Another real challenge of 2021 is rearing its head: Whatever you used to do in terms of managing your staff likely will not work this year.
In the aftermath of the pandemics, lockdowns, stimulus payments, low unemployment, and minimum wage increases, finding and keeping good employees is even more daunting for independent retailers.
Here are two examples – from quite different organizations – of new approaches to hiring and managing staff people. Each reflects the reality that in this "New Normal," it is new for everybody, and normal for no one. In other words, the old rules may not apply.
Consider the approach* that a large chain - Barnes & Noble bookstores - is taking to address these challenges. Historically, Barnes & Noble, like many retailers, has been staffed mostly with part-time, minimum wage workers.
Now, they are introducing "a new structure that adds rungs on the ladder — senior bookseller, lead bookseller, expert bookseller — with higher pay at each step." Their goal: "fewer employees per store, but more of them full-time and better-paid."
Why are they doing that? To survive. It's a classic, simple concept: offer a career path! Offer some certainty. Provide something for employees to aspire to, compete for. And compensate them for that effort.
Or, here's another example. A few weeks ago, we were speaking with a specialty store owner who was near burnout.
So how to keep the wheels on? Our recommendation: don't try to find one perfect manager. Go with the strengths of each of those three people already on your staff. Each has shown they are talented and have potential.
That recognizes and rewards each of these staff people for what she has done well, while affording each an opportunity to grow and develop those strengths; positioning each one to be successful.
Is either of these approaches the exact right one for your stores? Unlikely.
But what they do illustrate is a strategic approach to finding a customized solution to a major challenge: attracting and keeping good people. When all the rules have changed.
Yet another flexibility test for Owners!
* How the bookstore chain is changing. Moira Macdonald, Seattle Times Aerts critic, May 26, 2021.
As we approach April of 2021, the question for retailers is "Now what?" Having survived 2020, in many cases on guts and guile, we must now focus on how best to survive 2021 and beyond.
As having one foot on the dock and one foot in the boat, the future of retailers in that Red Zone is not a pretty picture.
Granted, there is much talk about the expectation that "convenience" will become a major factor for shoppers going forward. And we don't disagree.
Here's the deal: We see that this has brought heightened awareness of two different retail strategies: Convenience Retailing versus Destination Retailing.
As the Holiday Season approaches, finding good help promises to be especially challenging for retailers this year.
Then, we read "10 Things to Know to Get And Keep Retail Jobs," a to-the-point commentary from Bob Phibbs*, who specializes in retail sales training.
Here are his Top Ten recommendations for prospective retail employees:
We hear it over and over. "Good business citizenship" matters to shoppers. Especially for retailers, who are quasi-public figures in their communities. (AND in a goldfish bowl.)
Customers vote with their feet, their wallets, and their hearts, and increasingly choose those retailers who "do the right thing", whether it's how they source product, hire and pay employees, reduce environmental impacts, etc.
There are things that independent retailers do day in and day out, without perhaps even realizing how special they are!
Most retailers we know are "aw shucks" type people. It's charming, but, especially in today's world, your leadership can be a competitive edge! So, why keep it a secret?
Many of you are using social media to promote sales events, new product arrivals, etc. Why stop there?
Social media – and your website – is the perfect place to share examples of the values that drive your business. And face it; those values may be too scarce today. They need to be featured!
The season of ghosts and goblins and things that go bump in the night is upon us. While Halloween comes and goes, there may be another very unhappy monster haunting retailers this Holiday season. And it is spooky!
What is this monster? It is an unintended consequence of the good faith efforts of many retailers to provide "excellent customer service." Customer expectations have been raised to heights that may not be fulfilled this year. A grim reality is setting in.
Undoubtedly you'll agree with this. We read and hear a lot in the business press, but we treat 100% of it rather skeptically.
And so it is with articles and commentary about this coming Holiday Season, specifically about retailers' inventory and margins.
Nevertheless, there is considerable good news being trumpeted. Most recently, this feature article in the Wall Street Journal: "Retailers Hone Inventory for Holidays" *
Except for the lingering sugar high, Halloween is soon to be behind us. Retailers know what that means: on to the Holiday Season!
Of course, for most retailers that brings a major focus on sales.
But, savvy retailers are focused especially on the targeted ending inventory on December 31. Those retailers are carefully watching sales reports, and are poised for action.
Still less than $1 a day! 👀