Quebec City, view from Lévis, Canada
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This weekend the Cheshire Family, minus puppy Charlie, was in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.  We were happily surprised to find out that our weekend get-away was the same weekend as Quebec City’s Winter Carnival.  It’s like Carnival in Brazil, just with snow pants, ice sculptures, and a dancing snow man named Bonhomme.

It’s during this festival on a windy, snowy, cold afternoon that my wife and I entered a footwear store.  We were looking for hiking boots for her.

A quick (customer) background on this boot search: We’ve searched “everywhere” for Tina’s hiking boots.  She’s tried on practically every boot at both Eastern Mountain Sports & LL Bean– none have fit properly.  Hiking boots are one of those kinds of footwear that you need to spend a little time (and money) on getting it right.  Five miles into a trek, you don’t want your foot to fall off from killer blisters and sprains.

In summary, if we actually (and finally) found the right boot, we’d pay almost any price.  My Asolo boots were $199 and are the best boots I’ve ever had.  After all this frustration in searching for boots, we were ready to buy!

Tina had yet to try on a North Face boot, and gave one in this store a shot.  Unlike all of the other boots, she had no immediate pressure or pain points on her foot.  Soon both boots were on and she was walking around the store fighting a smile. The boots were $139 and had a 20% discount.

With the sale basically in the bag there was only one step left.  Naturally, you want to try the boots on wearing the thicker hiking socks you’ll likely be wearing.  We went over to the socks rack.  Would you believe it? They were out of Smart Wool size small hiking socks.  I’m a big fan of Smart Wool, but they were also out of the rest of the size small socks.

“Do you have kids sizes?”

Sorry no.  The mediums would be way too big, and there was nothing smaller available in the store.  With a purchase price of over $100, there was simply no way we’d just guess-timate how the boots would feel.

The sale went from “Go to No” in the 2 minutes it took looking for socks. The lack of a $20 product blocked the sale of a $140 product. Amazing!

It’s a beautiful example of friction points in the sales process.  Every product and service has it’s own unique elements of difficulty.  Physical retail stores would do well to examine how long lines, dressing rooms, and yes- supporting products generate friction and potentially prevent sales.

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  • Tina

    So TRUE! This was a huge heart breaker for me and had they kept my size small smartwools in stock, they’d have made a sale at their store, instead of me going to someone else’s store to make my long awaited purchase.

    It just goes to show you, if the shoe fits…just make sure you have the right sock!

  • Greg Connolly

    You should check out anti chaffing and blister prevention products. The best. OK full disclosure, they are a client and we did their packaging and are in the process building their new website. I use their products all the time, skiing, hiking etc.

    Regarding the socks. The real killer for the store is the margin in the sox is way better than the boots so they should NEVER be out of sox.

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