jeans

Lucky brand not so lucky anymore

January 19th, 2017 Posted by Brand preference, Retail brand building, shopper experience, Uncategorized 6 comments on “Lucky brand not so lucky anymore”

Retail experience paramount to brand relationship

I love this quote – it demonstrates how quickly things can dramatically change:

“In twenty minutes you can sink a battleship, down three or four planes, hold a double execution. You can die, get married, get fired and find a new job, have a tooth pulled, have your tonsils out. In twenty minutes you can even get up in the morning. You can get a glass of water at a night club – maybe.” Raymond Chandler, Farewell My Lovely

You can destroy ten years of retail equity and loyalty in five minutes. Failed policies and poor training can set in motion what we affectionately refer to as the spiraling vortex of doom.

Retail is experiencing one of the biggest relevance squeezes in history as more demanding consumers grow less tolerant of missteps and violations of the customer-comes-first code. Too many options exist now and choices abound, especially online, waiting in the wings to rescue consumers from bad retail behaviors. Here’s a poster child example…

Jeans. I wear them everyday, and for the shift to casual attire in business I thank the gods of cultural change. So jeans are a thing for me – an essential wardrobe component and thus a sartorial priority. I care about my jeans.

I have been a decade-long exclusive and devoted customer of the Lucky brand of jeans. I like the fit, the price, the color options – and their retail store is just a few minutes from my home – so convenient. For these attributes I have rewarded Lucky with my jean purchases for more than 10 years.

I recently got a pair of Lucky jeans as a gift from my wife, who knows my preferences for the brand. But the size wasn’t right and the fit choice not my favorite. So I went back to the store to exchange for another style. The clerk saw me walk in with my pair of jeans in hand and the scowl on her face suggested she might not be pleased to see me.

I explained my need and she asked for a sales receipt. I said I didn’t have one as it was a gift. But all the assorted tags and stickers were still affixed including price tag thus it was clearly a brand new, never worn pair. I further explained that I just wanted to exchange for another style and would be happy to pay any price difference as needed. She said she couldn’t help me because no jeans of the size I wanted existed in the store.

Now please know I’m not a doormat in these situations, and made it clear I would like to find a solution. So the manager is enlisted – he tells me the store location is closing, that remaining inventory is to be sold off and thus why my size isn’t and won’t be available. I ask for a credit I can use for an online purchase.

He says he can only give me $12 (they cost $100) for the jeans because that’s the policy when closing out store inventory. The discussion goes on as I attempt to talk them into finding a creative way to make me, their decade long faithful customer, happy. Nothing doing. I said: so you’re telling me I’m screwed? Manager: pretty much. I left with my wrong jeans in hand. It was policy he said that dictated the intransigence.

Most of the time we don’t consider the where’s and why’s of our loyal behavior other than the ability to execute a pleasing purchase. Within five short minutes the friction filled in-store experience abruptly ended 10 years of brand preference and loyalty. I wondered how many other customers had been ‘touched’ by this unlucky brand of policy punishment.

If customers are merely walking wallets and the relationship is purely transactional then the future will belong to e-tailing where algorithms remove the human issues. If retail is to be successful, customer relationships must be looked upon with the greatest respect and cherished completely end-to-end in operations and the care and feeding of customer experience.

In my case, the ‘surprise and delight’ of previous retail experiences at Lucky turned to ‘frustration and consternation.’ Good luck, Lucky…

The recipe for improvement here begins with drinking at the cultural well of customer devotion. When the company ethos and mission are embedded in building lasting relationships with those that walk in the door, the behaviors at point of sale will go more smoothly through the ups and downs of business change.

Training can’t be underestimated or underplayed as a vital link in cultivating the right customer experience. Well-trained employees present the face of the brand and influence the perception of value and being valued. Finally, policies can help or ultimately destroy brand reputations. Policies that are not customer-friendly virtually guarantee outcomes of unhappiness and separation.

Jeans are not purchased; happiness is. And unless this concept of where value truly exists takes root fully inside retail organizations, it will be harder to keep the brick and mortar system healthy in the face of online convenience and frictionless digital purchase.

Brand franchises are built on the feelings people have while in the presence of a brand or retail banner – so this key factor in the relationship should be respected.

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Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, the healthy living agency. Emergent provides integrated brand strategy, communications and insight solutions to national food, beverage, home and lifestyle companies.  Emergent’s unique and proprietary transformation and growth focus helps organizations navigate, engage and leverage consumers’ desire for higher quality, healthier product or service experiences that mirror their desire for higher quality lifestyles. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

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6 comments on “Lucky brand not so lucky anymore”

Not WellCrafted says:

It sounds to me like there was possibly an excuse to leave the brand in this case. If you are saying that after 10 years of a product you “loved” was destroyed by one asshole of a manager (who, if you think about it, probably was in a pissed off mood since his store is closing, so he’s not exactly who would want as the ambassador of the company), then that doesn’t sound like a 10 year loyal customer, that sounds like someone who had a store conveniently located nearby. Did you call customer service, or go to a different store? Just play the real story, not bend it to fit your excuse to leave. I have dealt with morons and idiots at many a store of all brands.If I am loyal, I figure out how to get what I want and if repeatedly the customer sucks in all avenues, then I will leave them. But one idiot at a store that is closing? I expect nothing really, and once I had heard it was closing, I would have left. Anyone working in a store that is closing is more likely to be a bad experience, they just don’t give a shit about anything at that point. For all you know, he was being fired as well. Not a good story.

Catherine Gruman says:

I feel your pain and consternation. These types of experiences have made or broken my loyalty as well. What did you do with the jeans, btw?

Retailer for life says:

This is a perfect case of how 1 experience can destroy a business relationship. And for “Not Well Crafted” above….sounds like you need to find another profession and clueless to the importance of customer service to a brand…regardless of the state of that particular location.

Angel says:

I absolutely love this article. I have been saying for years now that customer loyalty doesn’t exist anymore. For some unknown reason retail stores have stopped caring and they don’t know how bad it is hurting them. I am very worried too since when I need clothes I prefer to shop in stores. I like to feel the material before I buy it because when you order online and it’s not what you wanted, who has time to return it if only to be done by mail and exchange it? I don’t. I want it right then and there not weeks later. If you can take what you ordered online in the store to exchange it then your faced with the problem of the store not having that item. All in all, to me, ordering clothes online isn’t worth it not to mention all those “fake” store that are all over the internet.
I now work in merchandising for many different companies after working 10+ years in brick and mortar stores and I see the lack of care these employees have for their customers in every store I travel to. When I’m in a store working and a customer comes to me with a question instead of saying “I don’t actually work here, for this store”, I try my best to help them since I am at the store often and have worked in many of the aisles so I might know where something is but if I cannot I will find an employee of the store and ask them for help. One day a customer asked me where something was and since I didn’t know I went to find an employee and caught one about to walk in the backroom. I asked her if she knew where the item was the customer wanted and her response was “I’m not actually working right now, I’m going on break” and continued to walk through the door. I was very shocked by this and stood there for a second in disbelief that an employee in uniform, wearing the companies name actually said this. When I worked in a store and was either not on the clock since I just walked in or heading to the time clock to clock out for break and a customer needed help, not once did it ever cross my mind that I’m not on the clock or how badly I just wanted to go on break and I helped the customer, even if they stood there telling me the story behind why they were looking for that particular item. When your in uniform, wearing the companies name, you are representing that company on the clock or not. Without customers, you have nothing! No job to come to, no paycheck to cash. So you need to keep those customers happy because you need them to come back, you need them to pick your store to shop in over the store down the street. There is so many options and competition now a days that customer service should definitely be a top priority. Customers will definitely pay a higher price and/or drive more miles to get to a store that they feel cares about their needs and happiness. Companies and their employees don’t realize how valuable a long time loyal customer can be to their business. Customers are free advertising for them. If a customer really likes a store and how they are treated they will tell other people about that store, those people will give the store a try and if they to had a great experience they will tell others about their experience and so on. One bad experience no matter how big or small can ruin all of that. Even something as simple as walking a customer to the item they are looking for can set the tone for whether or not that customer will keep shopping with that company. It gets to me when a customer asks an employee a simple question and they get “no I don’t know” as an answer and nothing more when they should be get “no I don’t know but I can….” And either go find an employee or manager who might know or help them figure it out another way. Going that extra mile can go a very long way with customers and will keep them from shopping with another company and become a loyal customer to your store.
I guarantee there is, at the least, 2 other options that manager could have done to help you out with those jeans. Also, he also shouldn’t be taking his anger out on you. Maybe he is the reason that location is closing? Maybe word of mouth got out about how he doesn’t make customers feel welcome or help customers when asked, so people stopped going to that location? Either way you shouldn’t have left feeling the way you did and with a solution of some sort. In my opinion, retail companies need to communicate more with their employees and consistently remind them of ways to handle situations, remind them of their options they can use when handling situations and remind them that the customers are what keeps them in business. Companies also really need to interact with the employees and involve them in some company changes they may be looking to make in the future. The employees are the ones actually working in the store and might have very good insight regarding those future changes that can help improve business for the company. Bottom line, customer service should be #1 on any retailers list. Without customers you have no business.
Thanks for letting me get that off my chest finally sorry if it starts to sound like I’m rambling, I couldn’t figure out how to word some of it. Hopefully you understand what I was trying to say.

Valerie says:

Well it sounds like they were losing their jobs. It’s tough to be cordial when in most cases you are cut off from the rest of the company. The goal of the business becomes make as much money for the liquidation company. It is too bad they couldn’t set you up with web returns and set you up to make an exchange. So happy I no longer work for a corporation and have to answer questions about why I’m not following policy that doesn’t make sense to the customer.

steven k levine says:

I too was a ‘Lucky” fan, until my most recent pruchase. It seemed like they cheapened them up for the same price.The branding with the double loop at the back, the ‘lucky you’ on the zipper panel greatly reduced in size, the smaller belt loops, etc. totally changed for the worse. What a shame.

They WERE the best, looking for something like the originals.

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