Time to Lift the Spirits of Your Store Staff

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This time of year is many different things to many different people. Your ability to understand what this time of year means to your people in the field, and your ability to tune in and give them what they need, is critical to the success of your operation during this holiday season.

Retail people know that this season is huge for them. There is a better than average chance of them meeting and/or exceeding their sales budgets. To many, that means a better than average chance of earning commissions or bonuses. They know that they will see increased customer traffic. They probably have lots of inventory – great new novelty items in addition to increased quantities of other merchandise. They understand that this is an immense opportunity to contribute to the annual sales results for their store and their company. And they are looking forward to all of this.

Here are some of the things that they are not looking forward to:

1. staff shortages due to insufficient hiring and illness, real or fabricated
2. stock rooms bulging at the seams; aisles that cannot be used
3. employee lunchrooms, and possibly even washrooms, taken over by excess inventory, bags and other supplies
4. cranky shoppers
5. extended hours of operation
6. missing their family functions because they have to work
7. emergency markdowns on top of emergency markdowns
8. excessive Head Office requirements for reporting and visual presentation changes
9. short breaks and long line-ups at the food court
10. aching bones and muscles…particularly in their feet
11. overwhelming fatigue day after day
12. the Boxing Day (Week) set-up that has to be finished on Christmas Eve
13. the H. O. visits that always finish with what has to be done/changed/improved instead of a pat on the back and a show of appreciation
14. constant schedule changes because someone at H. O. (most probably someone who has not worked in that store) decided that they are under scheduled here and over scheduled there
15. parking so far away from the mall entrance that they wish there was a bus available because their feet are sore

The list could go on and on, but you get the picture. If you have ever worked in a store during this time of year you may have some understanding of what the field staff are going through. If you haven’t…maybe it’s time you did just to gain the very valuable experience.

If you read this and it makes you wonder what you could do to ease the burden without compromising the holiday business and, in fact, probably increase the holiday business…here are some suggestions:

Make sure the store staff have a Holiday party just like the one you have for H. O. people (even if you do it in January…which is a great idea) – are store staff any less deserving of a Holiday party than others in the organization? Why is it that so many retailers send cheques to Store Managers for $10 or $15 per employee to take them out? Or they send a large box of chocolates or cookies with a card signed by everyone at H. O. It’s nice but, really, what kind of appreciation is that? Of course, if that is all the company can afford and provides the same for H. O. employees then fair enough. But if H. O. employees are invited to a party where drinks and dinner are provided and a band or D. J. provides entertainment for the evening, why would you not do the same for your store employees? Are store employees not worthy of the same treatment given to other employees of the organization? Think about that long and hard. Don’t fall back on the excuse of geography or logistics. It doesn’t wash. Where there is a will there is a way. Announce it today and then work out the details.

Make the H. O. team work harder to ensure that promotions, markdowns, Boxing Day/Week set-ups, visual presentation changes and merchandise shipments take the lives of the employees and the needs of the business into account. Make sure that every decision is made with this question in mind: How will this decision affect our customers and our field employees?

Have every H. O. employee work in a store during extended shopping hours and on December 24th and 26th …. until closing. If you are not doing this, why not? You are running a retail operation. Retail stores are open to the public for certain hours. This means that your organization has extended hours. H. O. staff should not be exempt. You can’t say that H. O. staff work their forty hours so it is the same. It absolutely is not the same. Try it. One caution here – the H. O. employees are there to work in the store as directed by the Store Manager and must not interfere with the store operation. The store is the Manager’s turf, particularly at this time of year.

Provide incentives that actually have value.

It is not too late to make some positive changes to your retail operation for this busy holiday season. Be creative, be understanding and be genuine.

Happy Holidays.

Matt Parmaks is an experienced senior Retail Manager with a passion and comittment to higher level of management and/or leadership at retail organizations. He has written several books and articles about the topic. Some of his other publications and views can be found at http://www.dmsretail.com alternatively, you can reach Matt Parmaks at mparmaks@dmsretail.com


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