Blech. Ick. Blah. How many onomatopoeic words can I find that accurately describe this week’s weather? Rain, a chill wind, and wet leaves all mix together to create general misery for anyone unfortunate enough to be outside. Even my umbrella seems to have given up — I felt a distinct lack of enthusiasm as I tried to snap it open this morning.
I once read an article written for salespeople and retail workers that cautioned against using the weather as a talking point with customers. The author claimed that discussing something as banal and commonplace as the weather was uninteresting, unoriginal, and ultimately a huge turn-off for consumers who are already overloaded with extraneous information. Why waste one more precious second of their day?
On the surface, I agree with his premise. Why bore your customer with a useless conversation that distracts them from their real purpose — hopefully, of course, buying something. (I would probably get a little annoyed if my barista attempted a full-fledged conversation about the heat index if it delayed my iced coffee for the duration of our talk.)
On the other hand, I have a feeling that author is not a resident — or even frequent visitor — to New England. Around here, the weather as a subject of conversation can lead to very serious (and interesting) revelations about your customer. We have Weather with a capital “W” that can change in an instant, and it influences everything from what we wear and how we drive to whom we vote for (really).
When working for my former Big Guys company — a purveyor of outdoor gear/clothing and very well known around here — the weather was prime material for figuring out just what a customer needed and wanted. In jewelry retail, I would argue that the weather shapes the type of jewelry we wear and sell. Short chains and chokers do well when the weather is warm enough to warrant an appropriate neckline for them, but long dangly earrings are likely to get caught in scarves and hoods. A bracelet is a beautiful accessory at any time of year, but perhaps the one with the dainty clasp should be left at home when jackets and gloves are removed all day long. And I defy anyone to sell an anklet, no matter how beautiful, in the middle of winter.**
I helped a customer select a chain for her new pendant just a few weeks ago, and one of my first questions was, “do you plan to wear this necklace with a turtleneck?” The woman paused for a moment and said, “you know, I was planning to wear it for my niece’s wedding next month with a dress I love, but I do normally wear high-neck shirts and sweaters when it’s cold out. What should I do?”
Simple solution: 16″-18″ adjustable chain. Sold!
If I hadn’t considered the weather and how a customer might dress for it, her original choice might just have ended up back in our stock. I’ve lost count of how many potential returns we’ve avoided just by asking whether the recipient has long or short hair — it matters, gents! — and showing merchandise accordingly.
It’s chilly and rainy out there today, but I have high hopes for tomorrow (music cue…).
**Okay, if that person is lucky enough to be headed for a tropical island, MAYBE they’d buy an anklet. But I still doubt it.