What are your retailers doing?

business planning, business meetingThe acute shortage of seasoned management within retail organisations is exasperated by poor leadership and the bureaucratic excess of imposed corporate obedience.

A common and detrimental occurrence, the shortage perpetuates the existing shortfall of talent within the retail sector. If a brand fails to comprehend or is incapable of differentiating intrinsic retail skills, it is fated to produce the sum of its own misconceptions.

Key indicators of the fabricated trader are apparent in the outlets they operate from, the majority of who fall into a number of categories or combinations thereof.

Bureaucratic – energised by the incessant cascade of checklists, reports, planograms, compliance and logistical hokum from support offices, who through weak direction create empires of self-importance.

Without a doubt, there is a need for accurate documentation and legal conformity that every retailer must accept and adhere too. But just as relevant experts are summoned for electrical or environmental issues, there needs to be a reliance upon a colleague of administrative bent to free up the retailer.

Oblivious – not seeing the wood for the trees.

Unable to see with clarity because they are distracted by actions of little consequence. That is not to say their conduct is of scant regard but like the bureaucrat, such issues should be acknowledged then passed on to the appropriate technician. For example, HR plays a significant part in a store and rightfully so, involving complex rosters, IR affairs, coaching, counselling and the like. A full-time commitment the retailer can ill afford without risking the fundamentals of the occupation.

Bewildered – rabbit in the headlights. This unfortunate creature, often through no fault of their own find themselves in the terrifying situation of operating a shop without inclination or the necessary vigour. Coerced by well-meaning facilitators armed with training programmes conceived in theoretical isolation or obtained from outside sources. The dangers of premeditated criteria in selection and the subsequent one-size-fits-all teaching manual utilisation results in a double negative – unsuitable applicants and an inability to benefit from the invaluable inclusion of diversity.

Allow the retailer to choose, mentor and develop the next generation by ensuring the facilitators play a technical role rather than a controlling one.

Fractured – a downtrodden team mismanaged by single or multiple tiers of leadership. Where issues are not addressed timeously without repercussion or meaningful backup.

Lacking in guidance, clear agenda, achievable goals, recognition and forthrightness – usually the telltale signs of an ailing retailer. The quality of the applicant is directly proportional to the welfare of store leadership teams, a tight-knit affiliation of influence within retail communities.

So what are the skills and propensities of a retailer? Attitude, stamina, creativity, discipline, interaction and humour spring to mind immediately.

An entrepreneurial spirit. The inherent drive for improvement. To exceed expectations and deliver without exception. Sustainable energy and a fortitude for theatre. The freedom of ingenuity and a boldness for self-development toward a personal brand within a corporate imprint. Understanding the shop is their reflection, the ambience of customer participation is essential and floor presence a prerequisite. A passion for the community with an appreciation that retail is about people, for people by people.

How confident are you that your retailers are retailing? Do they get the time and leeway to do what they do best? Avoid distracting them from one of the toughest and specialised gigs in the industry – working the sales floor and mentoring future gurus. The rest is small potatoes.

Dave Farrell is a retailer and writer with three decades of experience on three continents. He can be reached at Freelance Alliance NZ on  [email protected].

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