Signs, accessibility, environment contribute to making customers feel welcome
When a potential customer sees your ads or your store, do they feel comfortable coming to shop if they know they are perceived as different? How are you saying ‘You are welcome here’ to people of all races, ages, religions, sizes and abilities?
Photos and Signs
As a visual merchandiser, I know the power of photos
but am wary of using them for this purpose. They have to be just right or they
can work against your brand. Several people of color I spoke with said that if
they see a photo with a Black/Hispanic/Asian/Middle Eastern person in the store
window or on a visible wall from the street, they are more likely to shop the
From the logical point of view, having a photo (or
many photos) with each race or religion represented can begin to look overcrowded
and like you are playing to sales, so balance is important.
If you choose to use photos, they need to be big —
really big. At least 3 feet long by 4 feet high and simply framed. Ideally, if
you can find or produce a photo with individuals of varying nationalities, you
have a winner.
Additionally, a door sign can simply say ‘We welcome
everyone’ or ‘All are welcome here.’ I have seen door signs that say, ‘Hate has
no home here.’ Unfortunately, the word that stands out is hate. Leave out
negativity. If you like lists, a more positive door sign may say, ‘WELCOME all
sizes, colors, ages, cultures, sexes, beliefs, religions, types and people. YOU
ARE SAFE HERE.’
People of varying sexualities may feel anxious about
restrooms. If you have a unisex bathroom, the door signs can simply state
‘All-Gender Restroom’ or my favorite, ‘Whatever.’
People with limited mobility often feel less than
welcome in a retail store, especially when the aisles won’t accommodate a
wheelchair or walker, or there’s no handicap access. Revamping older buildings
is costly and can be challenging architecturally. An outside ramp is sometimes
less expensive than reworking the inside of your store. If you can get people
into the store who need a ramp, perhaps have a table and chairs (or area for
them to stay in their own chair at a desk) so you can present options using a
tablet, laptop, brochure or catalog without going up stairs.
Older customers also need to feel comfortable in
your store. Besides the potential issue of floor-level changes, certain chairs
can be unwelcoming to older people. Close your eyes and imagine that your knees
hurt when bent, your back throbs with pain when you lean forward and your
balance is off due to arthritis in your feet. Now, with all that in mind,
imagine the only seating in the store is an Adirondack chair.
Ideal chairs for people of all ages have sturdy
arms, with seats of normal height (18 inches) and slightly wider. They should
hold up to 250 pounds. The chair can be wood or metal, but adding an
upholstered seat will make it more welcoming and comfortable. Try to buy a
chair with a seat you can remove to recover as needed.
Also, don’t buy a chair you haven’t sat in yourself.
Buying chairs online based on reviews often gets you chairs that only work for
the reviewer, not the different body types in your stores.
Dark, dramatic stores that just light their spas can
look fabulous and intriguing — just remember to also light the signage. Older
customers may have a more difficult time reading if the light is dim. Because
there is a lot of visual information offered at each spa, add an LED spotlight
to the signage. If there are any floor-level changes, those should be extremely
well lit even if the rest of the aisles are softly lit.
Balance often becomes an issue as people age. In the
restrooms, install grab bars next to each toilet. They can make a huge
difference to someone living with pain. Each spa that has stairs should also
have handrails. If you are marketing certain spas to younger customers, that
may not be necessary. But if there is any chance it will be touted as great for
aging people, add those handrails right away.
There is a local store I can’t spend more than three
minutes in without getting a headache. I’ve been told the scent (‘stench’ in my
mind) is the wax they use on their floors. I avoid this close-by store because
of that odor.
Environmental hypersensitivity is very real, and
scent is usually No. 1 on the hit list. Mold, mildew and overly strong chemicals
(chlorine, cleaning agents) can cause allergic reactions. For some, perfume
allergies are real. If you are promoting a line of scents for your spas,
consider beachy or citrusy scents, as they rarely annoy scent-sensitive people.
Loud music or flashing lights can trigger panic reactions in some people. Unless your only customers are tweens, neither makes sense in a spa store. Music works best when it’s not so loud it makes conversations difficult. Finally, the most important way to welcome people into your store is to look up from whatever you’re doing or whomever you are speaking with, smile and offer greetings. This is a powerful way to help people who otherwise may feel anxious, defensive or uncomfortable instead feel that they are desirable customers. It is worth more than all the signs and photos on earth.