Just because this is a rant doesn’t mean there isn’t a point.
Christmastime always seems to bring out my latent crafty-craft tendencies, and this year is no exception. I decided to make these chocolate-covered marshmallows on a stick:
(I seriously need a better camera than the one on my phone. Come to think of it, I need a new phone.)
I’d probably make stuff like this more often – put anything chocolate-covered on a stick and you’ve got a high-perceived-value kind of edible – but it generally takes me the whole year to steel myself to do them. Not because they’re hard to make (they aren’t), but because getting the sticks and the melting chocolate and the little bags requires a trip to Michael’s Craft Store, and I can’t bear to even contemplate that more than about once a year.
This is what the lineup at Michael’s looks like, all the time:
Okay, this isn’t a photo of Michael’s. But you see how there are, like, a zillion people in line? That’s what Michael’s is like.
Today, I was the 33rd person in the line, and while it took me only 7 minutes to select the items I needed, it took me 23 minutes to get from the back of the line to a cashier.
And all I could think was: If I’m limiting my Michael’s shopping expeditions to once a year because I can’t stomach the thought of waiting in line, how many other people are doing the same thing?
I have similar thoughts about Winners and Tim Horton’s: There are plenty of times when I pass a Winners or a Tim’s and decide against going in because I can see the line is 10+ people deep, there are only 2 cashiers working, and I know that by the time I’ve been in line for more than 11 minutes, I’m going to need to go on beta blockers for sudden-onset high blood pressure.
How much does this cut into revenue?
It’s at times like this that I wish I was one of those behavioural psychologist researcher types who specialize in retail behaviour, because I would really like to know how much my – and I’m assuming I’m not alone – reluctance to enter certain stores ends up cutting into the bottom line.
How many people, running a little late for work in the morning, bypass Tim’s because they don’t have 15 minutes to wait in line? Does Winners lose business to other clothing stores because people like me can’t face spending 45 minutes combing through the racks followed by another 30 minutes waiting for pay for them? I know these stores have to balance cashier wages against purchases, but is a cashier:customer ratio of 2:10 really the most cost-effective in the long run?
Customer experience isn’t just about friendly salespeople.
Winners, Tim’s and Michael’s all seem to be leaders in their categories, and maybe they don’t worry too much about the business they may be losing. Maybe they can’t worry about it, because it’s impossible to measure. After all, as I said the other day, people in focus groups lie when they’re asked about purchasing decisions, so it’s easy to dismiss the “I spend less money at your store than I would if you had faster checkouts” claims of someone like me as false ultimatums.
On the other hand, Winners, Michael’s and Tim’s spend lots of money on advertising, so they must want more business. Once you’ve got good brand awareness – which all 3 of these chains do – then your marketing is really about keeping yourself top-of-mind so that people purchase more stuff, more often. But when staying top-of-mind can’t conquer people’s reluctance to shop in your store, you might want to reallocate your marketing budget to staffing, or even process engineering.