Friendly Shopkeeper

Retail staff are intrinsic to fashion. Not only are they the ones that interact directly with customers and hence get a feel for who they are, but they are also the ones that have a very direct influence on sales figures since they ‘seal the deal’ and create a large part of the shopping experience. They can have polar effects on customers, from enticing them to make much larger purchases than planned, to making them feel like victims of stereotyping In this light, it’s incredibly important for sales staff to use the right sales techniques – be approachable and friendly, but also not too enthusiastic. Here’s why the lesser of the two evils is probably the stand-offish approach, and why staff should avoid being either.


In the luxury sector, sales associates can often come across either as judgemental and distanced, or as pushy and annoying. There’s nothing more awkward than walking into a store and feeling judged and watched by the sales people. In the past I’ve left shops because I’ve felt as though the staff were following me around to check on whether I am trying to steal something (needless to say, I’ve never stepped foot in the store in question again). It’s not possible to judge someone’s purchasing power based on their exterior – how old they are or what they chose to wear that day don’t indicate whether they are going to buy something or not. At most, levels of personal hygiene and confidence could serve as an indicator – but I’m doubtful that even these are always reliable. Sales associates should not pigeonhole. All customers need to be treated in a friendly manner.


Source: ‘Retail’ comics by Norm Feuti

A positive effect that this ‘snobby salesperson’ may have on sales: if someone treats us as less important than we believe to be, it can sometimes trigger a desire to prove ourselves – even if only to a random salesperson who is of no importance in our life. It’s just human nature. I know many people who have admitted that they ended up buying items from luxury brands just to prove that stupid snobby saleswoman that was serving them wrong. I have done it myself (although I definitely regret doing that now – but I will write about that experience in more depth another time). Customers need to collectively fight this instinctive urge – or else snobby sales assistants will continue to exist.

Pretty Woman syndrome – classic example of buying something just to prove ourselves to the snobby salesperson 😉

Extreme friendliness, on the other hand, is unlikely to coerce customers into buying anything. A very amusing article in a swiss newspaper recently illustrated just how off-putting over-friendly salespeople are. When we get the impression that sales assistants are putting on forced, fake friendliness to push a sale, we feeling as though this salesperson is trying to trick us. Shopping experiences should feel novel and exciting. If we think the staff doesn’t share our enthusiasm for something, but is actually just pushing product, we feel cheated. The experience loses its appeal. We don’t want to give them the satisfaction of ‘making the sale.’ We are smart – we are not going to let that over-friendly person trick us! How many times have you heard people say “but those salespeople tell you that everything looks great anyway – I need a real opinion!” – classic example!

Retail Comic

Source: ‘Retail’ comics by Norm Feuti

On some occasions, stores do it right. A few years ago, my mom and I were at a christmas apéro at Louis Vuitton. It was a lovely evening. The champagne was flowing and everyone there – including the staff – seemed genuinely happy to be there (no snobby salespeople in sight). The sales assistants were happy to show everything on request, but were not pushy. People could have had lots to drink and eat and not even looked at a single item, had they wanted to. No-one was looking to push that sale by being annoyingly friendly. My mom and I even ended up getting into conversation with some other women there and had a really good time. I ended up seeing a scarf that I really liked, and one of the sales people helped me decide which version would be more suited to me. Two months later my mom returned to the store and the salesperson that helped us pick out the scarf asked her how I’m doing and whether I was still enjoying that lovely scarf. That is dedication – this person not only remembered my mom when he saw her, but he also remembered me even though I wasn’t present. AND he remembered what we bought – because he was happy that he could help us find something that we liked. Even though the only thing we bought that evening was that scarf (there were much bigger spenders there that night). Whether or not this sales assistant actually really cared that much or just has an impeccable memory is beside the point. He came across as genuine, and how that made my mom feel as a customer is crucial. To this day, Louis Vuitton is a brand that my mom and I love. Not in small part because we have shared some fun times there and feel truly valued as customers.

This is what brands need to work on – sales assistants need to be trained to tread the fine line between being too distanced and being too friendly. They shouldn’t make customers feel like they need to prove their worth to them, but they also shouldn’t try to be ‘best friends.’ Customers should feel as though they are being assisted by someone who cares just as much about finding a nice item to buy, as they themselves do. It needs to feel genuine – not competitive or forced.


Check out more cool comics by Norm Feuti at:

Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. There’s definately a great deal to know about
    this subject. I love all of the points you’ve made.


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About Anna Abrell

Postgraduate at the London College of Fashion, studying MA Strategic Fashion Marketing.




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