Creating and Maintaining Customer Loyalty in the Dollar Store Business

Retailing is a very challenging business, even more so when your top price is $1.  And yet, despite these and other obstacles, many dollar store retailers thrive and grow, in good times and bad, by maintaining great customer loyalty.

As a general merchandise and closeout wholesaler, it’s important that we understand what is happening in the retail world.  We talked to several retailers, both small and large format, to get their views on this subject.  What emerges is not so much a secret formula, but instead a checklist of simple common sense rules that keep customers coming back and telling their friends.

To start with the basics, experienced store managers know that when a customer samples a store, they’ll be back.  The bargains they discover are simply too appealing to resist.  The hard part is getting them to come in and try the store in the first place.

Many first-time customers have the idea that dollar stores offer inferior merchandise or that the selection is limited.  Of  course, nothing could be farther from the truth, but lets talk about getting the customer to sample your store.

First, dollar stores are the domain of female shoppers, generally blue-collar workers with household incomes of less than $30,000.  For these shoppers, perception is vital.  They are attracted to stores that look clean and inviting, but NOT those that look like they have spent a lot of money on furnishings.  Shoppers feel they won’t be saving money if the store can afford to splurge on fancy fixtures and decorations.  So, keep it friendly, clean and simple.  No-frills merchandising is the best strategy for attracting customers in this demographic.

Friendly also means working hard to impress the customer with your customer service.  Make it a point to greet every customer at the door, like Wal-Mart does, and train your people to make eye contact and smile.  Nothing impresses a new customer more than a friendly store, and good management can control how the customer perceives your customer service staff.  Store employees should be motivated to be friendly to shoppers.  Of course, there is a difference between being friendly and being annoying.  Greet people, and then leave them alone to shop in peace.  That way they’ll know you are there if they have any questions, but that you won’t be following them around the store asking them if they need help every 5 minutes.

Another thing that keeps customers coming back is inventory turnover.  The most successful chains know that customers enjoy shopping for impulse items, the element of finding unexpected bargains, so make sure those items are turned frequently.  Shopper frequency at dollar stores averages 11 times per year, so that indicates a monthly turn of impulse items is about right.  Consider buying some wholesale closeout impulse items for your store.  Once they’re sold out, switch to a different closeout item so you always have something new and unique for your customers.  Eventually, they’ll come to your store specifically to see what new closeout items you have by the cash register, and this will equal more sales for you and a more loyal customer.

So far, we’ve been talking about convenience.  the other half of the customer loyalty equation is price, and the only way to consistently assure your customers of the best prices is to buy from reputable suppliers who have a history of delivering merchandise on time with no surprises. 

Remember that your wholesale merchandise and closeout supplier is also your partner: suppliers hear about new product breakthroughs before anyone else does, and it’s their business to know the market.  By doing your homework and working with the best suppliers, you can guarantee your customers the best value for their money. And that will keep them coming back for years to come.

Of course, at this point we’d like to recommend you buy from Kole Imports, as we have 25 years of experience in the wholesale dollar store merchandise business, and we are also closeout experts.  Click to see our wholesale and closeout merchandise.

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