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Lessons from Larry, the Old School Merchant

Lessons from Larry the Old School Merchant
Listen up! Larry's got some old school knowledge for you.
This article was originally published by TheMannGroup.
Larry is a successful, veteran retailer
Larry in the flesh

Larry has been in retail for over 40 years. He and his wife have run high-end fashion stores all their lives. The veteran retailer has yet to retire; he works at Men's Warehouse in Asheville. That's where we met Larry, while on a pursuit to find a blazer for a very important presentation.

Walking into Men's Warehouse, we were greeted by a millennial gazing at her phone's screen who glanced up and took us in with a single glance. I guess we didn't look like big spenders; she walked on, resuming whatever was more important on her phone.

The second associate we came across (another millennial) asked us, "How can I help you?" Lucky for her, we were on a specific mission, so we quickly gave her the information she needed to help us. She waved her hand at a rack and said, "Look in this section here, I'll be back in a minute." After that minute (or three) passed without her return, we turned and retraced our steps back out the door.

In steps Larry—a hero in suit's clothing.

Larry not only shook our hands and got our names, he got right to the reason we were there—and not the "to buy a blazer" reason, the "very important presentation" reason. I won't bore you with those details, but I will share with you Larry's approach and why it worked.



Bike Handshake
Don't underestimate the simple handshake

1. Shaking Hands:

This is a lost art when it comes to retail. Why does it work?

  • It creates connection
  • It builds immediate trust
  • It displays a commitment to a relationship, not the sales transaction

2. Get a Name:

It's one thing to get someone's name, it's another to use it in the conversation. Why does it work?

  • It establishes incredible listening skills
  • It validates we are all human beings, not just sales figures
  • It keeps the conversation enriched and genuine

3. Curiosity:

It really doesn't kill cats, it gives you a lot of amazing information to build an impressionable experience. Why does it work?

  • It creates an awareness beyond the transaction
  • It provides the customer with peace of mind
  • It establishes your credibility as an expert

Needless to say, we didn't just walk out with the perfect blazer—we also gained a new resource for our suiting needs, and Larry gained two devoted customers. Larry is a great reminder that you can strive for authenticity, but without the art of being a true merchant, you will never leave a lasting impression.


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Leslie cunningham headshotAuthor: Leslie Cunningham
Leslie is a master of maintaining relationships. From her photography work with celebrities including John Mellencamp, Mikhail Gorbachev and Michael Andretti, to publishing a book that is empowering new mothers everywhere. Leslie knows people. For the past 20+ years she has perfected the art of connecting with people. Leslie has been a Human Resources Director for over 150 small business owners developing training, workers compensation and employee benefit programs. Leslie worked as a HR Executive in the SLC Winter Olympics in 2001. She has also managed fundraising for the Ronald McDonald House raising over a quarter of a million dollars in one evening. Leslie currently works as Chief Networking Officer at The Mann Group.

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