The Perth Retail Experience

A note before I write: I was a staff member in the Perth retail experience for 8 years…well actually a lot longer if you consider the work done in my student days. I can speak from both sides of the counter.

This last week has seen the real gamut of retail – in my case I was a customer in two big retail shops dealing with hardware and stationery – and two small shops that trade upon their own. None of them shared common stock – I needed different things in each place.

The process of finding and selecting the goods was similar – go and look and take it to the counter for payment. In two cases I looked at the store’s catalogue online to make sure they had it – and in two instances rang ahead to confirm.

Little shop A had 7 or of 8 items I went for- being out of stock of one paint colour. No biggie – I’ll be there again many times. The checkout was done in 3 minutes and was very pleasant. I had a credit for past purchases and the computer dealt with that brilliantly. Couldn’t be happier.

Little shop B had foam-core board and kneadable erasers. Again, they answered the phone faultlessly and the checkout went like clockwork. Good visit.

Big Shop C had what I needed – toilet washers to fix a leaking cistern, but there was only one staff member on duty at one till out of 5…and a line of disgruntled customers who waited as the computer ground slowly through the entire warehouse stock chain to ensure that the trading statistics would be done. I pitied the staff member who was taking the brunt of complaint for the store’s inefficiency and foolish policies. I’ve been that person…

Big Shop D had the plastic sheet I wanted on their website, but not in the first mega-store I went to. Even with a visit to the front desk, there was no sign of it. Well, that happens. I thought, on reaching home, to re-check the website and to ring another of their branches to see if it was in stock there.

I ended up ringing 3 branches and getting a automatic menu but no answer to the phone at all. I was left wondering if their office works…

Will I rant? Rave? Howl at the moon? No…I’ll try ringing again tomorrow to save petrol. Frustration is no help to a project.

 

 

The Major Shop – Retail Clothing Part Nine

The big retail shop – Coleworths, Flyers, Getar, Big Letter, etc. exist in every major Australian city – indeed they have branches in multiple locations downtown and at shopping centres. In addition to white goods, manchester, and bargain bins full of toilet brushes, they sell clothing. A lot of it.

Many people stock their wardrobes exclusively from these stores, and can live comfortably by doing so. The goods they buy are generally reasonably well-made, reasonably well-fitting, and reasonably priced. But there is one disadvantage for the shopper: they will look like 250,000 other Australians each season. If they are frugal shoppers they will look like this more cheaply, but one season out of synch.

I can sympathise with this – I am equally well dressed, but in many cases the season is Winter, 1962.

The buyers for the big stores wield tremendous economic power in the clothing business, as they have very big purses indeed. And they are canny – they are always trying to achieve the perfect purchase…the garment that sells out completely on the last day of the season, leaving room on the shelves for the next attraction. But with this skill comes ┬áresponsibility. They are going to make the country look the way they buy for at least the next year.

Sometimes they get it right, and we all look decent. Sometimes they get it wrong and we all look like prats. And sometimes they get it disastrously wrong and we look like grubby, smelly prats. If you doubt me, I mention two words: nylon shirts.

I do not mind the clothing from the big stores, inasmuch as I buy anything. Their underwear does not chafe and their sweatshirts are good for at least a year. But I always pray that the designers and buyers will have done their job whilst sober. We have had far too many years when every garment has a logo printed on it somewhere and cannot be worn decently outside of a football stadium or tractor pull.