Retail Idioms

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

Idiom: Shoppertainment

We can’t even go to church anymore without expecting to be entertained. We want great music and puppet shows for the kids. We want to hear a message that tickles our ears, not pierces our hearts. Christmas has become a gross spending spree instead of a glowing spiritual season.

But this isn’t a commentary about religion; it’s about the entertainment culture that permeates everything we do. Restaurants plaster the walls with kitschy signs and big screen TV’s to keep us entertained while we wait for our food; the kids get coloring books and crayons. Heaven forbid we should just sit there and talk amongst ourselves!

Shopping for furniture isn’t life or death like food or religion, but the entertainment mentality is here to stay. Look around at commercials that change views every .8 seconds and Nickelodeon-style hair salons for kids. How do you rate? Can you hold a candle to Jordan’s Furniture, who has IMAX theaters in three of their stores? Don’t laugh: according to “Furniture Today,” Jordan’s has the #1 sales per square foot in the country.

Is your store fun? Interesting? Intriguing? Entertaining? Can you hold your customer’s attention, and her husband and kid’s, long enough to make the sale?

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Friday, November 21st, 2008

Idiom: Creativity

If you ask a class of second graders, “Can you dance? Can you draw? Can you sing?” they will all say yes. Ask a class of college freshman and they will all say no. Somewhere along the line we lose confidence in our creativity.

Yet your customer longs to be creative in her own home. She wants the reaction to each room it be, “Oh, that is so YOU!” She wants a personal style so unique that her friends call her up and say, “You’ve just got to check out the thingamajig over at the mall. It is so YOU!”

How do you help her imagine her inner artist?

Would you consider your company to be creative? Why or why not?

Is creativity something that can be taught? Or can it be bought?

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Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

Idiom: Technology

Are you trapped by technology?

Do you spend 20 minutes trying to find the right words for an email that’s going to sail through cyberspace only to land three feet away on your coworker’s desk? Do you save everything into electronic files and folders but can’t find anything when you want it? Did you spend thousands on a software package yet no one knows if you have the 2300 in stock?

Now, no one is saying you don’t need computers or email or any of the technological advances that have made business faster, easier and better. But, do you use technology effectively? Are you afraid of it or do you embrace it? Are you writing when you should be talking? Are the right people trained for the right tasks? Does business come to a screeching halt when the only person who knows how to do something is sick?

When was the last time you sent your customer a handwritten note? Does your company’s use of technology help her, or does it lose her phone number?

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Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

Idiom: Expectations

You expect a card from your mother on your birthday.

You expect the rep to pick up the dinner tab.

You expect your kids to get good grades.

And sometimes they let you down. Not to say anything bad about your mother, but we’re only human, right?

It’s somehow even more disappointing when our unmet expectations are reasonable. We’re not asking for a surprise party, but, come on, one little card?

Have you been the one who dropped the ball this week? It’s probably not too hard to remember a recent complaint from an upset customer who simply expected you to show up when you said you would with the sofa she said she wanted.

What expectations have you created with your marketing and your message? Do you keep these promises?

How do you make up for it when you screw it up big time?

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Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

Idiom: Fear

What keeps you up at night?

The unpaid invoice to your biggest vendor? The grinding sound when Truck 1 changes gears?

Switch gears yourself and put on your “home” hat. Does your credit card statement keep you up at night? Your son’s grades? The leaky faucet?

Your customer is probably up at 3:00 am, too. She’s got all the same fears as you, at her work and in her home.

Don’t be surprised or insulted that you yourself are probably the basis of some of her fears. She worries that she made the right decision, that she paid a fair price. She worries that it won’t look good, that her mother-in-law will make a scathing remark about it or her friends won’t oooh and aaah over it. She’s afraid she spent a whole lot of time and money on something she’s going to regret.

How do you calm her fears? Do you let her talk about her night terrors, or do you foo-foo her phobias with platitudes and attitudes? Does your marketing message open the closet door where this skeleton might be lurking, or do you stick to happy talk? Are YOU afraid to talk about HER fears?

Are you her bogeyman or her sandman? Should she be afraid of you?

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Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

PROFITsystems and The Lively Merchant Team Up


Jeff Niskern, PROFITsystems, Inc. 719-219-6118

PROFITsystems and The Lively Merchant Team Up

New Joint Offerings Benefit Retailers

October 1, 2008,— PROFITsystems, Inc., the leading software provider for the retail furniture industry, and The Lively Merchant, a consulting firm offering a variety of business building tools, have formed a new working relationship. The synergy of the products that the two companies offer makes this a win-win situation for retailers. Wayne McMahon, VP of PROFITconsulting and David Lively, owner of the Lively Merchant, are combining their years of experience in business analysis to provide retailers with expertise in specialized areas of their business.

Lively specializes in generational transfer consulting, which PROFITsystems and The Lively Merchant are making available to their clients. McMahon stated, “Many owners of businesses in the home furnishings industry are second and third generation. Being able to offer a clear plan on transitioning the business to the next generation is vital to the continued success of these businesses.” McMahon continued, “Providing a path to this transition will be a huge benefit to our clients.”

The two companies will also be joining efforts in developing marketing campaigns for retailers. PROFITsystems’ e-Marketing is designed to offer retailers an organized way to utilize their client base for specified marketing efforts and The Lively Merchant has a unique copyrighted 47 point how-to manual for big event sales. These will be offered as an exclusive mix that will highlight the best of both programs. Lively said, “Advertising and marketing are evolving at an incredible pace. Many business owners are busy keeping up with the retail furniture industry and just do not have the time to keep up on all of the new avenues available in the advertising and marketing arenas. Our two companies have a unique opportunity to do the work that is necessary to bring the newest and most successful campaigns to the retailer.”

PROFITsystems and The Lively Merchant will remain independent companies although future projects will be developed to capitalize on the strengths of each. For additional information on The Lively Merchant or PROFITsystems please visit their individual websites: or

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Monday, October 6th, 2008

Idiom: Trends

T tops. Duck tails. Leg warmers. Pet rocks. Ugg boots. Cabbage Patch Kids.

We’ve all seen them come… and go. Trends, by definition, are here today and usually gone tomorrow, lingering just long enough for at least one embarrassing photo opportunity. We usually rush to throw some cold hard cash at the latest trend. We want to fit in, to have what everyone else is having. Trends are fun while they last.

What are the current trends that your customer just has to have? Do you have them? How do you help her incorporate the latest look into her country blue living room? What are her fears about buying into a trend, and how do you help her overcome them? How far is she willing to go, how much is she willing to spend, to get the latest in-thing into her home?

And, just for fun, what is the dumbest fad you ever fell for? Can we see your picture?

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Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

Idiom: Accomodation

I got a little lecture at the airport today when the agent scolded me for not using the self-check in to change my seat assignment. We’ll save the topic of “talking yourself out of a job” for another day. Today let’s talk about rules.

List the Top 5 complaints you get about your company’s rules and regulations. Not the complaints you hear about price and availability and the 4-6 week turnaround for special orders, but the complaints about rules modeled by the industry then established by your company.

Is it your 9 to 5 weekday delivery hours? Your refusal to sell a loveseat away from the sofa or dining chairs away from the table? Your customer service response time?

There is so much you cannot control in your business: manufacturer’s assortments, financial terms, backorders.

What can you control? What policy, procedure, rule or regulation could you wipe off the board to accommodate your customer? What would this say to her about your company? What does the existing rule say to her now?

Are any of your rules arbitrary to your customer, set in place only to make life easier for you? What does she think about that?

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Monday, September 15th, 2008

Idiom: Horizon

“International Talk Like A Pirate Day” is celebrated every year on September 19.

So, ahoy! Let’s put the periscope up to your eye (not the one with the black patch).

What do you see, Matey? What’s on the horizon?

Do you see land ahead? Is there an area in your market that’s growing? Or shrinking? Are there new housing developments begging to be furnished? Is the population shifting around good school systems? Does your marketing target these new demographics?

Do you see another ship? What’s the competition up to? Have you visited their stores lately? Do you talk shop? Do you keep in touch with other business owners? How do they compare to you? What strategic partnerships can you form?

Do you see a damsel in distress? What are the pressing issues in your community? What causes you are passionate about? Can you meet a need?

Do you see a big empty ocean? Are you running dry on ideas? Are you adrift? Do you know the trends that are coming on the horizon? How will you implement them? Where will you go for fresh eyes on your store?

It’s the lucky Captain who looks out and sees exactly what was plotted on his treasure map. The course is charted, the landmarks measured, the obstacles avoided.

Is your ship coming in?

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Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

Idiom: Rules

Turn signal flashing, Mrs. Customer carefully pulls her Buick up to your store and asks to see matching tables for her living room.

Ms. Customer peels into the lot, glove box bursting with parking tickets, and asks if you have a red leather chaise for her bedroom.

Mrs. Customer does not wear white shoes after Labor Day or diamonds before dinner. Her furniture lines the walls of her room like soldiers. Her pictures, one per wall, are hung higher than the top of the artificial ficus. She is law-abiding to the core.

Ms. Customer, on the other hand, wears seersucker on warm days in November. She mixes florals and animal prints with antiques and modern art. Rules to her are just “guidelines” and even those were made to be broken.

Should you push Mrs. Customer to rebel and mix up those end tables? Should you try to fetter Ms. Customer from a fashion faux pas?

As a company, how do you merchandise your store for both women?

As a salesperson, how do you adapt your personal style to her unique technique?

Reading this post, did you make any assumptions which about customer was which in the picture? Shame on you! Now, would you like to know if you were right?

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