Want To Be One of The 7.5 Million Who Lose Their Retail Job?

There has been so much doom and gloom mentioned recently about the fate of bricks and mortar retail. Not helped by the rather large number of retailers who are failing here in Australia. The latest, Topshop is not a small player with sales of approximately $90 million across 9 stand-alone stores and 17 Myer concessions. The sad part, as always, is the fate of their 760 employees.

Weak retail conditions, high wage and rent costs, and fierce competition from emerging online players have been identified as the key factors negatively impacting the Australian clothing retail sector, according to research firm, IBISWorld.

This pales into insignificance when you look at reports coming out of the US that predict 7.5 million jobs could be lost in the retail sector because of automation. That is absolutely frightening. I read this story in a recent weekly blog I receive from expert Bob Phibbs, CEO of The Retail Doctor in the US. Already we are seeing Amazon drive the push towards complete self-service stores with no staff and I’m sure this is the tip of the iceberg as far as technology and automation are concerned.

Phibbs maligns the current state of retail in the US, whereby too many staff are just involved in simply transacting sales. They do little to go out of their way to create a memorable experience. It’s this type of poor service that is fueling the massive growth of online and leading to the (predicted) demise of traditional stores.

Sound familiar? A very similar problem is happening here in Australia. Little or no service in store, staff that seem more interested in tasks than the customer. No wonder owners are looking for ways to slash costs by removing these transactors and replacing them with automation.

I love Phibbs quote in his blog “Any retail employee who adds nothing to the value of the experience will be replaced unless they are trained.” What he means by this is, unless staff members can add value and provide an experience they will be replaced by automation. I believe there are a large number of great people in retail they just need to be inspired, trained and coached to add value to every customer. I don’t think it’s that hard!!

One of Phibbs LinkedIn contacts, who recently went into a store and through great connected service, purchased 9 items when she would have normally bought one added this “Most associates in store today are a glamorized greeter, stock person, or cashier and the blame goes to the top. Where are the stylists that connect to the customer? Empower your associates, pay them a little more with some redistributed SM dollars. You might find higher margin dollars in the end and a bigger capture of instore sales dollars.”

My focus, through our training, is to help retailers massively improve their service and sales – and have fun doing it. Retail is fun, yes it’s hard work but we get to talk to customers who, generally are there for a good time. It’s a pretty good base to work off. I love getting the chance to serve, and I love to sell – my selling is all done through making customers aware of other items, special offers etc. When it’s done this way it’s not pushy and 99% of customers are absolutely ok with the process.

For the last 5 years, I help out for 4 days at a boat show on the Gold Coast, serving customers at a food stall (my in-laws). Long days, on my feet but I love it. My challenge is to offer drinks and a couple of extra items small food items as add-ons. I love the challenge and always measure my conversion rates as this is what I can influence, not the number of customers.

So my results – drink to food conversion 39% (last year (24%). Add-ons to food items 37%. The number of satisfied customers – 99% I reckon!!!

Roger Simpson – CEO, The Retail Solution and Author of “The Ultimate Retail Sales Experience” With over 35 years’ industry experience, Roger Simpson is recognized as Australia’s #1 Authority on customer ROI in the retail industry and as a global expert on staff coaching, customer service, and selling skills.