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Opinion: A busman’s holiday in America

Richard Aylett, co-owner of The Card House and Balloon Room in Ashton-in-Makerfield, Greater Manchester is made full use of his time in Nashville (while there to run a marathon and have a bit of a holiday) to do a bit of comparative shopping too. He can’t help notice the difference in the way Americans approach retail and the way us Brits do.

Richard Aylett is enjoying a busman’s holiday in the States!
Richard Aylett is enjoying a busman’s holiday in the States!

One of the best things about travelling is getting to grips with retail in different countries and how they approach the business aspect, whether that be the laid back French with their smooth approach to retail or the Spanish ‘tomorrow will do’ attitude. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to many countries and I can honestly say that there is no better place for retail than the good old British high street. But with that said there is a lot to learn from some of our American counterparts. In many parts they have tried to replicate what we do but with a touch of brashness and forethought.

Retail is alive and kicking in America.
Retail is alive and kicking in America.

One of the things I like about shopping in America is that you’re greeted every time you enter or leave a store. Now I’m not saying pester your customer as I think that has a negative effect, but what I’m saying is let your customer know that you know they are there and that you are available to help if required. This also enhances your store security as any potential shop lifter knows that you know they are there and that you’ve looked at them and attempting to engage with them this simple hello can have a real positive effect on your shrinkage.

If you’re unsure as to how your colleagues are engaging why not ring the store and see how you are greeted on the phone even go as far to ask a friend to go in and buy something as a mystery shopper and see what their experience is. There are also companies that will do this for you and I have actually used one and I honestly learnt how to change things for the better.

Two Old Hippies in Nashville is a textbook lesson in customer service.
Two Old Hippies in Nashville is a textbook lesson in customer service.

Two of the most visited stores in Nashville are both independents who are based out of town but both sell an eclectic range of products. Firstly there is Two Old Hippies that only opened seven years ago and fast became a must- visit store. What makes this even more incredible is the fact that when they opened their store it was in a less desirable area of town but its uniqueness of the customer experience soon made it a go to store for both cards and gifts. The welcome you receive is like returning home after a long day at work a very welcoming non-pushy shopping experience, there is so much to learn from their elegant style of product placement and customer friendly experience.

Draper James in Nashville is a pleasure to shop at.
Draper James in Nashville is a pleasure to shop at.

The second store is a store called Draper James and is a clothing and card and gift store again based on a high street out of the main town centre. It does have a major celebrity owner not renowned for retail, but that aside it’s a vibrant bright store with highly attentive but relaxed staff which makes it such a pleasure to shop at. It’s clearly a favourite of locals and it’s easy to see why.

I’ve visited both these stores over a two year period and both times the customer service has been amazing and I really believe it’s the customer service that sets both these stores apart from the competition, and if you ever find yourself in Nashville these businesses are a must visit.

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