“The customer is always right” and “Give the lady what she wants” are both quotes attributed to Marshall Field, who established the eponymously named department store in Chicago around 1860. Field bucked the tradition of the time by providing an exceptionally high level of customer service and quality merchandise.

The business survived being burned to the ground during the Great Chicago Fire, however the brand was obliterated about 10 years ago when the stores were purchased by Macy’s. One of the many reminiscences that its demise generated was this quote from Stanley Bing for Fortune about this mother’s visit to the flagship store: “Marshall Fields meant quality. It meant, for her, entering a world of class and calm and civility.”

This quote shows that the Marshall Fields store had remained true to its founder’s tenants: offer desirable products, and provide a shopping experience that makes the customer feel valued. And even if a giant retailer like Macy’s – which itself had once been an innovator, introducing the Idaho baked potato and colored bath towels – wasn’t able to hold onto that goal of satisfying shoppers, as independent store owners we can strive to keep Field’s vision alive.

What are the important tenants of customers satisfaction?
•Excellent merchandise selection
         good quality
         varied price points
         some unique or unusual products
•Friendly and knowledgeable customer service
•An enjoyable shopping environment
•Customer-friendly policies

The customer is not, of course, always right – and shoppers today are not by any means all ladies. But hopefully we have the ability to create an experience that Marshall Field would have admired, making shoppers feel welcome and offering them just what they want.

Happy Retailing,
Carol “Orange” Schroeder

PS The photo accompanying today’s blog is from the excellent tribute to Chicago’s role in retailing at the Chicago History Museum

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