belt had about 50 pockets that held, among other devices, the Bat rope and Bat boomerang. You may want to fill three of your pockets right away with these indispensable retail tools:
Holy Extended Terms, Batman! Consumer financing continues to be one of the strongest marketing and sales tools on your utility belt and continues to be greatly ignored on the retail floor.
Using financing builds your average sale (in big-ticket retail by about $400); builds customer loyalty; and helps your shopper easily decide on the products that they need. The great department stores built an empire of devoted shoppers through credit, with each shopper worth about $80,000 in lifetime purchases at Sears, Penney’s and Ward’s ($2,000/year x 40 years).
Quoting prices in dollars per month can put all your merchandise on equal footing. Using varying terms from 12 to 60 months means almost every mattress on your floor costs $49 a month. It’s easy for your shopper to decide to upgrade when the monthly payment is the same!
Your finance provider will also get you current information on your financed customers, such as open to buy, balance and final payment date. This presents another reason to market to your previous shoppers with the message of “Chances are good that your credit is great.”
Holy Amazon, Batman! One of the prime reasons people like to buy online is free shipping. And that can bring a tidal wave of a ship storm when you try to collect a delivery charge. Afterall, you’ve got trucks, drivers, insurance and fuel to pay for.
But it’s easy to compete when you pull a white glove out of your utility belt. Know this: Free shipping is the same delivery that the newspaper boy would provide — essentially slowing down his bicycle and flinging the paper into the bushes or next to the sprinkler. When online companies offer free shipping, it means doorstep delivery. Unpackaging, assembly and installation is extra, and haul-away is non-existent.
Use your Batman-like cunning to offer free shipping just like those dot-com guys. Offer doorstep delivery at no charge, with the opportunity to upgrade to full White Glove service at a reasonable upcharge of, depending on your market, $49 to $99 or more. Reach into your utility belt for documentation of what that White Glove fee includes. And BTW, when you pay your sales team a $10 spiff each time they sell the additional service, they’ll quit hounding you to allow a free delivery.
Holy Bundle of Joy, Batman! The people who shop at your store would rarely think of getting a new dress without accessorizing it with shoes, belts and jewelry like pins and earrings. Nor would they purchase a new suit and not get a fresh dress shirt, tie and a couple of pairs of socks. The fact is that new clothing makes your old clothing look older. Size and fashion changes dictate that coordinating items need updating.
It’s true in the sleep business too. Necessary items (as opposed to add-ons) like pillows, sheets and protectors add comfort and enjoyment to your shopper’s new bed. In fact, many comfort returns are the result of old, ill-fitting pillows or washed-out shrunken sheet sets that squeeze the comfort layers on the new mattress. But selecting and pricing these items can be confusing for your shopper.
Fortunately, you can outfit your utility belt with accessory bundles. Simply create your own package of sheets, protectors and pillows, all at one low price. Inside the Batcave, Batman and Robin might formulate them as good, better, best, but when dazzling Commissioner Gordon (no relation) and Chief O’Hara, it’s known as Silver, Gold, and Platinum packages. Starting at the lower end, you should be able to create a 4-pack at $149 and top out at $399/$499 at the higher end. And as Robin would say “Holy average ticket, Batman!” when you add the White Glove charge into the package price.
Batman and Robin didn’t just keep a variety of tools in their utility belts; they practiced using them before they were needed and made sure they were well-maintained. Some people might call that Bat Training. Create the options you need today, rehearse them with your sales team, and keep your Gotham safe, secure and viable.
P.S. My favorite Riddler was Frank Gorshin and favorite Catwoman was Eartha Kitt, but I am willing to hear your opinion.
Gordon Hecht is a business growth and development consultant to the retail home furnishings industry. You can reach him at Gordon.Hecht@aol.com.