When I first arrived in Germantown, MD back in 1989, Giant was the "in" grocery store and Safeway was "out". Then, around the turn of the century, Safeway relocated to a new location with a better design, look and feel. Shoppers started migrating.
Then a few years later, even with a better looking (and newer) store, Safeway again did a whole new makeover solidifying the difference between the two of them so that it’s undoubtedly clear they’re not in the same league. Since selling is theater (meaning that the look and feel of the place matters), Safeway has literally been a Giant killer.
However, this past week, Giant tempted me with four 10% off my entire purchase coupons (one for each of the next four weeks). Since I normally spend around $150 week in groceries I thought, "Hey for $15-$60 bucks, I’ll give Giant one more try to see if anything has changed over the past few years." Boy, was that a mistake!
From the moment I entered I kept thinking, "Fifteen dollars isn’t enough to comfort my soul." The whole look and feel (the theater part) of the store was abysmal. I can’t think of a better phrase than that it was "soul-less." It felt like a throwback to the 80’s.
Ugly tile. White paper signs with big black type. Yellow and red "Everyday Low Prices," signs. Wide aisles because they’re not moving enough inventory (I wonder why?). Bright white lighting. Employees who don’t smile or ask, "May I help you?" Etc. It was depressing.
It didn’t feel like any improvement had been made to the store in years. There was no energy. No excitement. No passion. It was soul-less. Ten percent off the total purchase at a grocery store is a nice discount, but not for what it cost me. In other words, their discount got me to come to their store one time. But that shouldn’t have been their goal.
Their goal should have been to so WOW me that I would be willing to leave Safeway and start doing my business with Giant. However, the good news for Safeway is that they have nothing to fear. I’ll be back "home" at my local Safeway next week–and every week after that. Why? Because discounts just don’t trump theater in retail. Safeway’s got it. Giant doesn’t. And that difference is worth a lot.
So, as you take a look at your business, if you’re in a business with a fixed location (retail, commercial, office, church etc.), what does your physical plant say? Regardless of what you may want to think, it is saying something. The question is, "Is what it’s saying Wowing your customers or pushing them away?"
P.S. If you’re willing to take the risk, invite three to five people to tour your facility THIS WEEK and give you honest feedback about what it’s saying and what they noticed (like the ceiling tile that was water damaged three years ago that hasn’t been replaced yet :-).
Note: This is not a post about every Giant or every Safeway store in the country. So please only read it as an example of how theater really does matter when it comes to selling.