For the most part these outlets offered a product offering that encompassed both carpet and vinyl, as well as – or in addition to – decorative timber flooring materials.

Grouping these products together in order to provide consumers with all their possible options, in the hope of achieving a sale, is no longer a new idea but instead it has become a matter of necessity in the fight for survival. This became evident to me as more and more business owners stating that business for them was increasingly “very up and down”.

However, I have come across businesses in close proximity of each other, where one outlet is struggling with a potential closure and another in the same street is booming and booked up months in advance, and consequently looking to increase staff levels.

In these situations, particularly when the stores are in close proximity have an almost identical product offering, one would find it hard not to ask how they can end up at such opposing ends of the business spectrum.

The answer is simple, and so much more important than a great-looking showroom. It lies in the enthusiasm and knowledge of the person who initially comes into contact with the potential buyer first, whether it be over the phone or in person.

Put simply, it all comes down to customer service.

A customer’s first impression should never be underestimated. While most will baulk at the first sign of a pushy salesman, what is worse is being ignored by a salesperson who is distant and aloof, or more interested in reading the paper than serving their customer.

What is even worse than that is being confronted by a person who can’t answer your phone enquiry or direct it to the appropriate person, and consequently puts you on hold for a prolonged period.

Good body language and communication skills are critical tools in the retail salespersons armoury, not only do they build consumer confidence in the salesperson, but they also reflect confidence in the products they are offering, and the organisation as a whole.

As retailers we need to take advantage of every opportunity to engage with, and personalise, our communication with every customer we interact with, or we will be left wondering why our very labour-oriented industry has been absorbed by the eCommerce arena – an arena that relies on on-line communication rather than the personal attributes on offer in a showroom retail experience.