The counter encounter: Clean up the clutter

Have you ever stood at a retail sales counter and actually had to move the clutter away in order to pass your credit card or cash to the salesperson? This is the counter encounter that we see increasingly in retail today.

Last week I looked at some leading retailers and a casual view revealed some very poorly, cluttered counter areas. One store I recall had a counter that had at least 80% of available area cluttered with signage, add on items, staff administration, pens, paper, snacks and drink bottles and other general stuff.

Fixing the counter encounter and clearing the area to ensure that the focus is on processing the sale, engaging your customer and welcoming them back should be the priority of those retailers who are losing the counter encounter.

Here are my top tips:

1. Keep clutter to a minimum: Showing the customer 15 different impulse items usually results in few or no impulse sales. Thoughtfully select one or two key products that a customer can pick up while the closing sale conversation is taking place. (Never put these items in the way of the customers’ space).

2. Don’t over-sign the area: Think of each sign as a separate voice; if you get too many voices going at once the customer won’t hear a single thing. Combine all of your policy signs into one single sign.

3. Try to minimise the actual size of the counter: Some counters are as big as battleships and dominate the store design and fixtures. I would always want the customers focused on the product and message not the fixtures. When designing new stores or refitting them – increase attention on reducing the counter size.

4. Keep it neat and well maintained: The main purpose of the counter is to be the place where a customer’s purchase is completed. It’s not a general workplace for the staff. Insist that it remain perfect during store hours. Ban sticky notes. Encourage staff to be in the habit of putting customer returns away immediately after the transaction. Ensure that staff rostering, and other administration is done away from the customer’s attention. Remember, the counter is one of the last things your customer sees and is a lasting memory of their experience with you.

5. The lean scene: Please encourage staff to remember that the counter at the hotel is not the counter in your retail store There’s nothing that turns off the customer more than an employee leaning on the counter. It sends all types of messages that are not conducive to a positive retail experience.

Hope that this helps you win the battle of the “counter encounter”.

This article was first published on April 7, 2011.

Brian Walker is the managing director of Australasia’s leading retail consultancy, Retail Doctor Group.


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