E-commerce not to blame for store closings

Store closings are a bit alarming, especially a store that has been around for quite awhile. We remember going to that store and how well it did and how much we loved shopping there and now it is closing, for good.

Bob Phibbs, CEO with a New York-based consultancy firm, The Retail Doctor went shopping. Per Mr. Phibbs, the closing of brick and mortar can’t entirely be laid at the door of e-commerce is the conclusion he came to after going experience at Neimans.

He sites a recent trip to the Neiman Marcus flagship store in Dallas, Texas. He arrived with a friend and when entering the store, they were warmly greeted, and that was the first and last time. They went on to the men’s department and upon arrival heard 2 sales representatives speaking loudly and they never turned their heads to observe if a customer was there or not.

They began to look at items and his friend pointed to a shirt that was just made for him. He looked at it, and still not a soul came over to ask if they could be of assistance or direct them to a dressing room. He ended up trying it on in the middle of the clothing racks on the floor!!! He then noticed a lovely plum colored leather jacket and was for certain going to find his size and try it on. Again, not a soul came over to ask if they could help or direct him to a dressing room, as for sure someone must have noticed he tried the shirt on right there among the racks of clothing, or maybe it went unnoticed. The jacket was designer and it was marked 20 percent off and he said he would have purchased at full price but nevertheless he took his two items to check out. He had already had enough of getting zero service on the floor. Now at check out the young woman mentioned a pair of slacks that would be perfect with his jacket. He thought thank you but too late, where were you an hour ago, where was anyone. He thanked her paid for his items and left happy with the purchases and dismayed with the shopping experience.

From a store like Neiman Marcus, they were the epitome of customer service. They were helpful without being pushy, always available should you need someone and for sure you were not trying on clothes on the floor. They made suggestions, would go pull items for you to try on, took your items for you to check out. They were always at arms length to help you, but not pushy, very discreet, and you knew they were there just to assist you.

To read of this man’s experience at the store was sad. You didn’t go to Neiman’s just when you needed something, people just loved to go for the experience. I guess that is gone as well.

Everyone called it Neiman mark up but the truth is they were no higher than any other high end store. And as I said some shopped just to buy “something” from Neimans. It was like going to the Fantasy land of shopping. And the restaurant, the Mariposa room, and the fabulous hamburger made of Texas beef, was not expensive and the food was fabulous. People made reservations to have lunch there and may or may not shop. There were a lot of “Texas” items, not like an airport, but cook books, pottery items that depicted Texas and jars of jalapeno jelly, and chili sauce, and just the right number of things in great taste.

So to hear of this man’s experience was pure sadness for me. He added that he is not surprised that Neimans is in debt to the tune of $4 billion dollars. He came away thinking, just because you are a store that sells designer labels, that does not mean you stand on the sidelines acting aloof until a customer asks for something. That is truly an outdated notion stores have convinced themselves that that is all that is expected of them. I don’t care where or what the name of the store is , customer service is crucial to the success of your business.

The end result is if shoppers are going to have this type of experience when they go to the brick and mortar store. then no wonder so many are closing and we should not be surprised. After all you can sit at your leisure anywhere in your home in your pajamas and shop on line and have the same shopping experience as going to the brick and mortar store and not get any help at all, or maybe enjoy it more.