Salespeople often main cause of retailers’ woes

Filed under: Retail |

Americans deem frontline sales staff the single biggest detriment to their shopping experience, resulting in more lost business and negative word of mouth than any other shopping problem.

These were the findings of the Retail Customer Dissatisfaction Study, conducted for the second year by the Verde Group, a customer dissatisfaction consulting firm, and the Baker Retail Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

Researchers compiled data from 1,000 consumers who were surveyed during March.

The study found that not being able to find a salesperson is the most critical retail shopping issue and is experienced by 33 percent of consumers who reported a problem.

Many shoppers reported being so annoyed by the lack of sales assistance that they said they wouldn’t return to the store.

The problem causes retailers to lose 6 percent of their shoppers.

Equally damaging to business is that 25 percent of all consumers who report a problem when they shop are ignored by sales staff. This turns 3 percent of customers away from the retailer permanently and is the No. 1 problem customers are likely to share with others.

Based on the Retail Customer Dissatisfaction Study findings, analysts at Verde Group and the Baker Retail Initiative at Wharton came up with a list of four core competencies they think salespeople must have to drive loyalty and keep customers coming back for more.

  • Educate: explain products, make recommendations and tell the customer where items can be found.
  • Engage: approach the customer, smile, make eye contact and help the customer no matter what else you are busy doing.
  • Expedite: be sensitive to the customer’s time constraints and help them speed through long check-out lines.
  • Genuine: let customers browse on their own if they want and be genuinely interested in helping regardless of whether a sale is made.

Whole Foods offering cooking classes via podcast

Whole Foods Market will begin offering podcasts of its weekly online cooking show, Secret Ingredient.

The podcast will be available at, as well as on iTunes,, and YouTube,

Scott Simons, the associate marketing director for the southwest region, will host the show.

The podcast is filmed at Whole Foods stores and culinary centers throughout the United States. New episodes will be available every Monday and will be archived.

In-store marketing initiative gauges consumer traffic

The Nielsen Co. and the In-Store Marketing Institute are expanding their Pioneering Research for an In-Store Metric initiative nationally, according to Progressive Grocer.

PRISM’s coverage will include all in-store marketing media, such as merchandising activity, retail TV and radio networks, shelf talkers, cart talkers, digital signage and other point-of-purchase displays.

The research also will be expanded to a national sample of about 200 stores. Final specifications for linking information about consumer traffic and the presence of in-store media will be defined during a six-month period and other data results are expected by the end of the year.

More than 30 companies, including Coca-Cola, ConAgra, General Mills, Kraft, P&G and Unilever, and 16 retailers participate in PRISM.

Federated merger causes disputes

Federated Department Stores Inc., the parent company of Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s, took over The May Department Stores Co. on Aug. 30, 2005.

Now, three former executives of Federated are suing the company for $775,000, which they claim the company owes them as severance pay.

Jeanice Netzel, Jon Gunnerson and Steve Malashock, all Texas residents, were senior executives at May. Their contracts were not renewed after the merger.

Netzel, divisional vice president and divisional merchandise manager of Federated’s Foley’s division, was laid off May 1, 2006. Her noncompete agreement was for six months. Federated paid Netzel one month’s salary, but she alleges the company still owes her $84,000 for the remaining five months.

Gunnerson was senior vice president and general merchandise manger of the Foley’s division when he was let go May 1, 2006. He was paid one month’s salary, but Gunnerson claims Federated owes him $331,191.59 for 11 of the 12 months covered in his noncompete agreement.

Malashock was senior vice president of MIS/replenishment/seasonal planning of the Foley’s division. He was let go Sept. 1, 2006. Malashock alleges Federated owes him his full basic compensation of $360,000.

Whether the plaintiffs complied with the noncompete agreements will be the issue at court. Federated is expected to assert that the plaintiffs failed to abide by the agreement when they took jobs at Stage Stores Inc., a Houston-based regional department store retailer.

Joan Johnson covers retail for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.