The Occasional Shopper: Oh, MYER

On Wednesday afternoon I stepped into MYER to buy a birthday gift. There was me and about three other customers in the store. I went straight to the book section and perused the shelves, then came across a bin full of cut-price volumes. 

"75% off the already marked-down price!" screamed a sign. And I did think, "I like the look of this book and would have been happy to pay the already discounted price without the extra 75% off, but since it's in the scrap heap, why not?'. Paying just $6 for said book, as I did, almost felt like a crime. I snapped up another book for my niece, too, for $4.95, and two bookmarks, for which I paid full price (oh, my!).

The experience is telling. This week MYER reported a sharp fall in profits for the first half of the financial year and also warned that full-year expectations would be less than grand, likely 10 per cent down on last year's result. 

Chief executive Bernie Brookes put the poor result down to the macro effect of Aussie consumers engulfed in increased living costs, unemployment, global economic concerns and domestic political uncertainty. 

Then, on the business side, Brookes says higher wages, occupancy and depreciation costs are also impacting profits. Penalty rates and the general retail award, he says, are not in line with the current climate and that could mean letting go of some staff, including uni students. 

"There is no doubt that the customer is no longer shopping Thursday night and Saturday morning but shopping all through the week," he said. "We need to be able to respond to that by having flexible workplace relations and the ability to negotiate our own deals under some rules with our own people. There is a need to wind back penalty rates – some of those penalty rates go to 200 per cent."

He has committed to improving service in the store and MYER's online presence and there's a slim chance the store will close on Sundays in some areas.

There's some truth to all that, of course, though it's a bit oblique. Yes, consumers are going online to hunt down bargains, but why on earth would we want to go to your store? It is desolate, a no-shopper's land, and there is no real point of difference.

I really don't think it's a case of MYER selling enough stock, and all of us gravitating online to chase down the bargains, but of MYER's inability to create an in-store experience to keep us going back.  

I want a "department store" experience, I want to feel looked after and look at nice things and have them packaged up good and proper if I choose to buy them. 

I have encountered many gentlemen, like the one who served me yesterday, and ladies who work the MYER counters who are warm and friendly. While in any business you are bound to encounter people for whom relations are not their strength, but they probably they shouldn't be in retail customer service.

When I walk into the store, across the perfume floor, I don't want to feel like I'm in hostile enemy territory, either –  I don't want to be shot with perfume or looked up and down in an eye-balling dressing down. 

I don't like secret conversations behind the counter. Or overhearing bitchy remarks about other staff. Or being made to feel on edge because you are chasing down someone who has flogged some goods from the dressing room. 

Kindness, respect and civility are all missing. Where did they go?
We have completely lost the plot when it comes to the true value of most material things, to the point where they are just shoved in bins, just like a dump. And that's not only MYER's fault: it's our own, too. We got greedy and now we are remorseful (or is that just me?). 

Gobble, gobble gobble, and who cares where it came from or who made it or whether we really need it: it is a bargain and I simply must have it now!

This Saturday MYER is having a "SUPER SATURDAY" (of course, you won't be able to be there because you will be at my clothes swap party) with yet more super-savings on stock throughout the store. 

But why not a "SUPER SATURDAY" event based on drawing in people to have a cool and unique shopping experience? Just like the Bunnings BBQs that are so popular with the family? Give out sweets! Gift wrap things! Hand out special sample bags to the kids. 

Perhaps the way to claw back some business, to achieve a healthier bottom line, would be to stop selling stuff for dirt-cheap prices and increase your margins by believing you have something wonderful to offer to shoppers. Or perhaps MYER is reflective of a society that has gone a bit skewiff? A bit on-the-nose, if you know what I mean?

Cheap isn't as cheerful as it used to be. It's lost its novelty.

See also: Myer says bye buy to Sundays in The Australian Financial Review

Girl With a Satchel


frangipani princess said...

I wish I could be at your swap party on Saturday, but I will be approximately 1,400km away. Hope it goes splendidly though!!


Rebecca said...

I definetly agree with your sentiments! What also puts me off is that most Myers are in a big Westfield centre where you seriously have to fight your way just to get a carpark!! Puts me off even trying to get inside the centre!

Jen said...

I couldn't agree more!

Anytime I make the effort of going shopping at a department store (or any other store, for that matter), I feel like the staff are so desperate to make a sale out of me that all pleasantries are thrown out the window. If I'm looking for a staff member to ask for help, I often have to jump up and down to get their attention or interrupt someone's conversation.

I was once given a cupcake in the Brisbane city Zimmermann store, and this small gesture made it a very positive shopping experience - as a result, I can't say a bad word about the brand, nor can I walk past the store! I have to go in, because I was so impressed by that small cupcake. It was powerful enough to make me want to purchase in store for the experience, rather than online - and that is a hard thing to do in this retail climate!

Call it bribery, call it a pleasant shopping experience - regardless, I will be back!

Great blog entry.

Scarlett Harris @ The Early Bird Catches the Worm said...

I'm SCARED to go into department stores! I dread the inevitable trek in there for a specific beauty item or hosiery (Myer does have the best department for stockings). No wonder I choose to shop online.
I think department store sales assistants should take a leaf out of Sportsgirl's book. Whenever I go in there the girls are always so friendly, not pushy at all and are so polite when I go up to the counter to purchase. I always leave feeling good.