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If the shoe fits...

Posted:21 May 2015Write a comment

If you’re lucky enough to have average sized feet, you’re living well. For the rest of us, shoe shopping is so often an exercise in compromise: the wide range of assortment is just a fantasy, in stock only in sizes for the masses. Choices are instead limited, and we’re forced to settle for what’s in stock and not what we want. Reality is this phenomena extends to all kinds of apparel too: you want it, but you can’t have it, because it’s not in stock. Maybe it was never in stock.

It’s hard to believe that in a retail world of fierce competition that a customer should come into a store with cold hard cash and be denied, or even corralled into a compromise. The data exists to know the customer, and if it doesn’t – well, surely we’ve been selling apparel long enough to figure this out, but still, practice in the second oldest profession comes up short.

My wife will tell you I don’t upgrade my wardrobe often enough – having kids in motorsports and cheer tends to zap the budget – but when I do I tend to frequent a small cadre of stores. At one in particular the sales associate is well known to me and they even have my sizes on file. It’s a chain that will remain unnamed. When I broached the subject of size with her, she sighed in frustration. “You’d think they’d look at this information on file when sending sizes to store... but they don’t”, the exasperation continued “and you’d think they’d give me an iPad so as I’m standing here I can sell you the next size if it’s not in stock, show you the ‘online only’ accessories, too.” But they don’t. The excuse in reality is probably more complicated than the rumor: because they don’t want sales staff wasting time on the internet. Right. For whatever reason, they haven’t delivered a strategy that empowers her to win, or for me to buy.

I could have, however, purchased the shoes in a style I didn’t want, or the blazer in color that, well, reminds me of an old Buick. Instead, I end up buying half of what I could have – and spending the rest on a new set of tires for my son’s racing kart. Which I bought online and had delivered in 3 days.

The moral of the story? Know your customer. No, seriously, know them and tie it to assortment. Guess what: assorting by averages alienates everyone who isn’t average. And you can count on them alienating you.

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