Analyst Corner

The Five Dumbest Things We Saw in Retail’s Holiday Shopping Season

Categories: Uncategorized

The title says it all, so without any further intro…

Number 5 – We Just Can’t Understand Why Sales Are Down So Much In This Store.

I have been a fan of a certain shoe manufacturer’s products for more than a quarter of a century. Their shoes are of excellent quality, and they last, but their channel model needs to be revamped, and in a hurry. Case in point…my wife and I went into one of their branded stores in the shopping mall near our home to look at some of the current styles. Being an analyst, I asked the gentleman behind the counter how business was, and in not so many words he told me that things were not looking too well regionally, but this store in particular was having a really tough time. We chatted for a moment longer, and then my wife and I headed back out into the mall. Once out of earshot, my wife said she knew why sales in that store were so poor. It turns out that two of the anchor department stores in this mall carry their products, and at least one of them had a sale price lower than that found in the manufacturer’s store. When combined with a department store coupon good for another $10 off any purchase, my wife found that the anchor department store cut the manufacturer’s store price by 29%, with the result being a nice new pair for yours truly.

Number 4 – Who Thought This Up?

I stopped in at major DIY retailer to pick up some items in preparation for our annual Christmas Caroling party, and ran into this nifty situation. In the cashiered checkout lanes, this DIY retailer has an EFT device made by one of the larger EFTPOS providers that requires three hands in order to operate it efficiently (I say this with some level of expertise, since my early career was spent designing systems for various military applications that required a fairly decent background in ergonomics). When a right-handed customer swipes a debit card in this device, the customer typically will be using their left hand to hold their wallet, from which the debit card was just removed. Having swiped the card, a message comes up on the touch screen asking if the total is correct, and it provides two regions on the touchscreen for an answer (Yes and No). The intent is for the customer to respond by using a stylus (or a fingernail, if the stylus is not present) on the touchscreen. This move requires the customer to either try to hold the stylus in the same hand containing the debit card, or to bring the entire process to a screeching halt by returning the debit card to the wallet and the wallet to the pocket or purse. Having responded to the touchscreen, a new message appears on the touchscreen asking for the customer to enter their PIN. Given the fact that up to this point, the customer has dealt only with the touchscreen on this device, the customer is well within their rights to expect a virtual keypad to show up on the touchscreen. Of course, this means they would completely ignore the fact that there is a 15-key keypad built into the device below the region of the touchscreen. Why both a touchscreen and a keypad are needed I have no idea, but I have asked nearly a dozen cashiers employed by this DIY retailer and each of them have said that the customers hate these particular devices.

Number 3 – They Paid Me $300 for Not Liking a TV.

Jerry, one of our associates, has had his eye on big screen TV’s for a while, and with prices in nose-dive mode, the post-Thanksgiving weekend seemed like the perfect time to take the plunge. He went to a notable retailer with one of their coupons for $300 off a certain level of purchase. That retailer had a phenomenal price on a 52″ TV. With the sale price and the $300 off coupon, the TV wound up being about 45% off the best price Jerry had been able to find anywhere else. So, he made the purchase, brought the TV home, and unfortunately found that the TV was a bit too big for the room. The wife concurred, so back to the retailer Jerry went. At the return desk, a sales clerk processed his return, but upon inspecting the receipt they handed back to him, Jerry saw a mistake. They credited his card for what he paid, plus an additional $300. Being an honest guy, he explained that there was a mistake because he was receiving back $300 more than he actually paid. The clerk insisted the transaction was processed correctly and even brought her supervisor into the discussion, who confirmed it as well. While staring at Jerry’s completely puzzled face, the supervisor responded by saying, “Yes, it’s OK, we’ll still get the credit for it anyway.” Still puzzled and unable to convince them otherwise, Jerry was off to get another TV, this time a 46″ model that fits the room much better. One wonders how many more $300 gifts Jerry could have received.

Number 2 – We Want to Make Things As Easy As Possible for Our Customers.

Another associate had another TV experience. He bought a new TV at a large consumer electronics shop that has a price guarantee. He bought it right before Thanksgiving for $899, knowing that if the price did go down, he could pocket the difference and see a few more football games in HD. The TV he bought was evidently one that was never on sale through most of the holidays (maybe because it was a weird 37″ size, which was all he could fit in his custom bookcases). But two weeks before Christmas, that TV went on sale. It was priced at $799 by itself, or $899 with a $300 XBox. So he goes into the store that day, figuring he would be able to pick up the ad flyer while he was there and use that for the return. The store was out of the ads. So, no problem, Customer Service will certainly have the ad. Nope, they didn’t have one either. So, with the help of a store associate, he tried to look it up on their “Cross Channel compliant” POS system. They get to the correct site, but they need to download and install Adobe Flash to see the ad. The POS device won’t allow the software to be downloaded. So he decides to take a walk to the TV department, since no one would answer the repeated intercom pages, and he finds the display with the TV and the XBox. Long, long, long story short, the store associate gave him a free XBox with 2 games.

Number 1 – Can I Leave Your Store, Please?!?

I took my four kids out one evening to shop for my wife’s Christmas gifts, and one of our stops was a nearby specialty retailer. Parking was no problem, and once inside the store we got a shopping cart to haul all of Mommy’s stuff. We were successful in obtaining all her desires, and checkout was pretty efficient in spite of the numerous people waiting in line. The real fun started when we tried to go out the exit and head for the car. You see, just outside the door were a dozen or so shopping carts on the sidewalk, blocking the exit. My twelve year old son (who played linebacker for his middle school football team) was physically incapable of pushing open the door for all of us to exit the store, so I man-handled the door open to where I could get out. Having done this, I started to move the carts to get them out of the way of the door, and found that all of the carts had their wheel(s) locked, since they were equipped with a theft deterrent system. I spent ten minutes dragging the carts out of the way, leaving a nice scrape mark on the sidewalk for each and every cart. All the while, my kids remained in the exit vestibule explaining to the angry shoppers stacked up behind them that their Daddy was trying to help them get out of the store. Store management was nowhere to be found, so I didn’t know whether to pin this on the rocket scientist that established the theft deterrent boundary at the threshold of the exit door, or a lack of operational procedures to relocate the carts once customers deposit them there.

If you have a funny or unusual Retail Holiday Shopping Story you’d like to share, please send your story to us at