The Most Important Lessons Learned by Retail Clothes Stores: With Obvious Parallels to Fundraising

If customers don’t see themselves in what you offer, they won’t come in the store.

Those that come in are often “just looking’.

If a salesperson is too aggressive, they leave.

Customers want to try on clothes without being pushed into buying.

If the sales rep gushes and fawns about everything they try on, they lose faith in that rep and, by implication, the store.

If the sales rep talks them into buying something that didn’t quite fit, they won’t come back.

If the clothes they buy prove cheaply made, they won’t ever buy that brand again and they’ll tell everyone they know to avoid it.

If the clothes seem worth the price, they’ll keep coming back.

Customers prefer to shop for what they want most and for which they are willing to pay the most.

If they are afforded a positive store experience they’ll continue to shop in person; if they don’t, they’ll buy online but spend less.

The best sales reps don’t follow customers around but remain attentive from a respectful distance so they can respond quickly.

If the sales rep listens and gives them good advice, they’ll ask for that person when they return.

The customers that spend the most do so for clothes that best suit them, the store that best accommodates their style and sales rep who figures out who they are and what they like.

No one will buy bad clothes just because they like the sales rep.

The best sales rep can’t make up for unattractive products.

If sales reps are asked to meet unrealistic quotas, they will leave.

If good sales reps keep turning over, the best customers will be less inclined to shop at that store.

Too many store managers look for the wrong qualities in sales reps and discourage the good qualities in the ones they have.

Attractive products induce people to buy and buy again even if the sales rep isn’t topflight.

The best customers have become more discerning, more serious about their choices, more keen on lasting value.

Sustaining success in the clothes business requires paying close attention to what people want to wear not what fashion designers think they should buy.

If most of your customers are over 60, something is wrong with your product mix.

Stores and brands that smugly assume brand loyalty is so strong that they don’t need to keep up with changing consumer taste and behaviors will go the way of The Limited, Merwyn’s and Filenes.


Jim Langley is the president of Langley Innovations. Langley Innovations provides a range of services to its clients to help them understand the cultural underpinnings of philanthropy and the psychology of donors and, with that knowledge, to develop the most effective strategies and tactics to build broader and more lasting communities of support. Jim has authored numerous books including his most recent book, The Future of Fundraising: Adapting to New Philanthropic Realities, published by Academic Impressions in 2020. 

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