Community Involvement Helps Spur Store Traffic

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Of all the investments a retailer can make to improve the profit picture of his business, none can be more productive than the time and money he puts into his community. This is less a matter of building goodwill than it is creating store traffic, out of which sales are made and profits are born.

This past June, for example, many civic-minded home electronics merchants actually videotaped the graduation ceremonies at their local high schools. In their advertisements, they stated that these tapes were available for viewing at the store and that copies were available for either a nominal fee or free of charge to big-ticket buyers.

Besides graduation ceremonies, dealers tape local sporting events, and may also maintain a special department for recording weddings, and birthday and anniversary parties, or anything else of which the public wants to keep a permanent record. In most instances there is a charge for this service, but one low enough to be within easy reach of the public.

Beyond video recording, some CE merchants make it a habit to encourage their sales staffs to join local social or business associations so that they may gain recognition for their jobs from their club-member friends. Meanwhile, the boss is busy contacting local religious-affiliated groups, men's and women's clubs and other organizations, offering to donate a percentage of their members' purchases to the group.

Still others with good service departments pay particular attention to the manner in which consumer calls for help are taken. Operators ask for a description of the problem. They then give the customer a date when a technician will be available to make the service call. But it doesn't end there.

On the day of the appointment, the technician phones the customer between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. to provide a two-hour time frame within which the service call will be made. Thus, the consumer does not have to wait all day for the technician's visit, and the technician doesn't go out on a call only to find that the consumer isn't home.

If you can't find instances of dealers employing any of these tactics, it's because too many lack the imagination to see how well such moves work. For these less creative merchants, it's easier to complain about the retail giants "stealing" their sales volume, while failing to recognize that the nature of retailing is constantly changing. As the old Greek proverb goes, "Everything flows."

To survive and grow in the current retail environment, we must do more than admit that our way of merchandising may be wrong. We must declare that change is necessary. And we must face up to the fact that price is a consideration in the public's decision to buy, although it is not the only factor. A friendly shopping atmosphere can make a big difference.


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