Friday, August 1, 2008

Whole Foods

Today I had the opportunity to visit the new Whole Foods store up in Reno. I have been anxiously awaiting their opening, having visited their stores in other cities, I was familiar with the vast amount of selection available. Nothing however prepared me for the size of this new store.

Robert and I were up in Reno today to pick up last minute items for our concert at the nursery tomorrow. We met up with Mike McLain, our sales rep for Dr. Earth, and a good friend. Mike is also the amazing tour guide that put together the trips to England that I was able to go on in 2001 & 2003. I mention this because it is important to set the tone of the post.

We had a great lunch at Great Basin Brewery, I am always fond of the garlic fries, and then we sent Robert on his way over to his favorite hangout, RMS, Reno Motor Sports. Mike and I jumped in his car and headed for Whole Foods on the other side of Reno. The plan was for Robert to pick me up at Whole Foods about an hour later, giving me plenty of time to see the new store and get some shopping done. Or so we thought...........I think it took us 30 minutes just to get through the first 50 feet of the store! This is where the tour guide part comes in. Mike had been to the store the day it had it's grand opening, and has had the opportunity to visit again a couple of times over the last month or so. He not only could tell me where the different departments where, but how the corporate policy was formed, how the bread was baked on site etc. We looked at displays like we were in a college classroom, I took pictures (after asking if it was alright from a very helpful person behind the bakery counter), we visited with the manager of the wine department, and on and on and on...............I was impressed!!!! This was not a visit to a grocery store, this was Retail 101 in the truest sense..........and I loved it.

Here are a couple of things I took away from there.

1. Yes, you can have great selection, but you better back it up with even better service.

2. Displays are critical. They set the tone for the entire store when they are cohesive and creative.

3. Don't forget to have fun! It was obvious that the bakery department was having a good time.

4. Great you customers when they first walk up with a smile and a non intimidating comment. (This was especially helpful to me in the meat department. As a vegetarian myself this is not an area I feel very comfortable in picking out items. The butcher made it very easy for me to find just the perfect dinner treat for Bob)

5. Take the time to stop and talk, but more important, LISTEN, to your customer. Don't be a wine snob, be a wine teacher.

6.Offer samples whenever possible. You don't have to sample everything, but having one or two available for people to try (cheese department) is a great way to break the ice and see if you can help them make a selection.

7. Be quick, and courteous at check out. I have made my selection, now it is time to go.

8. Have a wonderfully inviting space for spouses or friends to wait.......the fireplace is a very cool idea and come winter time it will be a great place for Robert to sit with a coffee and relax.

Of course none of these things are new thoughts. They are basic tasks that every store should be
making a 100% effort to obtain, and this is exactly why I visit stores of this caliper whenever possible. To remind me of the best of retail, and fire me up to provide the same quality of service at our store.

I am pretty sure the experience I had today is not a fleeting one. Whole Foods has built their reputation on just these principles. While the store can be intimidating on first arrival....so much to see...............I am sure that they can keep it up over the long term. I know that I will still be visiting my other favorites, Trader Joe's etc, but it is so nice to have such a vast selection in such a great new local. Reno is lucky to have them, I think. Thanks for the tour Mike!

It's off to prepare dinner. There is an amazing dessert waiting for us!

Till next time, Susan

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