16 July 2024, 20:33
By Gordon Hecht Apr 20, 2021

The finishing (in-store) touches

The White Glove Inspector is heading to your store, and her experience can make or break your business – so why risk being let down by your store’s appearance when lockdown is lifted? US bedding retail expert Gordon Hecht shares nine tips for passing the inspection … 

There should be no surprise to you that The White Glove Inspector is heading to your store. After all, you invited her to visit! She doesn’t work for your landlord or suppliers, but her opinion of your store’s appearance is vital to your success …  

If you haven’t guessed by now, The White Glove Inspector is your next shopper (and the one after her)! She alone determines your success – and, worse than that, she will rarely share her opinion with you. She simply walks out of your store and buys at the next store (or website) she visits. 

You’ll never get a medal for passing inspections, but you will close more sales due to your shoppers’ confidence and trust in your business. You can affect the outcome of the inspection – here are some of the ways that stores fail or pass: 

1. Exterior signage is clean, up to date and not faded. Old-fashioned letter boards or newfangled electronic displays are complete and current. Sidewalks and entry door are clean. Decals on windows are at a minimum, and fresh, not faded. If you have a ‘no food or drink’ or ‘no mobile phone’ warning on your door, remove it. Shoppers hate to see the word ‘no’ before they even walk into your store.

2. The first 10ft inside your store is critical. Your shopper makes her mind up about you within 10ft and/or six seconds after entering. Remove clutter, and make sure the floors are clean – use mats during bad weather. Floor samples should have fresh PoS and must be spotless. 

3. Use music to set the mood. Your shopper is likely to be 25-49 years old, meaning they enjoy 1990s and Y2K music – Lonnie Donegan will make them bored and headbanging tunes will send them running. Talk radio or news will alienate 50% of your shoppers. Music level should be a 3-5, on a level of 10 – clearly audible, and enough to allow for a private conversation to stay private. 

4. Your sales team can be a turn-off. Freshly cleaned, ironed shirts, shiny shoes and a name badge will get you a lot of credit. Mustard-stained shirts and ties, cigarette smoke and overwhelming perfume or aftershave will cost you points (and pounds). Facial hair also needs to be clean and groomed, and jewellery needs to be kept to a level far below Mr T. 

5. Floor samples are also clean and accessible (the less on the bed, the better). Price tags need to be crisp and clearly available. Pillows neatly at the top, that mimic how you’d make your bed at home. Remote controls can be hidden, but accessible for your sales team, and all adjustable beds need to be in the flat position. 

6. Wall art and signage also needs to be fresh and timely. Take down the Christmas sale signage if it’s still up! Again, let the merchandise – not promotional signage – be the star of your show.

7. Your toilet reveals your attention to detail. Clean bathrooms mean a clean operation. Sloppy, smelly, under-stocked, and non-working fixtures tell her that you just don’t care. And magazines in the bathroom – really bad. Think about the bathrooms in a nice restaurant or hotel. A fresh coat of pastel or muted tone paint, air freshener, upgraded soaps, paper towels and toilet paper go a long way to getting you extra points. Potpourri and pleasant artwork are great extras. And be sure the door lock works! Don’t forget the men’s room – sometimes the inspector has to take their little one to the potty! 

8. Accessory racks need to be full (or look full). At Sainsbury’s, Tesco and M&S, employees ‘front’ the shelves – that means they move items to the front, so when you walk down the aisle you see a fully stocked selection. Your team should re-stock or front the shelves at the end of every sale (BTW, make sure your demo items are clean and available – if you have pillow protection sheets, use them. If you don’t have them, get some). 

9. Office and desk area – this is where at least half of all stores fall below average! The area where you collect money or process credit is the last area of your store that The White Glove Inspector sees. Keep the area clutter-free and remove all handwritten signs. Destroy all the negative material that informs the shopper of what you won’t do – ‘no evening deliveries’, ‘no exchanges or refunds’ and ‘you are responsible for …’ signage will send her running or ensure a next-day cancellation. You can rephrase each of these negative statements into positive ones. If you are compelled to share them with a customer, you can do that privately via a short handout. 

That’s a nine-point checklist of what The White Glove Inspector is looking for. How did you score? Will you pass or fail on the next customer visit?  And, since many checklists are 10-point lists, what would you add to the list?

After spending money on building costs, displays and advertising, don’t lose your shopper because of the store’s appearance. Exceed her expectations every time, and you’ll sail past inspection and sales goals.

Gordon Hecht is senior manager, strategic retail for US-based Serta Simmons Bedding Company. He started his 30+ years in the home furnishings industry as a delivery helper and driver in Las Vegas, and later served in sales, retail management and consulting roles.

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