During the summer holiday I had few opportunities to indulge in retail therapy, as I understand it. I work in the retail goods and services supply chain, and that makes me somewhat of a retail junkie. I don't buy a lot, but I do like to go into shops, observe, and reflect upon what makes up the characteristics of really good retailing. Typically, the best small retailers are usually found in small towns. That's not surprising because in small towns you shoot yourself in the foot if you don’t give customers what they reasonably expect when they buy goods or services. And anyway, the feedback is quite direct - you're likely to have your neighbour’s auntie bringing back the shirt that shrank on first wash. Elsewhere, consumers these days usually have little direct contact with retailers – or rather, with the people who make the decisions. Good retailers set the standards that are reflected in our consumer law. The Fair Trading Act was passed only in 1986, the Consumer Guarantees Act in 1993. Both of these Acts are directed towards customer expectations: the Consumer Guarantees Act gives consumers remedies when goods and services are not the quality a reasonable consumer would expect, and the Fair Trading Act creates offences and gives remedies where consumers are misled. I was reminded of this when I followed my husband into his favourite menswear store – Haddad’s in Otorohanga, run by the remarkable brothers Karam and John Haddad. If you want a lesson in salesmanship, I recommend you spend 20 minutes in the store (tell them I sent you) just watching a couple of expert salesmen giving customers superb service. It’s not a pretty store – a ton of stock crammed into a main-street barn-like building – but it certainly is lively. As I watched, several truths universal to good salesmanship became evident. First, greet your customers in a purposeful manner. Ask if they are looking for anything in particular. If they say they’re just looking, point them towards a corner of the store they might like (now this one takes a bit of experience at assessing what they might like from what they are wearing – longhand for “know your customers”). And give them time. If they are looking for something in particular, ask questions so you can find the right item. This means “know your stock” – and what it will and (more importantly) won’t do for your customers. Karam’s special ability to assess customers’ size and fit is legendary. My husband needed jeans. “These will fit you” said Karam, after diving into a carton in the back of the shop. They did. John keeps things moving in the shop, dealing carefully with customers who need more time. They both know so much about men’s clothing that being there is an industry education in its own right, which leads to the next point – know the broader industry and the options it presents your customers. What happens if something doesn’t do what it should? “Bring it back” is the message. The availability of clear remedies increases customer confidence, and results in customers getting what they reasonably expect. And the brothers’ bottom line? “You have to have passion about what you do” says John. Unfortunately, they don’t sell much womenswear. I bought a really good fleece top there about 12 years ago (still going strong) but I drew the line at the current range of singlets printed with “Bush Babes – Protecting New Zealand’s assets”. Do visit – and don’t blame me if you come out with a few clothes – oh, and a hat. You’ll see what I mean. Rae Nield is a solicitor specializing in marketing law. This article is intended for general information, and should not be relied on as specific legal advice. You should consult a lawyer for advice relating to your own specific legal problems. Rae Nield can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org .