Make Newcomers Feel Welcome in Your Shop

Create a comfortable atmosphere for customers that inspires sales and satisfaction.
Photo Credit: West Coast Archery

Author: Cassie Gasaway

Does your shop make customers feel relaxed, welcome and comfortable?

The shop itself can’t do any of those things, of course. That falls on staff, and the store’s smells, sounds, layout, lighting, decorations, merchandise and other factors that put people at ease.

Hans and Adrienne Olufs, owners of West Coast Archery Shop in Petaluma, California, said their priority is creating a welcoming environment. Adrienne Olufs said people should feel comfortable asking questions and exploring products. They should also leave feeling positive about their visits.

“A positive environment makes buying and selling easier,” Olufs said. “[It cultivates] a connection with the customer.”

David Landsborough, owner of Landsborough Auctions Ltd. & Triggers and Bows in Burford, Ontario, agrees. “[Your shop] has to be appealing in all senses,” he said.

That includes an inviting storefront, sufficient parking, clean counters, spacious aisles, well-displayed inventory, and equipment for beginners, advanced archers, and those with disabilities.

Landsborough said everything in a store gives customers impressions about your business. “That’s all part of the sales pitch,” he said. “You have to make a good first impression and uphold high standards.”

Whether someone enters your store for the first or 50th time, they need to sense a welcoming and inviting atmosphere. That’s crucial to success. If you engage all five of your customers’ senses, they’ll enjoy visiting your shop.

Make your shop pleasing to the eye by giving customers bulletin boards and decorations to look at. Photo Credit: West Coast Archery

1. Sights (Eyes)

– Decorations: Are your walls covered in posters, chipped paint, outdated signs and dusty taxidermy mounts? Olufs and Landsborough said a shop’s physical appearance is vital. Remove worn, faded or tattered posters and mounts. Posters featuring people of color or those with disabilities help recruit broader segments of society.

Update decorations and window displays each season. The Olufs painted their store’s interior in a rich, neutral color and added wood trim. They also hang family archery and hunting photos alongside a community photo and bulletin board, which makes great conversation starters.

– Lighting: Dull, dim aisles are much like dull, dark alleys. Customers require well-lighted surroundings to feel safe, comfortable and productive. Replace burned-out lightbulbs and install lighting in the parking lot if your store stays open after dark.

– Inventory: Landsborough said customers must be able to see everything easily, and they shouldn’t have to dig through stuff to find what they need. He recommends installing quality fixtures that display products safely and prominently. Displays that lean against walls or shake when touched make customers nervous. Olufs said products should be labeled and well-organized so customers know what’s available and where to find it.

– Paperwork: Remove bills, flyers, magazines, work orders, and other paperwork from your countertops so things look tidy. Organize those items in bins or folders on your counter or in a closed office.

– Layout: Is your store’s floor plan intuitive and easily navigated? Store layouts must help customers find products efficiently, which pleases them and inspires sales. To learn more, read “Boost Sales with Customer-Friendly Layouts.”

– Parking lot: Curb appeal matters. Fill potholes, repaint lines and pick up trash.

– Aisles: Sweep daily and keep things safe by removing boxes and other items from your aisles and sidewalks.

– Employees: Your staff should smile at customers and wear presentable clothing or staff shirts.

Switch up the music you play and always encourage pleasant conversation with customers. Photo Credit: Triggers and Bows

2. Sounds (Ears)

Evaluate your shop’s routine sounds, including music, conversations, welcoming chime, arrows hitting targets, or the furnace and air-conditioner. Do those noises improve or degrade the shop’s ambiance?

Consider changing music genres, and create language and conversation guidelines for staff. The Olufs don’t have employees, but they explain their expectations about appropriate conduct and language to volunteers and representatives, which reflect on the shop’s reputation.

Also instruct employees to greet every customer who enters, and thank them when they leave. People like to feel welcome and acknowledged. Routine interactions build the foundation for communication and healthy customer-employee relationships.

The Olufs try to provide tips, advice and information to customers while speaking in upbeat tones. Adrienne said open communication builds trust.


3. Smells (Nose)

No one likes a stale, stagnant room. Dead air feels heavy and suffocating, which can drive people out, even in hot or cold weather. Replace old air filters, and use air purifiers as needed. Also place fans near windows to circulate fresh air during nice weather.

Spotless floors, walls, shelves and windows also freshen the air. Landsborough hires cleaning crews to keep his facility odorless.

Designate a “smoking area” away from the entrance and around to the shop’s side to keep tobacco odors outside. Embellish the area with a sign, chairs and cigarette receptacles.

What about the restrooms? Use air fresheners and scent wafers, of course, and check and clean them regularly. Also try a Poo-Pourri “before-you-go” spray to trap odors below the water.

Make sure the youth bows are at an accessible level for children to look at. Photo Credit: Triggers and Bows

4. Touch (Hands)

Keep your aisles, entrance, bathrooms, parking lot and checkout counter free of grime and garbage. Remove cobwebs, wash your windows, dust your shelves, and sweep and mop your floors to ensure all surfaces are always clean.

The ATA provides a cleaning schedule of daily and weekly tasks under the “Retail Resources” category on its Resource Website. Log into your member dashboard and click “Download Free ATA Resources” for the schedule. 

Also, consider little hands. Whether you host youth programs or parents with youngsters, make your store kid-friendly. Landsborough encourages retailers to keep expensive and dangerous items high on shelves beyond kids’ reach. Also ensure you have enough space behind the counters to keep bows and other items beyond reach.

While you’re at it, stock products for the entire family, and offer a good selection of high-end to entry-level equipment.


5. Taste (Tongue)

To reach your customers’ hearts, please their stomachs. Keep a bowl of mints, candy or fruit on your counter; and offer them water or coffee. If you can’t provide free snacks and drinks, consider selling snacks. Read “Hungry for More Profits? Try Selling Snacks” to learn more.


Bonus: Other Priorities

An inviting atmosphere also means treating customers with respect.

– Heed their needs: Olufs said retailers must carry products customers need and want. Don’t give them reasons to go elsewhere. Ensure they seek your advice and service. Landsborough said customers appreciate the latest and greatest items, so stay current by stocking new, innovative products.

– Be consistent: Treat customers respectfully and consistently. Be patient and professional. Never talk down to customers or intimidate them. “Treat every potential customer as if they’re your biggest sale and best friend,” Olufs said.

To elevate your shop’s environment, give its interior and exterior TLC regularly.

Questions? Contact Nicole Nash, ATA’s manager of range and retail programs, at or (866) 266-2776, ext. 116.

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