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Chances are pretty good that William Shakespeare never shopped at a mattress store, appliance or home furnishings supercenter, but...


As you probably recognized, the title above is a quote from the Great Bard, William Shakespeare. Some scholars credit Big Bill with inventing over 1700 words in the English language. If you have spoken words like advertising, fashionable, marketable, or even bedroom, you can rejoice in knowing that they appeared first in a Shakespearean comedy or tragedy.

Although he wrote around 400 years ago, many of his greatest lines apply to our business world today. There are many ways to differentiate between the Bard's comedies and tragedies. For me, it comes down to this. In the comedies, the hero or heroine lives. In the tragedies, they perish (often taking a few other people with them along the way). How you operate your business can also be the difference between comedy and tragedy.

Chances are pretty good that Shakespeare never shopped at a mattress store, appliance store or furniture supercenter. Due to poor urban planning at that time they all were against zoning laws at the Globe Theater. However he did have a lot to say about our business. Here are some quotable lines he might have said after visiting your location:

  1. “Better three hours too soon, than a minute too late.” Imagine if WS drove up to your store at 9:55. Would he find the door locked as the store team waited for the strike of 10 to turn the key? Would his vehicle (whatever they drove in the 1560s) be the only vehicle in the parking lot? Sure, retail days are long days, and some store people like to show up just at opening time. But it is a fool's deed to try to show up and open up all in 90 seconds. Being ready 15 to 20 minutes before the curtain goes up on a new retail day should be a store rule. The first shopper in the door usually buys!

  2. “What is in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” What if Shakespeare himself walked into your store asking for a brand that your store does not carry? Would he witness a flustered and disappointed retail salesperson who says that it's not a brand that the store carries and sometimes even tags on a disparaging comment about the brand the shopper requested? Or, sometimes in a slanted view of good customer service, would the RSA send Bill to another retail store?

    Just as if WS called a ROSE a DOORKNOB or a BUCKET, the flower would still smell as sweet. He may be asking for Brand X, but what he really wants is a MATTRESS (or sofa or microwave oven). RSAs who congratulate a shopper on researching Brand X can then confirm that they also have done their research, and decided to sell a different brand because it offers more value. Inviting a shopper to experience the look, comfort, and craftsmanship of the products in the store will cause greater satisfaction and even a few more sales!

  3. “All the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players.” I am not sure of the whole world, but I can assure you that your retail store is a stage and when it comes to selling, the BEST SHOW WINS! Successful retail owners and managers rehearse their sales teams on every part of a selling presentation. This includes advertising, merchandise features and benefits, and the added value their store offers to shoppers like William Shakespeare. It's up to RSAs to deliver that message in a way that the audience can understand. And every audience, like every sales presentation, is different.

    “You don't have to put a clock on it, but if your RSAs are doing 70 percent of the talking and 30 percent of the listening, they are probably losing too many sales.”
    You may have RSAs that declare that they won't sell a particular product because they don't believe in it. It's madcap! It is NEVER an RSA's decision to shield an appropriate item from a shopper. RSAs don't have to love every item in your store, but they have to ACT like they do.

  4. “Though she be but little, she is fierce.” I am not sure how often Mrs. Shakespeare took her husband, the Bard, on shopping trips. She probably had her own credit card and looked forward to getting away from all those Thee's, Thou's and Thy's for a few hours. The Bard knew — and you should too — that every shopper has a loud voice, be that they were treated right or wrong. In today's world of social media, bad experiences are carved into the digital sky and good deeds are often merely written onto water.

    You can take advantage of both scenarios! Respond to negative comments on Google, Yelp, and Facebook. Never debate the merits of negative comments on social media, you will surely lose. However simply responding “we are sorry for your experience-please call our store manager (Name) at 555-1212 so we can make this right” will show you care.

    For your raving fans-it's important to get their comments out too! Don't let your best customers become a silent majority! Actively seeking positive five-star reviews will make your store stand out from the Sea of Sameness that populates the retail environment today.

  5. Brevity is the soul of wit. William Shakespeare was not a lot different than the shoppers in your store (and even ME!). I found reading or viewing a Shakespeare play boring and tedious when I was in high school. (And not because the plays had not just come out!) When I read or see those same stories now, I find there's true comedy, great insight, and life lessons in each one. People love to tell a story. Their number one favorite subject is themselves. Listening to shoppers tell their life story while in a retail setting can be boring, but it is often said that “When they are talking, they are buying”. You don't have to put a clock on it, but if your RSAs are doing 70 percent of the talking and 30 percent of the listening, they are probably losing too many sales. Flip it to 70 percent listening – and I mean active listening – and 30 percent talking, and you'll see an amazing increase in sales and job satisfaction.


“RSAs who congratulate a shopper on researching Brand X can then confirm that they also have done their research, and decided to sell a different brand because it offers more value.”


You may never see William Shakespeare in your store, but you will see his soul live on with each shopper that leaves without buying. Bill would say “Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I say good night until the morrow”. Your shoppers might simply say “I'll be back”, never to be seen again. Put on a great show with great players and avoid the tragedy of lost business.


About Gordon Hecht: Gordon Hecht is a business growth and development consultant to the retail home furnishings industry. You can reach him at Gordon.hecht@aol.com