The Importance of the Add-On Sale in Retail

Caucasian salesman talking to customer in furniture store
••• Jacobs Stock Photography Ltd / Getty Images

We all know that the second item on the ticket is the profitable one in retail. The first item paid for the advertising and some and employees, but the second one is all gravy (at least after you have paid for the cost of goods that is.) In other words, the more items you have on a ticket for the customer who came in for one thing, the more profitable your retail store will be. 


In the Retail Sales Bible, we describe two types of add-on sales - the accessory and the extra (second) category. Another way to say this is the "needs" and the "wants." Now that is simplifying it a bit, but let me explain. When I had my shoes stores, we knew that when you bought a pair of shoes, you needed socks to wear with them. Granted, you may have socks at home, but we always trained our people to "assume" these types of sales since they were needs. 

For example, a professional salesperson would not ask the customer "do you need any socks?" Instead, they would ask it in a better way. "I got you one pair of black and one pair of grey socks, do you need other colors right now?" Pay attention to what just happened. We did not ask the customer if they wanted socks, rather we asked if they wanted more than two pairs. Often times, the customer would say, "no, those two should work." Sometimes they would say no to any socks, but the % of customers who bought accessories went way up when we used this approach. The key is we told them versus asked them about the first two pairs and then asked about any more. This is what assuming the sale is all about. 

The best salespeople would also grab a matching belt for the shoe and simply say to the customer, "I got you the belt you need as well." They never asked, they assumed the sale. 


The extra category add-on is truly more of a nice to have for the customer. It is the "want" described earlier. It might be something you want, but not need today to make your first purchase complete. So back to our shoe example. An extra category would be a sandal to the person who came in for a dress shoe. Not a "need" if they buy a dress shoe. But still something you should suggest. In this situation, you cannot say "I also grabbed a sandal for you to go with your dress shoe." It doesn't make sense. In fact, the customer might question your first shoe choice. 

So, here is how we introduced the extra category add-on to the customer. "Hey, we just got these sandals in. Would you mind trying them on and telling me how they feel?" With this approach, we got the sandals on the feet of the customer. And often times, the customer would be impressed with the comfort and feel of the shoe and buy it. The key is that we had the customer "experience" the shoe and did not ask them if they "wanted" anything else. 

Ultimately, the key to any add-on sale is to sell it on the sales floor as part of the overall buying experience. Too many salespeople wait until after they leave the showroom and try to see accessories at the cash wrap. At this point, the customer is done buying. In our shoe store, the team was trained to bring the socks and the belt and other ideas to the fitting stool with them. We told them that once the customer stood up and headed toward the checkout, his wallet was closed. In other words, get them to say yes to the accessories before you go to check out. 

If you are a retail store owner, make sure your sales team is following a unified sales process. This ensures that everyone is selling accessories and not just asking about them. It also gives you the ability to coach their selling skills and control the customer experience in your store. And customer experience breeds loyalty