The Department Store Job

Would Macy’s Tell Gimbels?

The time-honored adage above refers to the legendary rivalry between two great New York-based department stores. In the end, Gimbels— which owned Saks Fifth Avenue, was where Lucy Ricardo shopped, and which started a Thanksgiving Day Parade four years before Macy’s did — closed its doors. Macy’s, of course, is still around. And, while stores can go out of business because of mergers, acquisitions and poor management, the deciding factor in a department store’s success or failure is its ability to attract, retain and increase the numbers of customers who shop there.

The saying, “would Macy’s tell Gimbels?” also refers to the divulging of industrial and marketing secrets to the competition. When competing, a business does not want to share its recipe for success. But, my job is to share secrets of success with you. And it would appear that one of the biggest secrets to one’s success, whether “one” is a retail business or a person who works in retail, is delivering top-notch customer service. At least, it certainly appears to be a secret because few individuals or stores seem to know about it or practice it! Over the past several decades customer service has deteriorated to an alarming level. It’s no wonder there are so many cranky customers!

Therefore, to stand head and shoulders in the retail industry, and in your job–whether it’s a part-time, full-time, temporary or permanent position– it’s the wise student or young professional who makes stunning customer a big part of her or his brand. You will stand out and be noticed, appreciated and remembered. Keep the customer happy should be your mantra.

Of course, keeping one’s boss happy and performing one’s job expertly are also keys to a successful tour of duty at a department store. So, please refer to the job tips in the recent blog entries, Supermarket Job Savvy and Summer Job, and apply them to your work in a department store, along with the following additional tips:

  • Be considerate of, patient and courteous to customers in fitting rooms. Make them fell welcome; keep fitting rooms clean and tidy; be available to assist customers; and remove clothing items left behind and replace them on the proper racks promptly.
  • Direct customers to the correct area, cashier or associate. Never tell a customer that it’s not your department or you cannot help her. Always take the time to help or find an associate who can.

Let your guide to success be the knowledge that the two most important people at your job are your customer and your supervisor–and that without the former there would not be the latter. This is true whether you’re working at a large store like Macy’s or a boutique. For this reason reason I highly recommend reading the book, Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service, by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles. The book was published 20 years ago, but the advice it imparts is timeless. It features the ideal department store, supermarket and gasoline station from the customer’s point of view, which is the one that counts.

Until next time,


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