The bathroom: A significant store brand
As private brands take on new meaning in retail — they aren’t just only about tangible products anymore — it’s time to look at an important component of the overall store: the bathroom.
Store brands are evolving. More and more, retailers across all segments realize they have to make a name for themselves with more than just products. The convenience factor, from enabling customers to get in and out of stores quickly to giving them the choice to buy products online and pick them up at the store, has become preeminent. So offering customers a bathroom that is clean, reliable and safe is paramount. Because everybody has to hit the head sometime.
So ask yourself this question: Does your store have a john that people aren’t afraid to go to? Is it clean? Does it have always have soap, paper towels and hand-drying units that work? And here’s the biggie: Is it always stocked with toilet paper?
The hygienic bathroom factor may loom larger among convenience stores, especially ones offering gas. Nevertheless, it’s vital for all retailers. You don’t want people to not go to your store because you have a nasty bathroom. People may not talk about it among themselves, but they know by experience whether or your john is up to snuff.
Boston-based Gasbuddy, a tech company that offers consumers various information about service stations including the best gas prices and tastiest coffee, recently reported in its 2018 summer travel survey that 37 percent of respondents said one of their worst fears when road tripping is when nature calls and being unsure where to stop for a clean restroom.
“We all understand the high level of stress when it comes to needing to use the restroom while on the road,” said Frank Beard, convenience store and retail trends analyst at GasBuddy, which also helps retailers manage their brands and promote to their target consumer audiences through its software. “According to our research, more than half of consumers said that a clean restroom is mandatory when considering where to stop.”
Ensuring restrooms are clean makes for better business, according to GasBuddy. Gas stations with above-average restroom ratings on GasBuddy saw a 33 percent increase in foot traffic compared to those with below-average ratings.
If a consumer has a bad bathroom experience, what are the chances he or she will pick up some of the store’s private brand products on the way out of the store? Not much. That trust factor just went down the toilet (pun intended.)
The same can be said for any retailer, even supermarkets. If the bathroom is one where consumers don’t want to touch anything, they probably won’t be touching your private brands. They will associate your dirty bathroom with your own-brand products, whether they are fresh or packaged goods.
Consumers don’t expect outhouses at retail establishments. Unfortunately, I’ve come across many retailers that offer such a primitive experience.
Perhaps the most underrated job in America is that of custodian. Don’t sell yourself short here and hire a custodian to just clean the bathrooms once a day or (god forbid) once a week, especially if your establishment is selling food. Make sure the johns are sparkling.
The bathroom is your store brand. It needs to be “merchandised” properly. Yes, you can lose customers due to a loathsome lavatory. On the other hand, a tidy john makes a powerful statement about your establishment. More powerful than you might think.