Melanie Sheppard.

The Art of Retail

The Art of Retail

As published in That Effortless Bitch

I hate retail shopping with a passion. This may come as a surprise to some because I come from a family of retailers and spent a large chunk of my life working in the industry, but I truly detest it. From the unforgiving change room mirrors to the commission driven sales people, the whole experience has the potential to leave me rocking back and forth in a corner.   

On a recent trip with my daughters, I was reminded of all the reasons why this was the case. Begrudgingly, I took them shopping to one of Melbourne’s largest shopping centres. They had pleaded with me for weeks to take them so that they could spend the vouchers they had received for Christmas and I succumbed after failing to convince them that online shopping could be just as fun.

On the drive out I could feel my shoulders tense and my breathing become shallow as I prayed I may find a dusty old valium I had forgotten in the bottom of my bag. No such luck.  I knew what lay ahead of me would be a battle compared to that of the Bulge, (and I am not referring to a muffin top).

Unlike myself, who gets in, quickly grabs what I need and gets straight back out, my daughters love to browse. They want to see, try, smell and feel everything savoring every moment of the shopping experience.  So I had to word them up in the car as to how this shopping trip would play out to make it as stress free for their mother as possible. All they had to do was follow my lead.

If there is one thing that I hate more than shopping centres it’s department stores, but to get to the stores my kids wanted to visit we had to walk through the ground floor of David Jones. Upon entering we were immediately confronted by a battalion of sales people armed with perfume bottles ready to attack. I was expecting this, I know their strategy and was prepared. Any experienced shopper knows in this situation you must keep your eyes to the ground, walk at a fast pace and to not engage.

I took a deep breath and charged through the crowd like my life depended on it narrowly dodging perfume sprays. Once I had reached the other end a sense of achievement washed over me, I had made it through without so much as a credit card application in hand. I had won this round…or had I?

To my horror I turned to see my daughters not only engaging, but collecting perfume cards like they were golden tickets to Willy Wonker’s chocolate factory. Had they not listened to me when I debriefed on the rules? I told them not to engage and yet here they were in deep conversation with commission hungry sales people with every trick up their sleeve to maximise a sale.

My response to the retail environment may seem extreme to some, but I have been become a hardened shopper over the years because of the lack of authentic service. Too many sales people are driven by unrealistic budgets, the result being that their focus is not on what you need, but more what they need you to need. When was the last time a sales person asked what your budget was? There seems to be this assumption that we all have an endless amount of disposable income and are prepared to spend it in that one shopping experience.

 To combat this we have 4 options.

1.   We can spend more than what we can afford

2.   We can create an excuse as to why we will “think about it” and spend the rest of our lives avoiding that store

3.   We can be up front and tell the sales person that what he or she is suggesting is above our budget (and wait for the uncomfortable silence that follows)

4.   We do our best to blend into the fixtures and avoid sales people all together.

Retailers need to get smarter and understand that the longer a customer stays in a store the more chance there is that they will buy something. Nothing is going to drive me out faster than a sales person following closely behind with a spiel on every item I look at. If I want help, I’ll ask. I am a big girl, I know jacket when I see one, in fact I can identify most items of clothing but more so, I know what will look good on me and what I can afford.

My daughters are yet to learn the art of being a retail warrior, but I am confidant that this will change as they get older and are paying for their own clothes. Some may call me the Sun Tzu of the retail world, others may see me as being slightly neurotic and impatient. Both descriptions are fitting. What I do know for sure is that my laundry drawers are not overflowing with dozens of unopened wash bags that some sales girl convinced me to buy on top of my lingerie adding an extra 10 bucks to the total.

The Breakdown

The Breakdown

The Dance

The Dance