It mystifies me when I come across a run retailer who, in the process of fitting a customer for shoes, skillfully removes the wads of paper stuffing, gracefully loosens up the laces, and then hands over the shoe like a sommelier might present a bottle of wine. As if to say, “Here—tie ‘em up yourself.” Sheesh!
Folks, I am here to tell you this is not specialty. No matter how much choreography is employed or elan displayed during this delicate exchange, it’s a dropped ball in the overall experience. Not to mention the fact that it also makes a complicit enabler of the customer’s horrific shoe-tying habits. And yes, it’s true that the majority of customers are, well, extremely challenged when it comes to lacing up their trainers. Let’s just say there’s A LOT of room for improvement in the general public’s footwear-tying wheelhouse.
If you aren’t inserting yourself in this specific moment with your customer, you’re missing a chance to deepen your connection with them. And given what retailers are up against, that’s a pretty major self-sabotaging fail.
When I see someone tie their shoelaces wrong, I cringe. And by wrong I mean a few things: the laces have too much slack, the tautness is absurdly uneven, the tied knot is uncentered and sloppy, etcetera, etcetera. Poorly tied shoes are a huge pet peeve of mine. Especially when I see retailers site back and essentially make it happen.
Pervasively bad shoe-lacing habits, however, comes as no surprise. Most of us were taught how to tie our shoes back in kindergarten, but never offered an advanced class. We’ve mastered the bunny ears, the rabbit hole, the square knot in lieu of a granny, but not much else. But anyone who has been slinging shoes for a while knows that lacing is a huge part of a good fit. It’s an art. Which means that now it’s up to us—as specialty run retailers dedicated to improving our customers’ active experiences—to teach people precisely how to do it correctly. And the best way to teach them is to show them.
Rather than dishing the shoe over to the customer, I recommend you prep it, put it on your customer’s foot, and then tie it. Insist that this is an integral part of your job (and guess what – it is). They might scoff a bit, maybe even recoil, semi-surprised that someone’s offering them such pointed attention. Play up the vulnerable moment while keeping things lighthearted. “Sit back and relax,” you might say, “Imagine this is YOUR time at our running spa…I am here to cater to your every need.” Yukkity yuk and all that. Folks will laugh at your cheesy line, but it works every time because of the level of cheese.
Tying shoes, in so many cases, can be an unforgettable moment. Make sure it is one. Because being unforgettable is what makes your customers remember you before placing their next footwear order on Amazon. The small stuff matters. Sweat it.