Practical answers for tough business questions.

by : 
Kim Perkins
December 1, 2013

Question: Do you sell statuary in your store? how do you train your staff to talk intelligently about Hindu and Buddhist deities? There are so many! We carry Buddha, Ganesh, Shiva, Kuan Yin, and Green Tara, but even those are challenging for new sales people. Truth is, I would like to order a larger variety, but I don’t really understand them all myself. Any suggestions?

Answer: I can certainly empathize with your dilemma. The good news is we do not—and cannot—be experts in all areas. One thing that really helps both sales people and customers is to create “shelf-talkers,” small signs beside each statue or thangka painting (also spelled “thanka”) which name the deity depicted and explain its meaning.

We also have a great little store reference book behind the counter (I’m not sure if it’s still in print) entitled Short Description of Gods, Goddesses and Ritual Objects of Buddhism and Hinduism in Nepal. This small guide (77 pages with clear illustrations in black and white) contains an overview of the deities, objects, and symbolism of Nepali Hinduism and Buddhism. It is very informative and well worth ordering if you find one. It’s published by the Kathmandu Handicraft Association.

If someone on your staff has knowledge in this area, or an interest in becoming the store “expert” on the subject, ask them to do a short training at your next staff meeting.

Kim Perkins is co-owner of Elysian Fields Books & Gifts for Conscious Living (, an award-winning store in Sarasota, Fla. Send your retail questions to