My Topic is holiday retail environment. I love this research/interview topic, because I am a retail merchandising student and I've been working in retail for more than 3 years, so I am very familiar with this "environment" topic. Holiday is especially the most complicated moment through the whole year. For example, I have been working at Macy's for almost two years and "holiday" always gives me a big headache. I worked on Black Friday last year, and I will work on Thanksgiving night this year. (I know, from 7:30pm to 5:30 am, the GREATEST shift I could ever ask for.)
Holiday retail environment research has two perspectives to start with: Retail store perspective and Customer perspective. I have been working in this field for a long time, and rarely put myself in a "customer" shoe. So this is a great time for me to do a role reversal, go shopping, and try to figure out the holiday retail environment issues. So I pick the "customer" perspective for this research. And also it would be great to interview other people and listen to their advice and opinions.
Interview: (I won't write down everything we talked, and I will just summarize them.)
#1 "Against Holiday Shopping":Brittany, senior, political science major at the University of Minnesota. If she has to, she usually just shops for several friends and family during holiday. She likes clean and clear retail environment. She hates all the crazy customers during holiday season. She also doesn't like those overly accommodating employees. Holiday shopping is a bad concept, because it makes people feel like they HAVE TO go shopping (all the commercials and displays are pushing people to shop) instead of letting them figure out what they really want. Usually she goes to Bath&Body Works, and just gets lotion and soap for her female friends. "Because it's just so easy!" She loves retailers like Target, because their layout is neat and clean, and you know exactly where to find everything. She doesn't like Hollister's layout. In her conversation, she did mention "hate" "annoying" these negative words against shopping very often.
#2 "Okay with Holiday Shopping": Clare, from Chicago. Current student at City Colleges of Chicago. She came over to Minneapolis to visit her friend. She usually shops for family and close friends. She said the fact that all the retail stores are setting up for the holiday too early, and that makes the holiday less special. She loves the window displays in Chicago's retail stores; however she doesn't enjoy the advertisements in the window. "All those clothing advertisements in the window just reduced the attractiveness of the window displays." She usually shops for sweatshirts and PJs as gifts. In her opinion, the store lighting is very important as well, "Bright artificial lights at Sears just give me headache." She also doesn't like Hollister.
#3: "Love Holiday Shopping": Ellen, Clare's mother. Consider herself as a "passionate/professional shopper". While I was interviewing with Clare, she told me I should interview her mom, because she shops a lot for the family and holiday shopping is one of her favorite thing to do. Because Ellen is in Chicago right now, so I used phone to interview her. She is the mom of three children, and she has a whole family& a lot of friends to do holiday shopping for. She loves cheaper retailers like Kohl's and Target, and she has to go several trips before the holiday shopping is done. "Sometimes the stores are too messy. For example when I shop for Thomas (her son), the whole boy t-shirts area is always a mess, especially during holiday season. Because there are a lot of people checking the t-shirts and they don't fold them back." Overwhelming recovery is a big issue for holiday retail environment. Also during Christmas season, the store always plays the music, when stores cannot control the music in an appropriate volume, she would then never want to go back there again. She also would rather make some gifts by herself, and make the holiday gifts more individual and personal. Right now she already develops her own "shopping map system" and she has some specific locations to do holiday shopping.
Interesting fact: During the interview, they all talked about the reason why they do not like Wal-Mart. Instead of it looks sketchy (I totally think so), they said that it's an immoral company. I have never noticed the moral means a lot to customers. So I kept asking them about if there are some specific charitable items for holiday, would you prefer to buy those stuff as gifts rather than buying the regular merchandise? The answers were amazingly same. They all think if the price matches the item itself, they would consider more about the charitable items as gifts. People usually just feel more generous during holiday season, and because they are shopping for "gifts" instead of shopping for "needs", that makes charitable items stand out in a positive way.
Observe & Experience:
So I went shopping in downtown Macy's and Target as well this weekend. Clare's words are very true. Macy's already has the Christmas display for a long time. Macy's re-opened its Christmas trim shop even in early October. Interesting thing is, the major customers are just checking the holiday ornaments and they do not for real buy them right now. I also think these Christmas displays are trying SO HARD to remind me "hey, the winter in here already...Hohoho", they even made me feel afraid of the holidays.
Major customers would think it's not even Thanksgiving yet, so they will not shop for Christmas right now. And also, customers always assume there will be better deals show up closer to the real holiday, so all the displays right now are just the "spoilers" which reveal the holiday gift ideas. Besides, the Christmas trim shop has a lot of small items and the employees cannot always pay attention to every single customer, and therefore that area usually has a very high shop lifting rate.
*Retail stores need to pay more attntions to reduce shoplifting during holiday because there are more smaller items(ornaments, decorations) on the sales floor, and stores are busier than normal time.
*Retail stores need to find better ways to help customers find merchandise faster, because customers want to have a more efficient shopping experience during holiday season.