The Importance of Store Atmosphere

The Importance of Store Atmosphere

Following this year’s EntreFest Conference for Iowa Small Business Owners, my Fiance Holly and I went to Galena, Illinois to do some shopping. I’ve never been to Galena before, but had heard a lot about it from co-workers and friends.

Before I say anything else, Galena was amazing! Their downtown district seemed to go on forever. We passed and went into many different shops. We had only dedicated a few hours to the trek, but we could have easily stayed for a couple of days. Never have I seen a downtown area quite like that.

I would love to talk all about the wonderful things, but this particular blog post is going to be dedicated to an experience that I had which was rather unpleasant. Perhaps the reason why I am even blogging about it now, is because of the very sharp contrast of my experience with this one retail store as compared to all of the others that Holly and I frequented when we were there.

The problem?

Bad Store Atmosphere

When retailers usually attempt to engage in store atmosphere marketing, they normally try to create environments that are calming, pleasant, and alluring to customers. By transforming a visitors shopping task into an experience, customers stick around longer and become more likely to buy. Even if customers don’t buy that day- they will remember the experience and be much more likely to return to your store (AJ’s Copper Garden, for me).

The problem that I had with this particular store was three-fold:

The Smell

The first thing that hit us walking into this retail outlet was the very bad, musty smell. The smell alone was enough to make Holly turn to me like a puppy who had just got his favorite toy taken away and whisper under her breath, ‘let’s go’. Recently, we had Bruce D. Sanders do a pricing webinar for retailers, he also has a blog article about smells in retail.  The lesson: When trying to create positive store atmosphere marketing, don’t have a smelly store!

The Display of Products and the Lighting

The second thing that I immediately noticed, was how dark the inside of the store was. It was almost as if half of the lights were broken. This was only complicated by the store’s layout, where visitors were forced to shop via one very narrow path that ran straight to the back. The final straw was that all of this store’s merchandise was dizzyingly arranged, stuffed, and covered so heavy with dust that some items appeared to be colored gray. The lesson: customers will judge the quality of your merchandise based upon its condition while being displayed, including not just the placement but the lighting too.

The Service

On the way in and out we saw the shop owner behind the counter. He did not say ‘hello’, he did not say ‘good bye’. My friends know I am not a fan of those stores where the employees hunt you down like a wild turkey, make small talk about how you’re feeling, then offer to make you a deal you just can’t refuse on a great new pair of shoes. I actually prefer to be left alone when I shop.  This retailer sat and starred at us the entire time we were there, without saying a word. That kind of an attitude is just a tad too much the other direction for my comfort zone. The lesson: don’t creep customers out!

Rob Williams is a Business Analyst for the University of Northern Iowa

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