Tennis Industry magazine


Retailing Tip: Give Them a Show

Creating a better retail customer experience involves all areas of your store.

By Jay Townley

One of the most important reasons for consumers to shop at your store, or at any store, is for the experience. This is a retail trend that some of America’s most successful specialty retailers recognized early on. At outdoor recreaton stores Cabela’s and REI, nearly one-third of consumers said they are interested in the experience at retail stores, not just what they are there to purchase. Earlier this year, Crain’s Chicago Business reported that McDonald’s is looking to create a “Starbucks experience” with kiosks and digital menu boards — all part of the fast-food giant’s push to create a better customer experience.

As mentioned here last month, Small Business Trends said U.S. shoppers are most interested in health or fitness classes (29 percent), cooking classes (27 percent) and learning from experts (20 percent). (Clearly, the substantial interest in health and fitness classes is something tennis specialty retailers should latch onto.) Seventeen percent of consumers are interested in clubs that meet at retail stores, because of the experience they can provide.

An Inviting Exterior

The retail experience starts with your shop’s exterior. Is it designed to be open and welcoming? Do you use green plants around your entrance? Is lighting arranged to reflect warmth? Consider every detail for consumers.

Next is the entrance itself. Make sure your store is easy to get into and navigate, particularly for parents with children and strollers. The entrance should be clean and well-lit, with no decals on the front door and windows.

Have a “neutral zone” just inside the entrance. In his book Why We Buy!, environmental psychologist Paco Underhill says consumers walk faster than their brains can process what they see. Creating a neutral zone inside a store is important to how shoppers perceive the store environment.

Sound and smell are also important — loud, inappropriate music needs to be replaced with pleasant and inviting tunes. If you aren’t sure of your choices, invite consumers to walk around and ask for their reactions and recommendations about what they experience.

Line of Sight

Pay attention to the whole picture your store conveys to customers as they enter the “neutral-zone.” It’s what they see that helps them understand where they need to go to get what they want.

Purposeful signage should be easy to read and understand. Comfortable places for customers to sit are important, especially for the shopper’s companion — which in turn keeps the shopper in the store longer.

Of course, the greeting from you and your staff is probably the single most important component of a retail-store experience. How soon and with what degree of genuine sincerity and warmth are shoppers greeted when they enter? It will have a huge impact on how welcome they feel, how comfortable they become and how much they appreciate and talk about the experience your store delivers. These days, it’s also the experience your customers expect.

Jay Townley is a partner in the retail consulting firm Gluskin Townley Group (



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