R is for Retail. R is also for…..
Recent announcements of the government’s definition of Australia being in a recession caused me to cast my mind way, way back to the “recession we had to have”.
”. Early 1990’s. Times when most businesses cut back on recruitment and cost wherever they could and made do with the resources they had.
I was lucky enough to work for The Body Shop Australia during this time. The directors announced to the business that while other retailers were cutting their training budgets, they were increasing theirs. Their belief was that in a time of cut backs, it would be the way we made our customers feel that would bring us the results we needed. And they were right. The 90’s were a golden age for the business and it wasn’t just because the product was excellent: it was, but to reduce it down to just product is to diminish the retail experience. Anywhere I travelled in Australia, taxi drivers would ask me where I worked and then would tell me how wonderful the service was there. Now, if taxi drivers were talking about the quality of service, then it was widely known.
What would today’s taxi or uber drivers say about the retail experience at your stores? Would they even know who you were? (And if they don’t, stop blaming marketing).
For a while now, I’ve been reading articles written by so called retail experts talking about the high costs of rent and labour as the primary culprits for the demise of some of this country’s former giants of the industry. There’s little to no discussion on service, product or experience. It’s almost as if retail has forgotten itself.
As a customer and as a sales behavioural professional I have to say that blaming the current situation in retail mainly on rent and labour, dumbs down the complexity of retail. It leaves retailers with no empowerment – only a hope that someone else fixes these problems.
Remember that many of our people have only ever experienced consecutive years of economic growth. It’s easy to sell when customers have discretionary income. But selling in a time when the decision requires more thought requires more skill.
The reality is rents are ridiculous. And labour is high relative to the price of some goods and services. It’s true.
What is also true is that customers have more choice than ever before about where they shop, when they shop, how they shop and what they want from the experience. We’ve trained customers to only buy during sale so we’re perennially on sale. We’ve taught customers to buy on price. And now we believe it.
We must take responsibility for what we can do, rather than just complain about what everyone in retail is facing. If rents are high for most retailers, if labour costs are high for most retailers and if online shopping is a reality for most retailers, what is the differential?
How you make your customers feel while they’re in your stores.
Do they feel welcome? Are they made to feel like they belong and that you’re glad they’re there? Is your team able to provide advice or mainly process transactions on the register? ADVICE: which means an ability to ask better questions to engage and start a conversation about why the customer is there, listen and provide real advice that will serve the customer well. Are you supporting them to do that by teaching and coaching them?
It’s time. If we are in a recession, this is the factor that will sort the wheat from the chaff.
The cost of not investing in your retail staff may be too high.