It's not always easy to find customers that want what you are selling

What if you weren’t allowed to buy what they were selling?

Have you ever felt like you weren’t allowed to buy what they were selling?

About a week ago my wife and I were wandering around downtown Asheville with our NC friends. One of our group was excited to see that a small “Scottish” shop was open, since she had tracked some of her ancestry to Scotland, and the shop had been closed every other time she had walked by.

When we opened the door, we walked into the shop’s entryway which was about a six-foot square, with display cases lined up on both sides separating the entry from the merchandise, and one elderly woman standing guard, immediately asking what we were looking for. There was a couple behind her looking at some of the items on display, but the woman did not move out of our way and kept repeating her question.

Even after discussing my friend’s Scottish heritage and clan connections, the shopkeeper did not move and it became obvious that she had no intention of allowing us to actually touch the merchandise. When the couple in the back left (without buying anything), she started bad-mouthing their clan before they got completely out the door, talking about how “superior” they seem to think they are. We couldn’t follow them out the door fast enough.

It was the oddest retail experience I’ve ever had. And, apparently we aren’t the only ones to feel that way, according to the outrage expressed on her Yelp and TripAdvisor reviews.

I’m still trying to process it all:

  • It’s not always easy to find customers that want what you are selling, so why would you make it more difficult to make a sale?
  • How do you stay in business if you don’t sell anything?
  • Has the business become less of a retail store and more of a personal museum, giving her an excuse to spend time with her collection?
  • Or is she actually a brilliant marketer? Perhaps she is trying to make it more like belonging to a private country club, where the exclusivity factor makes it worth the extra effort to get past the gatekeeper?

As marketers, we all understand that a business has to target the right audience.

So do you open the doors to everyone, or do you limit access and make it more desirable to a select few? The choice really is up to you.

Just be ready for the reviews.


Kent Dicken

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