Gloria Jeans closures: The real reason retail is failing

Another day, another massive retail chain announces store closures. This time it’s RFG, the company behind Gloria Jeans, Donut King and Michel’s Patisserie.

After the unfortunate experience I had last week, I must admit, it’s hardly surprising that so many retailers are struggling.

The story actually begins a couple of months ago, when I purchased a belt as a gift from the Zara store at Robina. Unfortunately it was too small. I told my friend (the gift recipient) that I would exchange it for a larger one, but as I couldn’t find the receipt, Zara wouldn’t play ball.


So I came home from the store disappointed, and the belt has sat in the same spot where it was unceremoniously dumped on my desk for 7 weeks.

On Wednesday last week, I was tidying and happened across the receipt under some filing – huzzah! I dashed immediately to Zara, belt in hand, hoping that they would still exchange the item, even though I was now 2.5 weeks outside of their 30-day exchange and refund window.

Sadly, they wouldn’t budge. Again, I came home from the store disappointed. The belt came home with me, along with a decidedly sour taste in my mouth.

Because, here’s the thing: when I visited the store on a slow Wednesday morning, it was dead. I’m talking, more staff than customers; maybe two people other than me milling about; very little money coming through the door.

Had the staff allowed the exchange, I would have pottered around for 20 minutes and perhaps shopped for an extra item or two. However, being shut down on an exchange doesn’t exactly inspire your customers to continue their patronage.

Enforcing rigid return and exchange policies to deter shoplifting may have been de rigueur 20 years ago, when retail was Big Business and customers had no other alternatives. But to all of the struggling retailers who are scratching your heads, wondering why their retail sales are plummeting, heed this word of warning:

In this day and age of convenient online shopping – which often comes with return and exchange policies of up to 60 days, no questions asked – traditional retail needs to step up its game.

They need to make customers feel valued, not punish them with outdated policies.

They need to provide outstanding service and give people a reason to come back, not confirm their suspicions that online shopping is easier and less financially risky.

And they need to do it now – before they become the next shop on the chopping block.