Why do we keep wondering how other stores are doing? The below-the-surface psychology of running a business

Why do we keep wondering how other stores are doing?

The below-the-surface psychology of running a business


Almost every time a salesperson walks into a beauty supply store, the store owner or manager asks: “How are other businesses doing?” or “Why is it so slow nowadays? Is it the same for everyone?” This is a question I hear almost every day, if not several times a day. From a salesperson’s perspective, I’ve surveyed and researched why these questions are asked and how they should be handled.


99% of the people who ask me if other businesses are doing well are Korean owners and managers. Non-Korean beauty supply owners sometimes ask, but they don’t take it as seriously as Koreans do.

Manager P, who runs two stores in the South, said, “I feel like I ask sales people the same question every time I meet them. If the other stores are doing well while we’re not, there’s something wrong with us, so we should do something. If others are not doing well, we would breathe a sigh of relief (laughs). I don’t necessarily listen to all the opinions of the salespeople that walk into my store, but I try to find the common theme in what they talk about. We’d listen to those,” he said.

Mr. L, who owns a different store in the same area, said, “We recently opened a big 20,000 sq ft. store. It makes you more aware of your surroundings. So I try to carefully listen to what salespeople are saying. They give you the inside scoop. I am interested in how other shops are running their business, if there is any new business opening or closing, etc. In a way, when I ask how other shops are doing, it opens the door for another conversation. In fact, it’s more important to focus on your own store, regardless of how other stores are doing,” he emphasized. While some beauty supply owners feel the same way, many others worry excessively.

Mr. H, who owns a small store in the South, is deeply worried. “It’s tax refund season, but the business is still too slow. I moved to this area from another city and brought my business with me, but I’m worried that my business is doing worse. So I’m always asking if other stores are doing well. If other stores are doing well and we’re not, we need to find out what’s not working or see if there’s a problem with our inventory.” How should a salesperson respond to a beauty supply owner or manager in this situation?

“I’ve had enough of people who ask me about other stores, so I just assure them that everyone’s not doing well just like you these days,” says L, a sales manager at an East Coast-based hair company. And most of the time, the business owners breathe a sigh of relief.”

But Director K of Company A, who has worked in the beauty industry for more than 20 years, says they train salespeople differently. “We instruct our sales associates never to ask a store owner, ‘How’s business?’ Most of our clients would respond they are not doing well. I’ve been in the hair industry for over 20 years, and I’ve never met a business owner who told me that business was good. And it’s hard to get orders if you start the conversation in a negative tone. Psychologically, it’s called cognitive dissonance. Once you say “no,” you’re more likely to say “no” in your next answer to avoid holding conflicting attitudes. So we train them not to ask how business is going, but just say hello, and move on to something else. And if clients ask them, ‘How is business at other stores?’ we advise them to give a positive outlook as much as possible, such as ‘It’s not bad at the other stores, it’s slow now, but it will turn around, and so on'” he says.

In fact, Koreans are very relationship-oriented, so it’s important to understand relationalism when doing business with them.

Let’s analyze the psychology of why beauty supply owners ask about other businesses. An approach says you should provide comfort by stating that there are many people who are in a worse situation than the person asking. This is sort of a “downward comparison”. It’s about finding relative comfort in thinking about people who are worse off than you. The opposite of this is “upward comparison,” which involves comparing yourself to people who are better off than you, and it’s generally believed that upward comparison leads to depression and anxiety, while downward comparison has short-term emotional benefits. When we say stop comparing yourself to others, we’re talking about upward comparisons. However, scholars are questioning whether downward comparisons are good in the long run.



First of all, many of us know from personal experience that upward comparison is not good for our mental health. Even if you’re doing well enough, if one day you suddenly see someone around you who seems to be better and happier than you and you start comparing yourself to them, your life, which seemed fine until just a few minutes ago, looks shabby and you feel deprived as if you’re nothing of value. However, the existence of someone who is actually better than you doesn’t make your life suddenly worse. It’s not like the total quantity of happiness in the world is fixed, as if it’s a zero-sum game. In other words, it doesn’t mean that for someone to become happier, they take away your happiness. Therefore, it is rather important to look at the problems of your own store, make a plan, and follow through with the plan, regardless of how others are doing.


– Various signs inside and outside the store run by Manager H in the Midwest
(Signs provided by BNB Magazine are put to good use here)



We would like to introduce the case of Manager H, who is in charge of four stores in the Midwest and runs them according to his own plan rather than comparing it to the business of others. “We’re aware of what’s going on in other stores, but we don’t think about it too much. I’m always checking to make sure we have enough supplies in stock, trying new products whenever possible, and most importantly, keeping the store clean and organized. There are a lot of stores around us, but it’s important to grow together as an industry, so we have a sense of camaraderie, focusing on fair play and improving our sales performance.” The shop manager adds that he actively utilizes BNB Magazine. “Our store has been making good use of the signs printed on the last pages of BNB Magazine. We cut pages containing what’s useful for our store and laminate them to put up as a sign. We believe that these signs will be the minimum defense against any possible incidents that may occur in the store.”


 -Inside the store run by Manager H in the Midwest (well organized by section)


To summarize, I think that asking if someone’s business is doing well is probably a way to gain psychological reassurance. However, while it’s important to keep up with the business situation of other stores in an infinitely competitive market, I believe that running your own business according to your own plan is the way to have a solid business in the long run. There might not be a surefire way to do business, but there is a right way. I think it’s about taking it one day at a time, at your own pace, and doing the best you can.


BNB 매거진 2024년 5월호 ©bnbmag.com