8 things you must not allow in your new store if you want it to succeed.
The “Broken Windows” theory was introduced in an article published in 1982 by the Atlantic and written by two social scientists by the names of James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling. The theory suggests people take cues from the condition of their surrounding environment and behave accordingly.
If a neighborhood is clean and well-maintained, purports the theory, then, people will treat that neighborhood with greater respect.
According to Wilson and Kelling, this is because the well-maintained area/environment elicits more accountability in people. In other words, if a group of people show that they care about a place by keeping it up, other people are more likely to do the same; and less likely to trash the place.
On the other hand, a neighborhood that is littered, has a lot of graffiti and even the occasional “broken window,” will result in a community-wide mindset that results in acts of disregard for the area.
How does this theory apply to your new store?
When it comes to your new store, the “Broken Windows” theory can be a guide for attracting customers, or perhaps more importantly, not running them off.
There are several examples of “Broken Windows” which are under-valued by storeowners and highly visible to potential customers. A book entitled Broken Windows, Broken Business by Michael Levine and published in 2006 expands on the Wilson/Kelling theory and identifies a number of issues that can drastically effect the fortunes of a new store.
The following list of items may seem like no-brainers, but believe me many stores with well-executed business plans have gone under because the owners didn’t pay enough attention to these things:
- Peeling paint
- Impolite employees/ poor communication skills
- Confusing website
- Poorly maintained restrooms
- Dimly lit rooms
- Poor signage
- Long lines
Think about it…you walk into a restaurant and see trashcans overflowing…aren’t you going to wonder about the quality of the food and the cleanliness in the kitchen where the food is being prepared? Of course you are.
Even a bad website, though it has no physical connection to your new store, still sends a message of lack of care. These may seem like small things to a storeowner – you may in fact become desensitized to your environment because you’re there all the time – but customers who aren’t there as much will be keenly aware of environmental degradation. They’ll be asking themselves, “If you don’t care about the environment you’ve created for them, why should they care about you?”
Remember, as a new storeowner, you have plenty of competitors who your customers can choose instead of you. Aesthetics matter; processes matter; attitudes matter. You need to give customers as many reasons as possible to choose you – regardless how small.