A retail Christmas tale

On Monday, December 9, Channel 4's Dispatches: Secrets of the Discount Stores focused on the retail sector and promised to reveal how bargain shops like TK Maxx break the law and don't actually offer customers the good deals they advertise. This investigative documentary, airing a couple of weeks before Christmas couldn't have come at a more damaging time for the retailer, which, much to our surprise, remained silent in its wake. 

By Oana Baetica

Retail Christmas tale
Sneaky Xmas tree
The documentary showed how, despite promising designer wear at affordable prices, many items of clothing sold in TK Maxx are actually own brand, private label products. The well known chain is also accused of selling cheap garments and accessories under high street labels.

It is hard to figure out where the truth actually lies and whether the allegations are true and if so, to what extent. As PR consultants, we were more interested in the stance TK Maxx took after the airing of the programme. Some of us were also considering returning a designer handbag purchased the day before, but that's entirely a side issue.

Much to our surprise, there was virtually no reaction from the retail chain. Active on only four social media outlets (Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and YouTube) I expected a lot of damage control messages on each platform, setting the record straight.

Unfortunately for TK Maxx's brand image, the only posts relating to the documentary were a rather dry Facebook status and a tweet linking to the About section on the company's website. Not what you'd expect during the busiest time of the year for both shoppers and stores.

But unlike TK Maxx's marketing team, shoppers did not stay quiet for long and tweets, posts and Instagrams quickly filled our timelines. It seems everyone but TK Maxx had an opinion.

And that is where the issue lies. When a detrimental story about your business hits the media, you can't afford to curl into a ball and hide in the warehouse until the scandal magically goes away. Refusing to fight your corner and communicate with the customer translates to loss of income.

A simple note on the company website is a good starting point, but what about the 300,000 Facebook fans? Or the 20,500 Twitter followers asking you questions? Each of these queries needs to be dealt with in order to save face and rebuild the relationship with your audience.

Moreover, TK Maxx does not seem to have a Pinterest or Instagram account. If you are a business to consumer outlet picture based social media should be at the heart of your marketing campaign. People buy with their eyes and, when calamity hit, some photos of reasonably priced items, labels and tags could have made a world of difference.

The lesson here for any business, be it B2C or B2B, is that communicating with your audience, responding to customer's questions and rigorous use of social media are must-haves. Unlike that seventeenth designer handbag we purchased the other day...

Image courtesy of luigi diamanti on freedigitalphotos.net

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Oana Baetica - Technical PR consultant

Stone Junction is a cool technical PR agency based in Stafford. We work for all sorts of businesses, with a particular focus on technology, technical and engineering companies. We like being sent cake and biscuits by clients, journalists and prospects.

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