Be A Product Specialist

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How To Create A Retail Environment That Wows

When running a successful retail store, you have to know your products and have a story to tell about each one of them. The way to do this is to use them and listen to people who use them. Ask your customers questions about how they use them and why they like them. Do your customers have any suggestions? You only have to know everything about approximately 25 items. Display the products in a clean and well-lit room. Remember that your customers are shrewd buyers; they will appreciate your expert recommendations and tips.

Explain to your customers that your locks are designed for self-storage; they have thousands of key differences, so the chance of having a duplicate lock is extremely rare. They are also difficult and time consuming to remove. Show them that you care by suggesting the best and most secure lock for their storage unit.

Display large quantities of your best sellers. For example, small and medium boxes have always been needed and popular items, so make sure to have bundles of each on display. Most customers will think that what we have on display is our total inventory and will not even ask us for more. If we do not have enough display space, then why not tell every customer that walks in “We have plenty of stock in the back”? This is also a great way to start communication instead saying the obvious, “May I help you?”

Price It Right
Your prices should always be aligned with your competition! You must do an apple-to-apples comparison in your area to ensure that your prices are better or similar to other retailers. If your item has special advantages over a like item, then make sure you know why and explain it to your customer. As an example: “Our packing peanuts are a little more expensive than the other store because we have biodegradable packing peanuts—not foam packing peanuts.”

The general rule when deciding on your retail price is to double your cost and round up or down to be competitive or better than other retailers. Also, offer quantity discounts that bring the customer up to the next level. For instance, have a bin of loose rolls of tape and mark the bin $4 a roll or three rolls for $10. Offer more special quantity discounts; for example, $3.80 for each small box or $3 each when you buy a bundle of 25 (a $16 savings) and buy any three mattress bags and get the fourth one free. You could even have daily specials like buy any 10 boxes and get a free box knife or marker.

Prices must be visible and easy to understand so customers do not have to ask. Be creative; use a menu board and print signs to clip to a basket or affix to the top item. Price signs and labels should be consistent throughout the store to make sure shopping is a no-stress experience for your customers.

Display With Care
Multiple facings is a retail term for putting many of one item on display to make the item hard to miss; for example, a stack of apple juice cans at the end of the aisle or, in the self-storage world, stacks of boxes, bubble wrap rolls, tape, packing peanuts, moving blankets, and clean newsprint.

Clean, fresh, bright, shiny, and new is how our self-storage retail area should always look in order for our customers to feel confident that they are buying something brand new.

Use big, bright, and simple signs. The most effective sign has very few words and is impossible to miss. We can make sure that everyone driving, phoning, and web surfing by our storage facility gets the message every time that we sell boxes and moving supplies. When they are ready to buy supplies, they will remember us. That proven “We sell boxes” phrase works!

Make Buying Easy
Treat customers as you would like to be treated when you spend your hard-earned money. Be helpful, kind, and honest. If you do not have the item that a customer needs, then you should know where they can find it to save them time. You can even offer to special order an item they are seeking and call them when it comes in.

And be sure to establish a fair return policy. If customers know that they can bring back their unused box bundles, they will tend to buy that extra bundle now to be sure they will not run out of boxes when packing their belongings. Let your customers know this early on, so that they will trust you and not worry that they are over buying.

Good Service = Good Selling
The best way to inspire yourself to sell extra items to your storage customers is to realize that you are helping them. People have a natural instinct to help others; if you listen and pay attention, your customers will find that you are able to assist them with many things. There are some easy ways to truly help a customer; for example, you can give them directions to their next destination by having a GPS available and/or print out directions for them. Opening the door for your customers when they come in and when they leave is one simple way to show you care. The simple phrase, “Thank you, we appreciate your business,” will go a long way to make a customer’s day.

Questions Are Key
Every time a customer asks a question, you should have an answer. If you do not know the answer, you can try to find out for them. For example, if a customer asks, “Where can I get air in my tires?” Suggest a reliable service station, give directions to it, and the name of the station manager. Apply the same helpfulness if they ask, “Where is an ATM?” Suggest the ATM that is safe and has no fees.

Customers who call in always have questions, so make sure that you are extremely helpful. At the same time, mention that you have packing and moving supplies available at value prices and that you are willing to advise them about the items needed when moving. It is smart to have some phrases to use on the phone. For example, “If you have odd shaped large items to move such as clocks, exercise equipment, and/or floor lamps, we have a way that you can wrap and protect them.”

Be knowledgeable about the features and benefits of your products. For example, “We have bubble wrap in a roll that has a perforated tear line at every 12 inches to make it easy while packing.” Ask your customers if they are moving furniture. You could say, “If you are moving furniture and beds, we have mattress totes and sofa covers at great prices,” or “Stop in to see us and we will suggest some items for your move and help you load them in the car.”

When you have a customer in the store, start up a conversation by letting them know your specials. For example, “When you store with us, we have a special if buy four furniture covers you get a fifth cover free,” or “We have special box bundle bulk pricing.” If your customer expresses that they really like the lock that they purchased from you, then it is a perfect opportunity to suggest that they purchase a twin pack of the lock for their truck or home use.

A Picture Says A Thousand Words
A way to suggest add-on items to a customer’s purchase is to have a few displays showing group packages of moving supplies or kits. As an example, put together approximately three displays showing boxes, tape, bubble wrap, newsprint, furniture covers, mattress covers, markers, utility knives, stretch wrap, carpet protectors, moving labels, packing peanuts, etc., then give each kit a name, such as small, medium, large or A, B, C or maybe good, better, best.

Most stores do not have room to display each kit, so a suggestion would be to take a photo of each kit and display the photos by the counter, on your website, and in your space reservation confirmation emails to have a good visual reminder when your customers are making buying decisions. Always offer to place the items directly into their vehicle or storage unit when they decide on the kit they would like to purchase. In addition, put together a small box with a cell kit and some dishes half packed up so they understand how to use it.

No. 1 Rule 
If we don’t take care of the customer, somebody else will. If you do not have an item that the customer wants, then ask if they would be willing to wait a couple of days for you to custom order it for them. In most cases, the customer will wait or at least appreciate your offer. If the customer needs the item right away, then suggest another store that may have it in stock. Your customer will remember you as being kind and helpful. It is important to make your customer understand that they are your priority.

Always try to make helpful suggestions to your customers. If they are moving beds, inform them that keeping the mattress in a mattress bag during the move will keep moisture and dust off it. We can learn helpful hints when we move or help someone move. For instance, “I can’t believe how handy it is to have a big boxed roll of bubble wrap when packing up a china cabinet. One box will go a long way and the bubble wrap is really protective.” Suggestions can be made simply by how we display one bestselling item next to an item that can be used with it. For example, moving blankets should have stretch wrap rolls next to them to suggest how to wrap an odd shaped item by using the blanket and secure it with the stretch wrap.

When it comes to selling storage and moving supplies, as a self-storage operator, you have a great advantage. When a customer walks into your store, they have the convenience of pulling right up to the door and loading their vehicle without having to walk through a big store and parking lot or waiting in a checkout line.

We must be prompt and eager when our customers are ready to check out. They want to be focused on, respected, and appreciated for giving us business. We can encourage and promote customer loyalty by being there when they are ready and help them load their vehicle or just simply hold the door open for them. When we show them that we are here to serve them, we will be rewarded in return!

Nancy Martin Wagner is the vice president of marketing at Chateau Products, Inc.Chateau Products is a lock and latch manufacturer specializing in the self-storage industry.

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