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Friday, May 2, 2008

Retail Default Positions

According to the CRT Code of Ethics & Standards, a CRT must:
Merchandise all Luxury Tobacco Products with the same care and respect it took to create them.
Merchandising is the physical and visual language with which our products communicate with the customer; and it should be commensurate with the quality of the product and your store.
Special Merchandising involves creating a new display/arrangement which will capture the customer’s eye and generate a sale. Other times the effects of merchandising are more subtle, but it will convey that you have an organized, clean, and thoughtful approach to your products and profession. This type of Day-To-Day Merchandising has a powerful impact on your customers even if they do not consciously respond to it or acknowledge it. Good, Clean Merchandising projects professionalism. Haphazard and less-than-clean merchandising says ‘we don’t care enough’. I stress the word clean here with the intention of conveying two meanings; Clean can refer to uncluttered as well as not-dirty. Every Tobacconist knows that our stores are practically dust factories so it is imperative to keep lighters, cases, humidors, and other products polished and clean.
With these fundamentals already established, we can get to the heart of Default Positions and Retail Theater. In every store, every product, display, machine, chair, ashtray, and instrument has a home; a default position. Events, Receiving Inventory, Customers, and sales will all ‘disrupt’ organizational equilibrium. In fact, the unique nature of our business creates customers that ‘feel at home’ when they are in our shops. While this may be our customer service goal, it can also lead to messy stores. Customers move furniture, ashtrays, products, and anything else in order to accommodate themselves; but the ‘inmates cannot run the asylum’. So Tobacconists must be thoughtful and proactive about RESTORING DEFAULT POSITIONS. Without this attention to organization a Retail Tobacconist will degenerate into a flea market-like booth instead of the professional luxury retailer that it is.
In the theater, every actor and prop has a ‘mark’: a physical location where they must be at any given point in time. And Retail Tobacconists are no different. We must have predetermined strategies and layouts for our facilities to keep them from falling apart and running amok. This may seem like a small or frivolous point to a novice or inexperienced Tobacconist, but it is critical to Retail Theater. As a Retail Tobacconist with two stores, I can tell you that a big part of my job is teaching and enforcing Default Positions. If we did not do this successfully, the stores would begin to look like disheveled war zones.
Be disciplined about Restoring Default Positions, and if you don’t know where something belongs, ask someone who does. Put things where they belong and then you and your customers will know how to find them. Organization can really be the key to success, and with a little discipline, even disorganized people can become functional retailers. Otherwise, you might as well just sell stuff out of the back of a van*.
*No disrespect was meant to people who sell things out of their vans. In my teens I sold clothes and swimwear out of my van and found it to be fun and profitable. But, this guerrilla style approach to business was not nearly as fulfilling as being a Retail Tobacconist.

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