There we are, a group of loyal, crazy parents who stand on the riverbank cheering our girls (who claim to be unable to hear us from the boats). Rowing is a tough sport, it’s a team sport like no other and I’m not going to wax on about it because only rowers are interested, but the summary is, that it takes a certain kind of determination to stick at rowing and just get the boat over the line. So, when it comes to the end of the season we’re all very ready to get to the finish line. The clever people who run rowing retail merchandise know this. They make and print clothes that have every girl who competes’ name on it (yes, the writing is very small) but they’re all there. It’s the kind of memento every girl who has dedicated a season to rowing really wants.

Last year, my amazing husband stood in line for over an hour to get our daughter the top with the names, got to the head of the queue and found out you could order online. So, when it came to it this year, I felt wiser and calmer. I’ll order online. No worries. But when I went to the website the ones they were selling at the stall were not there. Slight panic in the supporters’ tent and off I went to stand in the ridiculous queue. Parents were comparing standing in line stories, how long they had stood to order, then how long they had stood to pick up. The worst I heard was three and a half hours!

They were unimpressed. They had come to watch and support their kids rowing, they didn’t want to spend two to three hours of the day waiting in line.

I spend an hour in line chatting with another parent and making friends with people from other schools. Probably one of the biggest problems with this queue is the social nature of girls shopping. One girl gets to the top of the queue, her friends all pile in with their views and thoughts and then think they might buy, the queue is messy and disorganised and it’s hard to make out what’s going on. In the time that I stood there I moved approximately 7ms and I was still nowhere near even the middle of the line.

Eventually, the person in charge of the stall comes to tell us that she is worried they’re going to run out and we can order online.

The same product isn’t on the website, we point out to her. At which point she explains that the person who’s putting the product online is running behind and it might take her a couple of days for those items to get up online but they will be available. There is discernible eye rolling from the group of people in the queue and the woman who is talking to us is overwhelmed by the number of people who want to suggest better ways for this to work in the future.

When you’ve got a captive group of people who you know are coming, the smartest way to deal with the overwhelm is to pre-order.

Customers perceive benefit in pre-ordering, it’s the rowing retail equivalent of click and collect.  We would all have been happy to pre-order our garments based on last year’s sizing and pick up on the day or have them shipped to us. That way the rowing shop would only have needed to print on the day for the small number of people who missed the pre-order or who were new to the process.

If for whatever reason pre-ordering is not available, the following tactics make the wait and purchase process a lot easier;

  • Size set available for customers to figure out which size before getting in line to order;
  • Signage to let people know that the items would be available online soon;
  • Express/ Mobile EFTPOS order option walking the queue for those who know exactly what they want;
  • Some form of entertainment or even seating for those people at the back of the queue (although we were pretty good at making our own entertainment).

It seems obvious as we reflect on it but it was clearly not obvious enough for this business to plan ahead.

We work with businesses to improve systems and processes and deliver change projects. We are always focused on #betterretailing, both for the end customer and the teams that deliver service.

Feel free to reach out on leoniem(at)6R(dot)com(dot)au to chat more.