Friday, 18 January 2008

Can I help you?

So, I'm a very new Rowan Design Consultant now.

And that means that three days a week, I work in a lovely John Lewis store, surrounded by lovely Rowan yarn. I've got a nice little enclosed area, well lit, with a table and some chairs so people can sit down and talk or look at patterns, or organise yarn for a new project. It really is rather good. And there is a wall of yarn. Literally, an entire wall of cubbyholes - to be arranged, by me, exactly as I like. It is a big store, so we have pretty nearly the entire Rowan range, and that is a lot of yarn.

However one thing that I knew but hadn't really thought about, is that yarn shops have a stockroom. Well, of course they do, I hear you say.

But the corollary of that, of course, is that what you see on the shop floor is not all the stock.

Now, I'm one of those people who, almost always, would rather look around a yarn shop on their own. Sometimes I like to chat, and ask what's new in by way of yarns or patterns - but usually I just like to browse by myself. What I actively don't like, is the assistant coming up to me, and standing right there at my elbow, and asking 'Can I help you?' It makes me feel as if they think I ought to buy something or else move on - it makes me feel as if my browsing isn't welcome.

And I haven't tended to ask for things either - especially if the assistant has previously said 'Can I help you?' and I've said 'No thankyou, I'm just looking.' I prefer to just find what I want, and go to the till.

But yarn shops don't work like that, and now I think about it, it is all very obvious.

But, oh dear - when I think of the number of times I've looked along the shelves of a yarn shop, thought I would like to buy enough of something or other for a particular project - counted what was in the little cubbyhole - and then walked away, because 'the shop didn't have enough of that yarn', and I 'didn't want to bother the assistant' ..... oh, the missed opportunities... the stash that could have been ....... oh the horror!

Because most of the stock is in the stockroom - no, more than that - more like nearly all of the stock. I was supposed to ask the assistant - could I have 10 skeins of such-and-such, please? They were expecting me to ask. Who knew? I didn't, that's for certain. And so I didn't ask.

Maybe I'm just a bit slow - or maybe it's sort of a side effect of sometimes just liking to look at yarn quietly by myself.

Anyway, I'm trying to bear this in mind when people come into the yarn area. Because I want people to feel completely comfortable browsing the shelves by themselves - and equally I want people to feel completely comfortable about asking for help - or indeed asking for yarn.

The intention is to be offering help, but not insisting, not being pushy - and I really hope it won't put people off, the way I've stupidly let myself be put off in the past.


Kai said...

Like you, I'm a browser and don't like the 'Can I help you?' question. You're re-worded offer of help and assistance is so much better. I would come ask if I didn't see what I wanted, definitely! :)

cob_web said...

Oh, I do exactly the same! I've even bought my second choice colour when they might have had my first in stock!

I used to be a sales Assistant in Laura Ashley, and I think your approach is very good. I know my automatic response to "can I help you" is NO. But you are saying "I'm here if you need anything" and also letting them know not everything is on display.

Anonymous said...

I also hate being 'pounced on' the minute I walk into a shop. I do like to be offered help when it's obvious that help is required - it's equally frustrating not to be able to find someone to ask. You are obviously sensitive to both sorts of needs.
Changing the subject slightly - do you mind if I pass on your news to the ladies at the Ash group next week? I'm sure they'd love to hear how you're getting on.
Lisa x

Anonymous said...

P.S May I add you as a friend on Ravelry?


Fiona said...

Yes that's fine of course Lisa! Must admit that I do still miss that group - although hopefully I'll have one up and running in the shop soon!

Fiona said...

And yes to the Ravelry thing as well! :)

Lindsey said...

Congrats on the new gig, first of all. What a lovely job it sounds like, I hope you enjoy it!

And I think your approach is a good one, likely to make the customers feel at home, and gives them an idea of the kinds of things you might be able to help with. My mother works in retail (women's clothes), and finds that "can I start a fitting room for you?" or "can I find a size/colour?" tend to get a good response, whereas "can I help you?" is just too vague for most people.

I tend to assume the same thing about stock at yarn shops--and I know I shop in some smaller LYSs where they do put almost everything out, because they are that small....but I should remember to ask anyway, just in case.

picperfic said...

trouble is, I always seem to choose the colours they don't have enough of GGrrrr...I always ask but I agree, I prefer to browse first, then when I feel the time is right I ask for help. Your approach is perfect!

Spinningfishwife said...

Yesm, very good approach. You could add your name in if you felt particularly friendly."I'm Fiona the new Rowan Consultant, by the way." Takes it to a personal level, and presumably you wear a badge anyway.

I remember the days when all the yarn was behind the counter in yarn shops and you had to ask to see it! It was very exciting in the late 70's when the Phildar and roan type displays came along, and a LYS near me got seats and a table for pattern books. My yarn spending quadrupled!

LittleBerry said...

good approach... but perhaps also a note to say something regarding the stocking system and to ask if you dont see the colour &/or quantity you require...

Anonymous said...

What about a 'stash basket' on or nearby (that can be put away, or not, when you're not there) with a selection of samples from your stockroom....clearly labelled to say we have other things you may not be able to see, just ask....or a selection of colours/yarns with books open at the right selection of patterns and notices saying if you don't see exactly what you want...etc But you've probably done all that already!! Fran

Anonymous said...

I think it's a very good way to let customers know you're there if they need you - I would be v.happy with that approach

Queen of the froggers said...

That sounds a good way to introduce yourself, maybe a notice about the stock in a prominant place would help too.

feltboots said...

I also don't like 'can I help you?' and hovering sales assistants. Your intro is much better than that old closed question that usually ends further dialogue.

And I didn't realise most stock is in the stock room either !

One thing I did find really useful in one LYS was a knitted swatch of the yarn pinned to the cubbyholes. Made it easier for me to see how a yarn might knit up and how it would feel.