To look at the packed-like-Christmas parking lot was to see tangible evidence of its success. To DRIVE the parking lot was to experience the tangible evidence of its failure.
There were obviously not enough spaces built into a parking lot shared by 7 big box stores. The parking lot layout was complicated, with stop signs about every 20 feet, or so it seemed. The multiple lanes of traffic that were converging in many unnecessary places were all trying to figure out the taking-turns system of chaos that was supposed to pass for traffic control. The spaces that were easily accessible to my desired Borders destination were across four lanes of traffic without a pedestrian crosswalk.
While the flow of cars into the complex was substantial, the flow of cars out of the complex was equally substantial. The exiting vehicles might have been filled with satisfied shoppers who had just pumped their Friday paychecks into the retail economy. But since there were two SUV’s that had been doing the parking space dance with me, I concluded that it was more likely that the departing cars were filled with people who, like me, had decided to take their paychecks home because it just wasn’t worth the effort it would take to spend them.
Considering how difficult it is for some people to earn their money, retailers just can’t afford to make it difficult for people to spend their money. While most retailers don’t have control over their parking lot design, they have complete control over the design of their shopping experience.
I was shopping in an Old Navy store this week and there was one particular corner of the store that was a jumbled mess. Upon examination it was easy to determine why. All of the petite sizes were hanging on the top bars, which were way too high for petite-wearing women to reach. So, the small sizes had been yanked off their hangers to be examined, and then draped on top of the lower racks when they were not purchased. Why any retailer would think it is a good idea to put the short-person sizes on the top rack I will never know. But I will tell you from first-hand experience that it is the rule, not the exception.
The good news is that in every jumbled mess, there is the opportunity to recover lost sales. With every hassle, there is the opportunity to prove to the customer that you are willing to make changes on their behalf. With every exodus is the opportunity to find a way to improve the invitation to come back inside.