A sign in a newsagent’s window that says they won’t accept a bank note for payment unless your purchase is over a pound could be viewed as either very clever or very silly. It is certainly a reflection of much that’s wrong with retail service in the city.
When an employee of the Brighton & Hove Business Forum popped into a newsagent to get a chocolate bar he didn’t have anything smaller than a £10 note. The chocolate bar cost 65p and the shop-keeper refused to take the note pointing out the sign displayed in the window.
As the disgruntled customer replaced the chocolate bar and left the newsagent helpfully pointed out that there was a bank a few doors along where the note could be changed.
There are a number of ways to view this incident which may seem small but actually highlights a lack of service that pervades too much of retail in the city. The newsagent is close to the Hove Town Hall bus interchange and may get people coming in to purchase something small in order to change a bank note and get coins to pay their bus fare.
Some retailers would not view the prospect of people spending money in their premises on things they don’t really want as being a bad thing. A purchase is a purchase regardless of the motive and if the newsagent made 100 such sales a week at 65p they would have an additional £3,380 in the till at the end of the year.
Perhaps the shopkeeper was very canny and realising this potential of this source of additional revenue he decided to maximise it by making people pay a minimum of £1 which, applying the same formula, would result in an extra £5,200 over the course of a full year.
Of course you would have to deduct from those figures all the people that decided that customer service was not foremost in the shopkeepers mind and never came back. The loss of their custom would be measured over a lifetime, not just a year and could ultimately cost far more than either of the sums above.
Sometimes retailers lose sight of exactly whose benefit they are running their business for. The city is full of shops that give excellent service with owners, managers and assistants that will make just that little bit more effort to make a customer feel valued but they are by no means universal across the city.
At a time when Bighton & Hove faces increasing comeptition from other towns and the internet and increasing problems of access, customer service is the key factor likely to save the day.
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