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Jen

Can you give some suggestion as to how to tell the customer gracefully that you are closing in 5 minutes?
I agree that this "guy" that didn't sell the vac was not a sales person and shouldn't have been alone in that store. My hang up is that I have been in retail with my husband for 15 years, and we are constantly having to stay later for that late sale...thus causing us to be late for important things that our children are involved in. I don't agree with missing or being late when it hurts other people. And I get annoyed with that customer that KNOWS we are closing and just comes in 5 minutes before close to look at a top of the line machine.

I would love some help at phrases that will help not loose the sale, but press upon the customer the importance of being a good parent.

Mike

Jen,

Thanks for the comment. I feel your pain. I'd like to think that most people just don't realize that it's almost closing time. Of course some people are just plain inconsiderate.

This may not be the answer you're looking for, but if late shoppers are a consistent problem you might want to take a look at your store hours. If most of your customers work from nine to five and you close at 6:00, you're limiting them to a very narrow shopping window.

I understand that you want to spend time with your family and I don't blame you. They grow up fast. But if you're missing sales because you're not there when your customers want (need) to shop, you really have three options. One is to continue as is. Another is to expand your store hours with you and your husband working later. The third is to expand your store hours by hiring additional staff.

Personally, I'd seriously consider the third option. Every store is different but the math is fairly simple. Let's say you need to have two people in the store at all times and you'd like to stay open an additional three hours per day. That's six working hours per day. If you're paying $10.00 per hour,that means an additional $60.00 of payroll expense per day. To keep the math easy, let's say that additional electricity, heat/air conditioning, etc. brings the extra expense to $100.00. How much do you need to sell to bring in another $100.00 in gross profit?

Is it realistic to think that you can do that much extra business by being open another three hours per day? If the answer is "yes", then you have your solution. If the answer is "no", then you have to choose between the first two options.

Bob Negin has an excellent short article on the subject of store hours on his web site, http://www.whizbangtraining.com/sb/images/reports/pdfs/sales_surefireway.pdf

Having said that, let's get back to your original question. Assuming that the customer is serious about buying and that you have a good reason for leaving, I think being honest with the customer is the best course to follow. I'd say something like this:

"I'm sorry, but we're closing in just a few minutes. I'd be happy to stay over but my daughter's dance recital is this evening and I REALLY have to be there.

"You're going to be using (insert product here) for a long time and I really don't want to rush you into making a decision. Would it be ok if I give you some literature to study this evening, at your leisure? Then we could get together tomorrow when we have plenty of time and choose the (product)that's best for your needs. What time would be convenient for you?"

The customer will either agree or she won't. If she agrees, then you have an excellent chance of making a sale tomorrow. You've started a relationship based on a mutual understanding of what's really important. Plus, you've explained that waiting is actually to her benefit.

If she gets indignant and storms out of the store, then she's probably not someone you want to do business with anyway.

I hope this helps. I'd love to hear what other dealers have to say on this topic.

Ralph Garcia

More info on the I'm closing in 5 min. The main staff leave at 4:30 and the son of the owner closes the store. I guess a beer is more important. I sure hope the Father gives the store to the Son

Mike

"I sure hope the Father gives the store to the Son."

I'll bet you do!

BlogReader

Would would the original Foolish Sewing guy stay an extra 15 minutes and make $2.50 in salary? He's not incentivized to work any more than the minimum unless he's working on commission / some sort of profit sharing.

If a small business owner complains that his employees don't go the extra mile then he only has to look at his pay structure to see what's wrong.

Jen

Thanks Mike - I like the wording you used - telling the customer that they will be using that product for years and we want to make sure we don't rush their decision. I will use that!
We don't get the daily late traffic - so it's not cost effictive to stay open later (stip mall and we are open the latest etc). It just seems that the late-highend shopper comes in on the day when there is something going on with my kids. I woul love to have someone else close the store, but we seem to have trouble finding people that don't have difficult schedules to work around, so we close a lot! You can't just get someone that knows how to run a register when you need them to know how to sell machines and software.
I appreciate your help and will keep looking for that needle in the haystack employee :-)

Jen

ps I have to totally disagree on many levels to Bob's article on his site. I believe that thinking is why are families are falling apart - meaning we are more concerned with the almighty dollar than the value we should be placing on our family.
I will never be open on Sunday and have been told by many employee prospects AND customers that if I was open on Sunday they would not work or shop with me. I think Bob's statistics depend on the area of the county you are in. Sad statistics again anyways.
I don't want to look, smell or act like a big box and I hope those that read his bit don't get sucked into that.
True - times will change, but I say we have to stick with the things that hold value....if your hours causes you to be topsy in wages (as I have experience) then don't do it. You won't be there to service that customer that wants you to be open at 8pm everynight but statistically doesn't come in until Saturday because they are too tired to shop after work....cuz you will be bankrupt.
If we do as Bob says (small retailers) we will slowly not have a life. Since I own my own, I know I can do what serves me, and I will. Disagreeing with him is my right - and I say that smiling - no rudeness intended.

Mike

Jen,

Thanks for the comments. I'd like to address both of them.

First, finding good employees is always a challenge, whether you're an independent retailer or Wal*Mart. There's no magic answer, especially, as you point out, when you're looking for someone who can demonstrate and sell a sewing machine or other high-end product.

One place you might look is right in your own store. Do you have any good customers who might enjoy sharing their expertise with others? I have a good friend who loves to sew. She works part-time for a local sewing machine retailer. She and her husband are retired so she can use the extra money but the real reason she loves her part-time job is because she gets to talk to her fellow-hobbyists and she gets to be the first one to play with all the new items. I know every retailer has customers like that.

Your second comment is a little harder to answer, but certainly follows from the first. Assuming you just can't find anyone to cover additional store hours, you have to decide at what point your work and personal lives balance. I'd be the last one to tell you to sacrifice family time for the sake of making a few extra dollars.

I was in retail for many years (working for someone else) and frankly the hours were terrible. Since I didn't own the store, I had no input into store hours. We were open six days and five evenings per week. As store manager I had some flexibility, but not much. At the time Missouri had a "blue law" that kept us from opening on Sunday. When the legislature started talking about repealing the blue law I changed careers.

Everyone's situation is different. You know how much money you need to make and how much time you need to spend with your family. To get more of one you have to give up some of the other.

My point, and I know Bob feels the same way, is that in 2007 customers are demanding more convenience. There are places where they can shop at 3:00 in the morning, if they want to. They can even shop in their pajamas over the Internet. Everything else being equal, the retailer who stays open later will get more sales, as the original story illustrates. Your job is to make sure that everything else isn't equal. You have to be so good at what you do that customers will adjust their schedules to shop in your store.

Personally, I applaud your decision to not open on Sunday. There's an appliance retailer here in St. Louis who promotes his Sunday closing in his advertising. He's about the last independent appliance dealer in the market, so his six day schedule seems to be working.

As he says in his ads, a lot of business is done on Sundays but he chooses to let his employees spend the day with their families. Some people are going to say, "Hey, he's a good guy. Let's buy our washer and dryer from him." Others are going to go to Circuit City. Hopefully the first group is bigger than the second.

If you're happy with your current store hours and income then sell the hours as a benefit. ("I don't want to rush you." "I want to work with you personally, not turn you over to a part-time employee." Use your imagination.) One thing that makes our business so interesting is that one size definitely doesn't fit all.


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