May 03, 2022 I by Hilary B. Jones
5 Ways to Make Your Store Welcoming to All
Despite some much-needed shifts in recent years, jokes about hiding purchases from wives, lack of representation and mistreatment are still common in music retail, whether in-person or online. Many women and transgender people still feel ignored, underestimated, or objectified, fearing to try out instruments or ask questions, which could help them make decisions as consumers.
A recent study of almost 1,000 musicians conducted by my consulting company, Hilary B. Jones Consulting, found that the majority of women (56.9%) and trans individuals (56.6%), and, perhaps more surprisingly, one-third of men (33.3%), stated that they make purchasing decisions based on the retailer’s treatment of women and trans individuals. For men, that percentage is even higher (45.2%) when referencing specific companies or brands. In addition, many women (37.2%) report experiencing sexual comments in music retail spaces. Trans individuals also experience such comments at more than a ten-fold rate (17.6%) compared to men (1.2%). Women reported more negative experiences in urban locations (versus suburban or rural), while trans musicians reported both urban and rural store locations as challenging.
These numbers beg the question — how many negative experiences must occur before a customer opts out of brick-and-mortar retail experiences altogether?
How might music retailers ensure they are creating a welcoming retail experiences for all of their customers? Here are a few tips:
Hire smart. Survey participants listed diversifying one’s hiring as the No. 1 way to improve the environment for consumers. We’ve heard it before, it’s important to stress that people feel more welcome in a store when they see someone who looks similar to them represented at that business. This might require additional outreach and hiring beyond a “friend of a friend,” but it can make a huge difference when it comes to the customer’s experience.
Rethink your marketing. Who is represented in your marketing? If you can include a range of identities, this will help potential customers feel included and welcome.
Focus on training. Hiring new employees and getting new customers in the door isn’t helpful if they have a negative experience when they are there. Training employees to treat everyone who walks through the door as a potential customer and respectfully meeting them where they are at is important. It is equally important to train employees so that when new employees are hired, they have a positive experience and don’t leave after three months.
Give them some space. Ask yourself: What does a welcoming space look like? A balance of employee support (not too hands-on or hands-off), physically accessible, with attention to the “try-out experience.” Many folks are nervous to play in a music store, so something as small as a set of headphones at a try-out station can make a big difference. For parents, a space with toys for kids to play can be a big help, too.
Get involved in your community. Partnerships, events, donations and sponsorships can show your support and clarify your values to those inside and outside your building. Partnering with your local Girls Rock Camp, hip-hop program, or other community group to hold events like “Beat-making 101” or “Guitar Maintenance 101” are a great way to connect with new people in your community. Community members who might otherwise be uncomfortable in music stores are more likely to trust your business than those without such partnerships.
Most retail establishments are run by musicians who understand the value of creating music. Decreasing barriers and making this work a priority can help companies achieve their own values — making music accessible and a place of expression for all. MI