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USA Shops - the Good, the Bad & the Ugly Part 2

Updated on May 1, 2014
One of the better shop fronts I saw
One of the better shop fronts I saw

Last week I listed the top shops that I saw during my recent study trip to the USA. This week I have part 2 that covers some of the other good shops as well as some average shops.

What was interesting is that I found significant differences in levels of customer service right across the USA. It appears that the less busy a city was, with less transient population, the better the customer service and sales experience.

Las Vegas

The hospitality staff were second to none, really providing exceptional customer service, however the experience in the Retail shops was reduced. In busy locations such as the Miracle Mile Shops and the Premium Outlets the staff didn't approach or offer service, you needed to make the approach yourself. On many occasions I also found that staff who were returning merchandise to the shelves or were remerchandising would cut you off as your browsed in the store. At the Gap store in the Miracle Mile shops the supervisors was so disinterested in serving me that when I said not to worry about helping me he said great!

New York

This is one busy city and the shops were pumping with too many customers and not enough staff. In these busy shops it's hard to provide service and I guess that due to the sheer volumes of people, sales targets are easily attained. There were a couple of exceptions being Nespresso, where the team provided great service, engaged with me and sold me some coffee that I could have easily bought in Australia! Cecilia at C.O. Bigelow engaged me Friedman style on the floor and worked with me to find a gift for my wife. In addition she checked that they could ship to Australia and offered me personalized service for my next order online. Similarly to Las Vegas the wait staff were all brilliant.


After New York, Atlanta was life a breathe of fresh air in terms of sales and service. The way that the locals speak meant that I felt like I was listening to melted honey - it even made me feel special. I experienced this at the hotel, at the local restaurants and even at Walmart. It must be something about southern hospitality, because even the beggars were polite!

Los Angeles

Friedman sales comes from California and in my brief walk along the shops at Santa Monica beach I experience Friedman sales everywhere I went. The staff in these shops did the 180 degree walk by, asked non related business questions, sold to me needs both direct and suggestive as well as asking for the sale. The highlight was the team at Champs sports who sold me a couple of caps for my kids while cross selling me into some Stance Wade socks ($14 each!).

Overall, different experiences in different cities! Following is some more detailed commentary on the second set of shops I observed.

Miracle Mile Shops

Top range of Middle America brands, two main highlights:

- Gap: big store, well merchandised with plenty of stock and price points (40% discount day). Staff, however, were hopeless at customer service and there was no sales techniques.

- American Apparel: really interesting fit out. They have huge volumes of stock, but use strong light to try to create an airy feel and to make it more welcoming. I thought that the window display was clever - just 3-4 mannequins with stock on in the window, but you could clearly see the stock beyond. Feel that they are as cluttered as RAA, but have made it work.


While each casino has a theme, some are dated, others are newer, and much of the techniques are similar. Ceiling lighting makes you feel in a timeless state - it could be morning or night and you would never know, machines are strategically placed near walk ways to entice you to play. Cheap machines are in quieter areas and tables are in the heart of the casino. Clearly they have cleverly created POS stops, bread and milk sections and high value/new machines in the hotspots.

Lulemon Athletica

The fit out holds true to the values of this brand - green and natural. Recycled wood is used for displays, which are on rollers so that the stock can be rolled away for the weekly free yoga sessions. This is prominently promoted on the windows.

Old Navy

Is a budget brand with poor customer service and an inability to find any stock! They did create an icon with thongs - an entire wall with different coloured thongs in each colour (value 2 for $5) to draw customers in. Think most of their sales would be online now as there was definitely no positive experience.


Really good example of using imagery to inspire customers with their product. Also are aligned to brands such as Ferrari. This store was one of the only that had iPad instore to go deeper into the brand story.


Big flagship store with display of all the current fashion for the brand. They display the stock in use and motion to give the customer an inspirational view of how it could look and work. Overhanging the wall is a light box displaying the three stripes, which subconsciously leads you to the back of the store, passing all of the stock.


This brand plays right into their segments with its adventure statement on the door. Inside there is a strong use of earth colours such as wood and brown and snowboards to emphasis what the brand is about and it's lifestyle. It really would be attractive to people who seek adventure, can live it rough and want to see the road far less travelled.

Crate & Barrow

This home wares brand has created some of the best window displays I have ever seen. It shows the furniture in use in a aspirational display and setting to drive traffic!

Ramsey's Steak

The theme commences at the entrance with mini skirted girls escorting you to your table. You enter through the 'Chunnel' and we went upstairs. From here we had a view of the entire restaurant. The theme of modern Britain continued right across the fit out and clothing worn by the staff. The additional experience was the way that the steaks were presented. They bought a tray out with fresh cuts of meat as the 'menu', explained them and we ordered. Really great ambience & experience combined with a perfect fit out to complement.

Key Learning

1. You need to ensure that your fit out aligns to your brand. The top end shops have clear lines and simple window displays, whereas the more everyday brands had more stock, but created an ambience through simple window displays

2. The usage of digital signage creates the ambience and experience that you want your customers to feel. Doing this simply and effectively will lead to increased sales and loyalty.


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