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Retail Relationships

I got a job for the season. I'm in charge of a little mountain boutique that sells SW gifts and food, some of it kitchy and cheap, some very fine and expensive, (I believe I have at least one piece of NA clay art that is $600.) The whole store is about 20x20 feet with 1/4 of that taken up by the bathroom.

Common wisdom is that people really do prefer to shop in these sorts of cozy little stores that sell unique handmade items.

Common wisdom is wrong.

Or at least common wisdom is not complete.

People really do *like* the stuff I sell. They don't always need it and, really, my biggest sales will be over Christmas when people buy a "New Mexico" item to ship to a family member or friend elsewhere, but they do *like* the stuff. And it's affordable, and much of it can only be found in our store (made by my boss, or now, me) and some of it is very nice classy expensive stuff, and since a good part of this area is "high rent" that should be a plus, not a minus.

What people don't LIKE is the experience of coming into my store to shop.

I watch them.

I say hello if they seem to want to be friendly. I pretend to be busy if they seem to want to pretend I'm not there.

Many of them are socially uneasy. Many of them make a point to say "thank you" to me when they leave the store without buying something.

The problem is that the shop is too intimate. Many of them feel like they ought to buy something and feel bad when they don't. It's almost like telling a Girl Scout you don't want cookies. Surely you could have at least bought one box of Thin Mints. So why didn't you?

People want friendly personal service but they don't want a guilt inducing relationship.

They think they like cute little boutiques but in their hearts they actually prefer Wal-mart.


Leah said…
You are so right, for years I tried selling my handmade wares at shows. Gave it up, because I wasn't even covering the cost of the table, let alone my labor.
I'm one of those who feels guilty when I don't buy from the small boutique. But for me, the big box stores are for 'everyday shopping'. I do like the small boutique for the special gift. Of course to be honest, I will mostly shop at those stores on vacation - when spending money on stuff is part of the whole experience.
Ymarsakar said…
I think it is also that you get the expectation that there are regulars while you are a stranger to the shop. In WalMart, everybody is a stranger, so there is no expectation of a divide in class.

Also small shops tend to be empty or have only a few people. This makes it somewhat uncomfortable if you are the only person there. Everything is quiet. Too quiet.

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