Happy Birthday, Buy something from me!

My birthday is over a month away but according to a few retailers, the time to spend is NOW! Though I avoid store cards no matter what the offer, I am a sucker for the ‘what’s your birthday?’ come-on ‘s at major retailers. So, it’s a nice treat when all my store friends help me blow out the candles. Of course, some retailer programs are more generous and less self-serving than others.

As a Sephora Insider, I received “We’ve got a Beauty Insider Birthday Gift waiting for you.” Can’t hate that because it’s a really good bunch of eye makeup. No strings—yippee!
DSW promises $5 off a pair of shoes, Victoria’s Secret, $10 off a purchase and J.Crew, 25% whatever I buy, as many times as I like, for the next two weeks. Very nice! The biggest discount was from upscale boutique Diane Von Furstenberg who’s sporting me to $50 off my next purchase.

For my money, J.Crew and DVF are the most appealing because they’re being generous with quality merchandise. As much as DSW and Vicky’s Secret are fun stores, a further discount wouldn’t entice me into a special trip to stores which are already low-priced. If I were their marketing director, I’d come up with free product instead. DSW might offer a cute clutch or on-the-spot free waterproofing for new boots. And VS ought to give away a free pair of undies or black tights. In both cases, they’d reinforce their product story vs just money off. I know that I can’t go to either store without buying something unplanned, but they need to lure me in with more perceived value than five or ten bucks.

Yeah, yeah, don’t look a gift (certifcate!) in the mouth! But it’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to.

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Whole Truth at Your Service

I am always on the alert for good and bad customer service and this holiday season is prime for detecting the Half Truths of retail.

Half Truth: I know what I’m looking for and don’t want to be pushed into buying something.

Whole Truth: I really want advice but am wary that I’ll be forced to buy more than I want if I ask for it.

Last week, a terrific associate named Trevor Dallier in the J.Crew store on lower Fifth Avenue in New York effortlessly balanced these Half and Whole Truths. I was looking for outfits for my college-age nieces. There were lots of great things on sale, but it was late, the checkout line was 15 people deep and I was feeling more stressed than creative about choosing the right cool combos.

Trevor to the rescue! His opener? “I’m a personal shopper here, can I help you put something together?” How did he choose me to help? Was it the way I was holding sweaters next to tees and pursing my lips? Was it the way I kept walking from one side of the store to the other, changing my mind from pink to black? Whatever my vibe, he picked it up. And he won my heart. He knew the merchandise and sizing tricks, had great fashion sense, mixed sale items with new ones, even added styling tips which I can pass on with the gifts. Best of all, he followed up the next day with an email, inviting me to special events, promotions and a phone relationship where he’ll snag and hold things that I want from the catalog if there are limited quantities.

This is the Whole Truth. A chain store can become a prized boutique when service exceeds expectations. A sales associate can add value and increase average order (sure beats the over-used strategy of price cutting to gain volume). The holiday shopping season which often stresses store personnel as much as their customers, can be a time to create new relationships for the new year. Simple…if only there were more Trevor’s out there.

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July 24, 2024
by Mary Lou Quinlan

A look at an early production of WORK


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The God Box Goes Global!

“The God Box” has grown to include an app, audio book, philanthropic venture and solo show performed by Mary Lou across the US. Now The God Box Project goes global to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
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