When I worked as a manager, district manager, and trainer for retail companies, I came across the term, “retail atmospherics,” on a regular basis. As a retail business advisor, I found that I had to explain the term to many of my clients. As a business writer who focuses on the retail industry, I also find myself explaining what, “retail atmospherics are to some of my readers. While there are many more aspects of retail atmospherics than I could list here, these are the basic principles.
What are Retail Atmospherics?
Retail atmospherics are the little steps that retail companies should take to make the purchasing experience easier, and more pleasant, on the customers. Retail atmospherics are steps that will usually increase sales and profits with little effort on the part of the retailer.
In most cases, the cost of these steps are minimal next to the amount of extra money that is made with them, and the amount of money that would be lost without taking the steps. Remember, these are simple steps that make the customer more comfortable with their environment.
While I know that this might sound overly basic, but utilities are a basic part of retail atmospherics, and in many cases can be some of the most important. Honestly, how long would you want to shop in a store that had no heat in the winter time? How long would you be able to bear a retail store that did not have air in the summer time? Would you be able to find your way around in a store that did not have lights?
Along with heat, air, and lighting, there are other aspects of a store’s utilities that add to the customer’s experience when talking about retail atmospherics. If you notice, most larger stores have both bathrooms and drinking fountains. Any store in which you are expected to spend a lot of time, such as Best Buy, Target, Wal-Mart, and Bed Bath and Beyond all have these types of facilities for your use. In some cases, large stores might actually be forced to close if their bathrooms have to be shut down.
Retail atmospherics usually direct companies to design their retail stores so that merchandise be on racks or on the walls. These racks should be placed in aisles so that customers can easily walk around the racks to find what they are looking for. There should be main aisles and side aisles so that the customers can be directed in some kind of logical flow of the store. The less clutter around, the more comfortable the customers will feel. All of these are aspects of retail atmospherics.
Retail atmospherics deal a lot with signs. If a store has something on sale, it should be clearly marked so that the customer can be directed towards that, or those, items. Clearance should be clearly marked differently than the rest of the merchandise on the sales floor. While retail atmospherics suggest that all items that are for sale should be marked, many state laws take care of this issue on their own.
Most retailers have come to the realization at this point that music calms people, and when people are calm, they are more likely to spend more money. Retail atmospherics teach that the music should make people comfortable, and not blow them away. If music could be used to symbolize the product being sold in the store, that kind of music should be used. Think about this point in terms of a junior’s department in a retail store playing Lady Gaga or Justin Timberlake. You can read more about music in retail stores here.
While you might think that cleanliness should be a basic staple of retail atmospherics, how many times have you been in stores and seen dust? How many times have you seen dirty windows as you walk through the front doors? How many times have you been stuck to the floor by a spillage of pop that had not been cleaned up hours after it appeared? Cleanliness is an aspect that is often even forgotten by the most strict of retail stores.
Employees are also directly impacted by retail atmospherics. Their section deals with performing customer service to the best of their ability. They should be easy to find and identify, and should be knowledgeable about the product that is in their department. Maybe, employees should wear name tags, should smile, and should engage the customer whenever possible.
Out of all of the area of retail atmospherics, the employee section is the one that is drifting further and further away. Superstores like Wal-Mart and Target are spending less time and money on training their employees to ensure that this area of retail atmospherics is progressed. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues, or changes in the future.
By having a deep understanding of retail atmospherics, I have found that I can walk into a store and tell if the store is geared for success or failure. With the exception of superstores, most smaller stores are geared towards failure by not following these simple rules.
Honestly, people have allowed themselves a certain mindset about the sales floor, and employees at superstores that allow them to turn the other cheek. Everything short of the employee spitting on them will quickly be excused and forgotten at these stores, but not others.