I laugh out loud at the antics of the lovable main characters.
- The gay Mr. Humphries (shown above) was played by John Inman, a brilliant English actor, who died in 2007 (that was a sad day for me when I read of his death)
- Captain Peacock, the floorwalker with unparalleled self-esteem
- Mrs. Slocombe, the wig-wearing and naughty women's department manager; Mollie Sugden, who played Mrs. Slocombe, died this year
- Miss Shirley Brahms, a young, attractive working-class cockney-speaking assistant to Mrs. Slocombe
- Mr. Rumbold, the autocratic, obsequious manager of the floor
- Mr. Lucas, the young, flirtatious junior salesman
- Mr. Grace, the very old and feeble store owner who surrounded himself with well-endowed young women (also dead)
Today, department stores are struggling to find new models to help them stay alive and possibly grow their market share. Month after month, I read in WWD about the dismal declines in department stores' net income and profits. They have a lot of work to do to adjust to customers' aversion to high prices and poor service. Have you tried to buy something at Macy's in the last few years? Could you find a sales person at any register? Once you did, did you have to wait to buy something you had selected and tried on without assistance? Did you ever try to ask a question? Was it easy to find someone with a brain who could answer? Macy's has, purportedly, added 1,600 sales people in 69 cities across the country to supervise. Great, but those aren't the people who are going to be there to help me on the rare occasion I show up.
This month's WWDBeautyBiz has an interesting article called The Big Bang - department stores fighting back with new strategies to lure and keep customers. Ground zero is the beauty department. There's a reason the beauty department is front and center in department stores. Beauty makes money! Many top retail players are revamping and redesigning their beauty departments and experimenting with new formats, while they retrain their associates to develop relationships with their customers. In October, Bloomingdale's unveiled in New York what WWD called "arguably the most advanced high-tech selling floor in America." Bloomies' CEO knows, though, that high-tech is only half the story. Customer relationships are the other half of the equation.
At Saks, the beauty brands are teaming with the store to remodel their counters as the store invests in training and technology to help put associates in touch with their customers. I can count on great service at Saks in Chevy Chase, Maryland. I work with associates at Neiman Marcus who call or e-mail to alert me to upcoming bargains. I love Jane Makowka and Christopher Coles at Nordstrom, both of whom personify the best in relationship selling. As a side note, customer relationship management isn't a new concept. I led process architecture/improvement work for clients in the 1990s, and it was all about "knowing" your customers and building relationships with them. This was before department stores experienced the Great Recession, a jolt that forced them to join other industry sectors that had long known the value of "customer service."
I'm a loyal customer, and I buy from "my" sales associates over and over again (some, like Brent Holmes who sells shoes at Saks Chevy Chase, for as long as 40 years!). I drag them all over the store with me. If I find someone who cares about me, I care about them. I want them to get the commission on what I buy, not some "clerk" who happened to be near a register when I arrived after selecting my own purchases.
I wish the department stores well. I would hate to see them disappear. I like them. I hope their new strategies work. Their success will be better for all of us!
Meanwhile, I continue to fondly watch and laugh with the award-winning cast of Are You Being Served? They're a hoot!
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia