What are Customers Looking for In-Store? Lessons from Toys “R” Us, Claire’s Bankruptcies

In March of 2018, both the U.S. Claire’s and Toys ‘R’ Us stores have declared bankruptcy. The Canadian retailers, however, are not affected. At least not yet.

Claire’s filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S. The company plans to shed $1.9 billion in debt and close some underperforming retailers. Toys ‘R’ Us on the other hand plans to liquidate or sell all 730 U.S. locations.

The fate of the Canadian companies is still in question, but experts say that they could continue to run with the right assistance. This article from the Financial Post has great insight into the future of Toys “R” Us: http://business.financialpost.com/news/retail-marketing/spun-off-sold-or-transferred-toys-r-us-canada-faces-an-uncertain-future/

One of the reasons Claire’s cited for its financial troubles is that mall traffic is declining. According to Bloomberg News, it fell in the U.S. by 8% year-over-year.

It’s not the first store to cite this as an issue. Over the past several years, retailers that have gone out of business or declared bankruptcy have commonly cited the decline of bricks-and-mortar as a reason.

Whether that’s true or not, if you have an in-store location, the customer experience plays an important role in your success.

What makes a great in-store experience?

  • Exceptional customer service. Polite, knowledgeable staff who can solve problems quickly and effectively make a huge difference. Investing in training and building employee loyalty comes through to your customers.
  • Products kept in stock. We recently wrote about a frustrating experience Marketsupport Canada President Sara Clarkson had while shopping at a large Canadian mall. If a customer can’t find what they’re looking for at your store, they’ll go to another.
  • Unique displays that draw customers in and the ability to test or try products. This is the main difference that separates online shopping from in-store. Being able to feel, see, and use products before buying is proven to lead to a better customer experience.
  • Even in-store, technology has a role to play. One way is creating a seamless transition between the e-commerce site and the bricks-and-mortar store, but there are countless more. Allowing multiple payment methods. Having quick-scan price sections. U.S. retailer Rebecca Minkoff reported a boost in sales after installing smart mirrors in their dressing rooms that made recommendations for additional purchases while the customer was trying on clothing.
  • Brand experience, including quality products, welcoming atmosphere, and store design. It can also extend to pricing and getting a good deal.

Ultimately, creating a great in-store experience can come down to knowing your customer and demographics. When in doubt, try asking your customers, what would they love to see? Is there a product or feature they want, a service you could provide, something that isn’t currently being done that would improve the experience?

You can also find help in outside services, like Marketsupport. We help retailers and brands identify and improve the customer experience, in-store and online. Learn more about our services at www.storesupport.ca or by calling 1-877-421-5081.

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