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By Frances McGuckin

Women are such complex people, and as times rapidly change, life for women becomes more complicated and what they are expected to achieve more complex. Statistics indicate that women control eighty percent of the purse-strings, so it makes sense to gear your sales and marketing strategies towards them. But first, you have to understand them.

Now I can’t go into great depth about that subject in a small column, but it should suffice to say that there are considerably fewer women who have the luxury of staying home, cooking, washing, ironing, sewing and housecleaning as my mom did. The typical mom works or runs their own business, is a community or school volunteer, ferries children to various activities; some care for their ageing parents, and she tries to squeeze in being the perfect mother – and staying fit, sane and healthy.

Most women I talk to are “too busy” and always “stressed”, with little or no time for themselves. So when they do make the decision to shop for an item or service, this is going to take valuable time and therefore much planning. The business that can most fulfill their needs and make shopping a bearable – if not enjoyable experience, wins long-term customers.

Baby boomers are opting for service and stress-free shopping, tired of the mega-monsters. Barbara Caplan, a New York-based consumer trends expert, stated in 2002 that “People want to hit the bull’s eye every time they do something or buy something. They want pleasure, enjoyment, connection with people, an experience—and they want to be taken seriously.” Caplan calls it the “affluent attitude”.

How does your store shape up?
Women notice everything about your store, from the first telephone call to how clean the washrooms are to whether you have good candy in that candy dish on the counter. If you are a man reading this, please don’t question any of this logic, just believe it. Women are complex creatures! I'm probably not telling you anything.

Take an inventory of your store's physical appearance. Women customers do.

Telephone: The telephone is the first point of contact that starts building customer relationships. Answering the phone sounding stressed, bored or curtly with just the store name doesn't cut it. Instruct employees to always use a warm, friendly tone. "Good morning, Willowtree Appliances, how may I help you?" Your tone and the way you talk to potential customers sets the first foundation in building solid relationships. Women decide whether to come in based on your telephone conversation.

Window displays: Making your store friendly and inviting to women doesn't have to be an expensive proposition. Start with asking yourself, "What message is my window display carrying?" A bunch of sterile equipment is not that attractive to women – machines are “a man thing”. Have sample products attractively displayed in a warm home setting. The "machine" perception then softens and women can relate the products to their home. Words such as "sale" or "inventory clearance" splashed on signs or across windows are music to our eyes.

Interior appearance: The store interior is the next to register. Is it tidy and inviting? Are colours warm and inviting? Has the store had a coat of paint lately? Women notice shabby, scuffed or dirty appearances. If the store needs a paint job, then paint it. It makes all the difference. Ensure that a clean, tidy washroom is available to customers. Busy women often plan their shopping trips based on where there is a "pit stop."

Organization: A well-organized store appeals to women – they love organization and a disorganized store reminds them too much of home. Ensure that signs direct them to where to find product and that they don’t have to hunt for them. Women are too busy and get easily frustrated if they can’t find something. Is there enough room to easily move around, or do they have to step over or squeeze past "stuff?"

Product displays: As with the window displays, show women visually what products can do. If there are accessories that complement your products, include them in the display. Clearly mark the prices and make sale items visible – and have enough in stock.

One-stop shopping: Accessories are income-generators, and women need convenience. Ensure that you have a good selection of product-related accessories in the store, so that shoppers don’t have to go elsewhere.

Sale and clearance items: Most women look for "sale" or "clearance" signs. Even if products aren’t on sale, have something to offer that is discounted. Make the signs large, and place a small teaser rack at the front of the store and the balance closer to the back, so that they have to walk past regularly-priced items to find the other sale items.

Staff appearance and manners: It should go without saying that both you and your staff should be neatly dressed and groomed and always treat customers as VSPs – Very Special People – treat customers as you would like to be treated yourself.

Don’t design your store to appeal to what you want; design it to appeal to what women want – after all, they are the Nation’s purchasing power.

This column is available for syndication. For more information, call Frances McGuckin at 1-888-771-2771 or e-mail

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