December 12, 2022
“Wow, you’ve had such a great year. We appreciate your dedication and your hard work. You scored very high on your review. This is exciting. Your raise will be $0.30/hr. Congratulations!”
In my retail career spanning two decades, I’ve been on the receiving end of this conversation more than I can count. I worked my guts out day in and day out. I was dedicated to the point of exhaustion. I’d close until late at night, and then I’d be back to open and restock the store at 6am.
For years, I didn’t allow myself proper breaks. I rarely took my ten-minute breaks because I thought they’d slow me down, and I ate my lunch standing up as I answered questions from my staff.
Some of this pressure was self-induced, but it’s also important to examine an industry where this intense work ethic thrives.
What can we do to assist the retail evolution? How can companies make retail appealing to a new generation? We need to come together across brands. The industry needs an overhaul.
Turnover in retail is a reality in most stores. Retail is challenging to say the least. The operations can be tricky to follow, and the physical demands are no joke.
Throw poorly trained leaders in this mix and a few unhappy customers, and it’s easy to see why so many people quit.
Employees need more than a paycheck to keep them engaged at work. They want to feel valued – which is where so many companies fail. They don’t get the training they need, communication is sparse, and autonomy is rarely granted. Too often, associates get left in the dark.
On top of all that, companies continue to add tasks to the store workload without adding any additional resources. It takes a talented team to ensure online orders get processed, in-store pick-ups are ready on time, and nothing detracts from the in-store shopping experience.
Customers in the store deserve a top-notch experience, but the employees have corporate direction raining down on them all day. There can be a balance.
Fix the disconnect.
There is typically a massive disconnect from the store to the corporate office. If the person running store operations hasn’t worked in a store, that’s okay, but they need insight from the store leaders. There needs to be back-and-forth communication about what’s working, what’s not, and why.
Corporate leaders must get out to their stores.
For some reason, this gets pushed to the bottom of the to-do list, and then corporate leaders wonder why turnover is so bad. Ditch the dog and pony show, where you breeze through a visit in fifteen minutes and go work in a store for a day. See what’s going on. Yes, work there for a few hours. What is the team getting tripped up on? What have they incorporated seamlessly? Is this the same in all stores?
Store teams need to be listened to, and they need an advocate. They need corporate leaders to hear them and heed their direction. This could be the VP of stores. It should be someone with field experience, preferably.
Action is everything here. I’ve talked myself blue in the face, giving feedback about what wasn’t working, and most of the time, I was met with excuses and no change. I got handed more work, and payroll was slowly taken away.
Make it fun
There’s nothing worse than coming home late on a Friday night after a challenging shift, scrolling through Instagram, and seeing the huge party that the corporate employees got…just because it’s Friday.
Working in stores is so much fun, but the store employees feel wholeheartedly unappreciated when stuff like this happens.
“Is this why we’re saving payroll? To fund a corporate party?” That is what we’re thinking.
Do something special for store employees only. Fill the fridge. Buy them a water cooler for the back room. Send them Starbucks cards. Whatever. Yes, it will probably cost you money. It’s 100% worth it.
Pay your Store Managers more.
I know, again, with the money. Here’s the thing, you need Legacy Leaders running your stores. These are career professionals. These are people with tenure, insight, and skill.
When you give a star performer the same 3% raise every year, they slowly lose money. The minimum wage goes up. Inflation goes up. This person is killing the game but is making less money every year.
Find a way to reward them (yes, with money), or you will lose them to a competitor.
Running a retail store takes immense skill. The leaders I’ve enjoyed working with are incredibly dedicated and knowledgeable.
Yes, I worked myself too hard for way too many years. But as I became more tenured and confident, I began showing myself grace. I began to speak up, and I became a partner for leaders at the corporate level.
Turnover is bound to happen, but there is much we can do to combat it. Corporate leaders must fix the disconnect with their store teams. Create a communication loop and get out to the field. Your store leaders have a lot to tell you.
Make the job fun and reward the store teams. They’re probably working harder than anyone, but they get crummy raises, and they’re left on the sidelines when the corporate teams throw themselves a party.
Brick-and-mortar retail is entering an evolution. Help the store teams. Reward them and be their problem solver. This is how you stay ahead. Customers will always want to shop. That’s not going away. Companies that see their store leaders as equal partners will see less turnover, a more committed leadership team, and people invested for the long haul.
Kit Campoy is a former retail professional turned freelance writer. She covers Web3, travel, leadership, retail, writing, and more. She also writes personal essays on Medium. Connect with Kit on LinkedIn, DeSo, and Twitter. Give yourself a break, and join her weekly newsletter.
Modern Day Build Versus Buy
The Container Store: Organizing for Growth
Why Aren’t More Retailers Great Places to Work?
Technology takeaways from FMI Midwinter
What It’s Really Like to Be a Store Manager
NRF 2023 Day 3 Insights
NRF 2023 Day 2 Insights
NRF 2023 Day 1 Insights
The Three Reasons Why Leading Retailers are Spending More on Technology in 2023
How retailers can benefit from microlearning