Store signage, layout and cleanliness together with shop attendants’ presentation, product knowledge and initial approach to customers were all highlighted as key areas for improvement in a recent survey conducted on behalf of Reed Gift Fairs into today’s shopping experience.
‘Mystery’ shoppers visited selected stores, and ranked their experiences against set criteria, in three major Sydney retail areas: Oxford Street, Paddington/Darlinghurst; Westfield Chatswood, Chatswood Chase and Victoria Avenue; and Westfield Parramatta.
“Overall the mystery shopper program identified that retail stores in Sydney metropolitan area were performing well,” says Omer Soker, exhibition director, Reed Gift Fairs.
“However, those areas that rated poorly could well make the difference between a customer returning to a store again, or telling other people about the experience in a positive rather than negative fashion.”
Shop attendants’ presentation and initial approach skills rated significantly higher in Sydney stores compared to the outer suburbs of Chatswood and Parramatta.
Chatswood stores rated most poorly for attendants’ presentation. Both Chatswood and Parramatta fared poorly for the time taken, and the nature of the first approach to the customer.
Particularly in stores likely to attract older shoppers, attendants’ presentation errors included excessive piercing, unkempt hair and untidy or inappropriate clothing.
One in five initial approaches was rated negatively because of an uninterested tone of voice, poor use of English (‘how are ya’), perceived lack of interest or no eye contact.
“It’s interesting to note that the mystery shoppers emphasised the importance of a good  initial approach, as this tended to result in an overall positive, pleasant experience,” says Soker.
The research also revealed that it is very apparent when merchandising displays are done by a professional or store manager with particular flair or skills.
Those window displays which evidently were set up by a non-professional often looked cluttered; did not look planned or themed; did not entice passers-by into the store or reflect the quality of goods; and could have better lighting.
Similarly, it was very apparent when in-store layouts were prepared without a professional’s intervention. The mystery shoppers reported that aisles were narrow, and it was difficult to view products or get around the store. In terms of tidiness, 17 per cent of stores were rated poor or very poor with common issues including boxes left on floors and untidy counter and back of store areas.
The Sydney stores rated highest in terms of window and front fascia cleanliness, paintwork condition, window displays and signage. Parramatta stores were the worst performing for tidiness.