How not to run a shop or stall

I won a bet recently – I said that a local shop would be closed down and out of business before the end of this year – this despite it being in a prime location with lots of foot traffic. It was a classic example of how not to run a business – it was a clothes shop in a fashionable street where there are lots of unique shops and little boutiques. The owners were from a country where theft from shops, markets etc is a serious problem so part of selling there involved having people hanging around to stop thieves and protect customers.

Unfortunately they used the same system when they opened their shop locally.

Sure there are shoplifters, but local traders say its not a major problem – they know most of them and just call the police when they spot them on the street. So what was the problem and why was I so confident that their shop would fail? I drink coffee in a cafe across the road from them and watched them destroy their business every time they opened for customers. The first thing that would happen would be a male member of the family would station himself at the doorway, usually chain smoking and looking tough.

So many people who hesitated before moving on and going into the shop a few doors down would in my view be considered lost trade. The sentry really was that off putting. I’ve seen similar things happen at markets and fairs where stall holders smoke in front of and next to their stalls – one guy was selling food and had a customer walk away after placing the order because the seller had a cigarette between his teeth while wrapping it, heaven alone knows where the ash was going.

Whats the point? Times are tough – have you ever had anyone take an objective look at your business and the way you run things and give you some honest feedback? Surprisingly few business people do. If I can spot blatantly obvious stuff like this mentioned above while drinking a coffee or just walking around just think what someone paying close attention might come up with?

If you are not getting feedback from both your customers and independent observers (ask a neighbour/friend/cousin Jane?) chances are you are missing something obvious that isn’t doing your business any favours…