Big Retailers Revamp for '09

Major retailers speak out about their aggressive new strategies to get the struggling sector back on track.

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Customer Service

Many department stores are banking on close relationships with their key shoppers to boost sales this season.

“The opportunity we still have is creating an environment where people are enticed enough by the merchandise and interaction with associates to be willing to spend money,” said Bloomingdale’s Gould.

Saks recently compiled what Sadove referred to as a “clienteling system,” a Web-based program to track customer contact info, purchase patterns and other information that can be used to connect with clients.

Meanwhile, Macy’s has commissioned consumer data service DunnhumbyUSA to help it become more “customer specific.”

“For Macy’s, in 2009 it’s all about localization,” said company spokesman Jim Sluzewski.

As previously reported, the retail chain is consolidating its operations into a nationwide district structure that “will position Macy’s to develop ... more effective strategies for identifying and serving specific consumer needs, location by location,” according to a statement released in June.

But some observers find department stores are more talk than action. Weintraub expressed doubt about retailers’ commitment to customer service. “I have heard the words, but I have not heard the music,” he said. “Service costs money, but every time a customer walks into a store, that’s a selling opportunity.”

Dan Mann agreed: “[The department stores] have to reinvest in quality, and competent, meaningful customer service in a time like this, instead of going away from it just to save this month’s budget sheet,” he said. “You’ve got to think of the hundreds or thousands of customers who are affected by a seasoned salesperson going away.”


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