Beyond fabricated ambience, into retail auras
No expense is spared on fixtures, lighting and fittings. Colours, packaging and point-of-sale are coordinated so as to be pleasing to the public eye.
A huge amount of resources are dedicated to anticipating the psychological needs and wants of the shopper, to lull them into a false sense of comfort.
So why does it not work for all brands?
The same reason parties, nightclubs and other festivities fail. How many times have we experienced the deserted dance floor despite impressive optics and popular tunes? Or the sombre pub propped up by a single local at the bar where empty tables and chairs dressed to impress wait in vain. The suited maître d’ rearranging the silverware front-of-house to pass the time in a lavish restaurant. While next door, or across the street, a similar outlet thrives.
Where the client is prepared to queue rather than venture to the barren vendor close by.
The answer lies in a business’s failure to nurture and invest time and money in a culture.
All talk about it, most put it on display and some try to convince others. Yet so few do much to ensure its development. Culture is but a reflection of how employees react based on the perception of personal growth, how they feel they are treated and if the company cares about the community.
Culture is about people out of which stems an aura be that positive or not. A pervasive atmosphere felt to be emanating from a place. A sensory consciousness palpable by the consumer. Human instinct dictates we seek interactions with others when entering a new environment.
This makes the first point of contact critical whether it be eye contact, a smile, or nod in determining a safe habitat. Followed by a gut evaluation of the prevailing aura to confirm the status.
Aura varies from brand to brand, store to store and sometimes even between departments.
This occurs when leadership fails to sustain the mood’s positivity and influence its disposition, due in no small part to the lack of emotional intelligence at the highest level – where a dependence on predetermined online surveys and performance reviews that lack inclusive awareness.
The reward is self-perpetuating, as is the culture, for both feeds on the success of the business and the person. For those who cannot pick up on the aura or appreciate its value, they need to question their relevance and career in retail.
For the future of the industry is about the participation, the entertainment with the sole difference of the people.
Retail is about people, for people, by the people and the aura is the collective expression of the people.
Dave Farrell is a retailer and writer with three decades of experience on three continents.