Retail Lessons You Can Learn From Pretty Woman

Last post: Oct 24, 2014

We look at what can be learned about best retail practices from the film 'Pretty Woman'

You must have heard of the film Pretty Woman? If you haven't, it's a film starring Richard Gere as a successful businessman who falls for a prostitute played by Julia Roberts. You are probably wondering where I am going with this blog, but stick with me.

During the film, Julia Roberts is given some money to go and find suitable attire for a dinner date with Richard that evening. She decides to pay a visit to Rodeo Drive, one of the most prestigious shopping areas in Los Angeles. However, her shopping trip doesn't go to plan and she is treated badly by some of the sales staff. They don't believe that she belongs in their upmarket establishment and essentially refuse to serve her.

Looking at this scenario, and if you've seen the film, you will see that there are a number of lessons independent retailers can learn from this:

Appearances can be deceptive

Just because someone doesn't look like your ideal customer doesn't mean that they don't belong in your shop and it doesn't mean that they don't have money to spend with you. Make sure that you and your employees leave judgement at the door when they come into work. Until someone proves that they are genuinely a time waster, or that the products you are providing are not for them, treat them as if they are your perfect customer.

In Pretty Woman, Julia's character wasn't dressed in the way that the sales assistants associated with their ideal customer. Not only was this a hasty judgement on their part, but it lost them a customer who was ready to make a purchase.

Look at the value of your customers over a lifetime, not based on their current transaction

Many independent retailers and their staff still make the mistake of looking at a customer's value through the eyes of the current transaction they are making. Successful businesses look at the lifetime values of their customers, it doesn't matter how much they spend today, the important thing is that you treat them in a way that encourages them to come back to your over and over again. Even if they spend nothing with you today, that doesn't mean that they won't in the future, they may just need a little time to think about it.

When customers find a company that they feel comfortable with, that treats them with respect, they will stick with you and so will their money. This flows nicely into the next lesson.

Treat every customer as if they are important

Everyone who walks through the door and into your shop is important, they are a potential customer and should be treated as if they are your top priority. After all, they are the reason that you are in business. In Pretty Woman when Richard accompanied Julia to a different store, she was treated like she was the most important person to walk through the door. Admittedly it was because there was obviously a lot of money at stake, but regardless of this, that's how you should treat each and every one of your customers – they are all important to your business.

Add complementary services

Adding additional services that complement your products can be a great way to encourage custom. Ordering pizza and giving up an item of your own clothing, as happens in the film, might be a step to far, but what about complementary coffee and a seating area in a bookshop or as an area for weary friends and relatives to rest whilst clothes are being tried on? If you run a hair salon, coffee, magazines, and a complementary hand or foot rub so that your customers feel fully pampered could put you above your competitors. What could make your customer's experience with you the best that it can be?