Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions.

by : 
Kim Perkins
December 1, 2012

Question: When I bring a new product line into the store, its success seems to depend on whether or not my employees like it. If they do, the sales are brisk; if not, it just sits there. How can I get them to sell all our products, not just the ones they like?

Answer: You have hit on a very crucial area of retail sales—sales are created by making a connection with another person. If your employees are excited about a product, their enthusiasm will be contagious, and sales are the logical result.

Find out what your employees like about the merchandise they enjoy selling. Do they have more information about those lines? Do they see a benefit they want to pass on to a customer? Do they use the products themselves? Once you know the secret to what they love to sell, it’s possible you can inspire them by offering additional information about the slower-moving merchandise. Maybe you know this product is handmade or have an interesting story about the vendor or the quality of the product.

As the owner/buyer, it is your job to talk about new lines you find, make information available (such as show-and-tell at a staff meeting or pictures of the line on the break table), and provide the passion to make the merchandise exciting and interesting. If possible, the next time you are introducing a new personal-care line, ask the vendor for samples to share with your staff. There is nothing like smelling a new scent or discovering the feel of a nice lotion to encourage sales.

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