7 Retail Turnoffs That Send Customers Away Screaming


Today’s retail environment is more competitive than ever. With big retail chains launching their own apps, installing the latest technology in their locations and offering an omnichannel shopping experience, small retailers have a lot to keep up with. Fortunately, some of the effective ways to put your retail store on a level playing field with the big boys are also the easiest, according to a new study.

Retail Turnoffs

A recent Harris Poll surveyed U.S. customers to find out what their biggest retail turnoffs are, and the results may surprise you. It seems the basics — such as a clean, well-maintained store — make a huge difference in whether customers will return to a particular store. Overall, “general bad odor” is the biggest retail turnoff, cited by 78 percent of those surveyed. Close behind on the list of retail turnoffs:

  • Dirty restrooms (e.g., floors, stalls, mirrors, odor) – 66 percent
  • Dirty surfaces (e.g., dust on displays, dirt on floors) – 65 percent
  • Entryway cleanliness (e.g., cigarette butts, overflowing trash cans, unkempt appearance) – 60 percent
  • Dressing room conditions (e.g., dirty mirrors, dirty floors, broken locks, lighting issues) – 56 percent

Women are more likely than men to be turned off by stores with poor dressing room conditions (65 percent compared to 47 percent). Baby boomers age 65 and up are least likely of any age group to return to a store with physical facility problems.

This study is good news for small retailers, because the problems that drive customers away are easily solved or avoided. You might not be ready to develop your own retail app to compete with the likes of Amazon.com, but you can keep your store clean and well maintained.

What’s the takeaway for your retail store?  Here are some suggestions to help you avoid having retail turnoffs:
1. Keep it clean. Use a janitorial service and/or assign employees to keep the store clean. Pay particular attention to restrooms and dressing rooms. You can institute a schedule and assign employees to monitor these areas and clean them up each hour. Employees can do basic cleaning, such as dusting displays, during slow times while the store is open. Save bigger cleaning jobs, such as mopping or vacuuming, for the end of the day or before the store opens.
2. Make it functional. Broken locks in dressing rooms and plumbing problems affecting toilets or sinks are among the functionality issues that drive customers away. Promptly repair any problems, and maintain a list of preferred plumbers, electricians, locksmiths and other professionals so you and your employees can get help quickly when needed.
3. Light it up. Lighting matters more than you might think. Problems with lighting, such as dim lighting in dressing rooms or flickering lights, turn off 40 percent of customers. If your store isn’t properly lighted, your products won’t be shown to their best advantage. More than that, however, dim lighting can be a safety hazard for senior customers and poorly lighted parking lots or entryways will make female customers wary of visiting your store after dark.
4. Don’t forget the façade. Even if everything inside your store is spic and span, the outside of the building can still turn customers off. Trash in the parking lot or near the store entrance, overflowing trashcans and a run-down look won’t exactly have customers crowding into your store. Do a quick visual scan of your store exterior every morning, and let your landlord know about any problems immediately — before they negatively affect your sales.
4. Safety first. Slippery floors are a turnoff for 52 percent of customers. Unsafe conditions like this not only keep customers from coming back to your store, but can also lead to costly lawsuits if a customer or employee is injured as a result. Have your employees immediately report any safety problems so you can take action.
5. Keep it quiet. More than four out of 10 customers say too-loud music, ringing phones and loud employees are a turnoff. Of course, this may vary depending on whether your target customers are teenagers or seniors, but in general, maintaining appropriate noise levels will ensure everyone stays happy.
6. Take your temperature. A store that’s too cold or too hot will turn off 30 percent of shoppers; more men than women find temperature issues a deal-breaker. Maintain your store at temperature that’s comfortable, while still keeping your utility costs within reason. For example, turning your air-conditioning on early in the day (instead of waiting until it’s sweltering inside) can keep your store cool without forcing your air-conditioning unit to work too hard.
Scream Photo via Shutterstock

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Rieva Lesonsky


Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow her on Google+ and visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.

2 Reactions

  1. I’m not surprised since these all affect the physical appearance. Whether we like it or not, we judge many things based on appearance. Luckily these are issues that are well within the business’s control (unlike regulatory issues) and can be remedied if employees are well trained.

  2. Aira Bongco

    I guess this is important because there are too much competing businesses nowadays. Also, you owe it to your customer to provide the best for them.

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