Love songs with lessons for retailers

By Gordon Hecht, YSN Contributor

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

Placing somewhere between Halloween and Mother’s Day in gift spending, it’s a great day if you are in the candy, greeting card, floristry, or restaurant business. It’s also a great day to listen to love songs!

There aren’t a lot of promotions for appliances, mattresses, and home furnishings on Valentine’s; our big opportunity comes next week for Presidents’ Day weekend. But as you prepare for the start of our selling season, take time to listen to some of those love songs. There may be a hidden message that will make you fall in love with sales and profit all over again.

Fooled Around and Fell in Love was written and performed by Elvin Bishop with Mickey Thomas on lead vocals. It appeared on his 1975 album, Struttin’ My Stuff, and was released as a single the following year.

Many of our readers, as well as yours truly, didn’t consider The Retail World a primary career path.  The same may be true for your sales team.  But there is a certain high-wire excitement abuzz in the retail world.  Every day is different, every shopper a new challenge.

Your next new hire is probably messing around and taking a job at your company just until they get their “real job.” With the right training, support, and compensation opportunities, they might just fall in love with your store.

Physical was recorded by singer Olivia Newton-John for her 1981 album of the same name. It was released as the album’s lead single after performers Rod Stewart and Tina Turner turned it down (separately, I suppose).

As companies grow there becomes a physical canyon between the corporate team and the store team. Whether the offices are located upstairs or uptown, some execs and their staff lose the feel of what is going on at street level retail.

This becomes highly apparent during the major selling holidays. Presidents’ Day is just around the corner; consider making that an “all work” day.  Get the whole corporate team, including finance, operations, buyers, and advertising mavens, out onto the sales floor to physically see the action. Your corner-office staff can help shoppers, close out tickets, be the official greeter, or even prepare and serve lunch for the retail sales associates.

You’ll have to believe it is magic when you see real teamwork and respect working both ways.

It Might Be You was performed by Stephen Bishop in the 1982 film Tootsie. It tells the story of discovering a love that is apparent yet unseen.

We probably don’t know much about the next shopper to walk in the door. As a result, we make assumptions about her buying power based on the car she parked, the clothes she’s wearing, who does (or does not) accompany her on the shopping trip, or even the local or out-of-town accent in her voice.

I’ve been around the Retail World so long I feel like I was born on commission, but I still don’t know what a $10,000 customer looks like. On and on I can tell you stories of very plain people purchasing in a major fashion, mostly because they were ignored at other stores. Buyers come in all shapes and sizes and may or may not be kinda pretty or drive a fancy car.

Treat your next shopper like a millionaire and chances are good she will spend like one.

First Day of My Life by the band Bright Eyes is a single from the 2005 album I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning. Some of my favorite lyrics include “I don’t know where I am, I don’t know where I’ve been, but I know where I want to go.”

We sell expensive and rarely replaced products. For your next customer, shopping for them is a rare or first experience.

Many of your shoppers suffer from information overload. Whether it’s the 4,000 Google reviews, the misinformation online, or extravagant claims in advertising, it’s become harder for them to understand which model will work best for them.

In fact, the best model for them is … the best model for them.  And you can help them consider the criteria that will aid in that decision with good discovery questions.  Start with “What do you like/dislike about your current item?” Then move to “What have you seen that you like?”  You might even toss in “If you found the perfect product, what would it look and feel like?”

Fallin’ was the debut single by Alicia Keys and is generally considered her signature song. Keys wrote the tune, which tells the tale of her falling in and out of love, even though she sings, “I never loved someone the way that I love you.”

The Retail World has not been a cuddly huggy bear these last 24 months. It’s been more like a cruel lover, which is OK if you’re Nick Lowe but of little use if you’re trying to carve out a living.

It would be hard to believe that there weren’t a few times you wanted to call it quits and break up with retail. After all, we can get only knocked down so often! But the fact that you’re reading this article means you are passionate about our business and being knocked down doesn’t mean failure to you.  Rather, getting back up and fighting means success.

It wouldn’t be Valentine’s Day if I didn’t add in a Beatles classic. Michelle is a song about a guy deeply enamored of a girl, but they speak different languages, so he has almost no way to communicate his feelings.

Your store traffic probably includes people whose first language is not English, and your staff may feel stymied in their attempts to connect with them. It takes very little time and effort to teach your team a few short phrases. Just saying “Hello,” “Welcome,” a few product names, and “Thank you” in your shopper’s native tongue will go a long way. Your team can even use 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 a business growth and development consultant to the retail home furnishings industry and a regular contributor to YSN. You can reach him at