Service going out of fashion???
Service levels in the UK’s fashion retail sector are on the decline, despite the need to keep customers when there are fewer around with less to spend.
That is one of the findings in new research by performance measurement company Grass Roots.
It was found that although slight improvements have been made by staff to establish the needs of their customers (when compared with a previous survey carried out in 2005), significantly less initial assistance is being offered in store.
The survey found that 63% of customers were not offered assistance in the Fitting Room. Staff encouraged just one in five customers to make a purchase – the implications in terms of lost sales opportunities at the first point of contact and during the customer visit are alarming in these difficult times in retail.
Major findings of the study, carried out from 300 mystery shopper visits to 17 high street fashion chain, include:
Reduction in spending power — 62% anticipated that their spending on clothing would reduce in 2009 with 22% seeing the reduction as ‘considerable’. Only 34% of shoppers felt their expenditure would stay the same as 2008.
Time is of the essence — 79% of customers waited over three minutes to be approached by a staff member, a decline of 61% since 2005. The majority of customers (68%) were not approached at all.
Establishing customers needs — Some good news – retail staff are more proactively questioning customers to establish their requirements, an increase of 7% over 2005.
Happy to help — 85% of customers felt the staff member gave them a knowledgeable answer to their enquiry and 80% displayed good product knowledge. 91% of all staff were viewed as helpful and polite.
Fit to sell — Less than half of customers were offered assistance whilst using the Fitting Room. Only 20% of customers were encouraged to make a purchase and as few as 10% of staff suggested additional items to match or complement the article being tried on.
Likelihood to return — The probability of customers returning to a store they visited based on their service experience showed a minor decrease over 2005 to 81%. The number who would recommend the store to friends and family remains fairly consistent at 74%.
Nigel Cover, board director at Grass Roots commented: “We are all painfully aware of how tough it has become on the high street. Our study indicates a huge fall in the number of staff approaching a customer within three minutes of entering the store, which could be seen as a result of retailers having to cut back staff or a more timid approach in difficult times. Comments from our shoppers indicate that staff members are generally available, but they are failing to seize the opportunity to make a good first impression with customers. This is a worrying trend for retailers. Only those that address key service issues will come out of recession with their customers intact and their employees motivated to deliver.”
The survey found that over 60% of shoppers will be spending less on fashion this year and that just over a quarter of all customers would not recommend the store they visited to friends and family. Cover said these are clear warning signs to retailers.
He added: “Those who invest in understanding the current needs of their customers and honing the knowledge and skills of their frontline staff accordingly, have the greatest opportunity to retain shopper loyalty albeit with their reduced spend, in today’s climate.”
To download the full survey report, visit www.grassrootsmeasurement.com