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Took my grandsons to H & R Trains in Pinellas Park, Fla. last weekend. It’s a store filled with Lionel and other brands. There were demo trains running, whistles tooting, train videos playing with lots of sound. The whole store had an excitement to it from the moment we walked in.

Idea: The atmosphere at H & R was clearly no accident. And, because it impressed me, my thoughts immediately went to: I wonder if our showrooms have an air of excitement when people walk in, or are they basically “dead air.” Is it worth employing sounds and activities to generate enthusiasm? It’s something to think about.

Idea: Then, I saw the sign, “Little Engineers,” in an area of the store and picked up a copy of the “Little Engineers’ Gazette.” It described the Little Engineers Club and the fact that one Saturday each month the folks at H & R conduct classes for kids on various train subjects such as Christmas trains, a very appropriate subject for the December classes. This month, the kids will learn about tunnels and snow. Oh, yes, there is registration fee of $8 for each class and I’m told the classes are always booked up in advance! When I asked if it produces sales, the salesman smiled at me and said: “It works!” Is finding ways to keep kids interested and involved is worth considering?

There’s a rapidly growing chain of food outlets called Five Guys. They just serve good hamburgers and fries and they’re reportedly doing very well. I know, I had to wait in a fairly long line to order at a “Five Guys” in suburban Cleveland recently.

Idea: In training personnel, Five Guys puts a strong emphasis on friendly, efficient customer service. They reinforce this desired “culture” by employing a “secret shopper” program. Bottom line: If a location receives a score of “Excellent” by a secret shopper, that shift splits a bonus of $1,000! Boat dealers aren’t burger joints, but the use of creative incentives and rewards for achieving the desired “culture” within the dealership is worth considering.

Idea: Also at Five Guys they believe employees should regularly know how their business is doing. Each week, they provide the staffs of Five Guys in an area a one-page newsletter that reports the sales for the week, compares them to previous weeks as well as to the other area outlets. Regularly letting employees know how business is doing (and how their doing) works for Five Guys. Something to think about?

Finally, in the book “Why We Buy,” author Paco Underhill describes how he uses a hidden video camera to help retailers analyze how consumers act and react in their stores. For example, Underhill’s videos revealed that elderly customers simply give up after they make attempts to reach the products that are on shelves too high for them. Sales lost. The store lowered the shelves! Sales improved.

Idea: Studying a video of how customers move around the showroom or the accessory sections is worth considering.


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