Flexing up with staff that have smarts

There is an annual festive season joke that runs along the ranks of senior manufacturer and retailer sales and marketing teams around the western world. It goes: “You spend six months and millions of dollars building your Christmas and New Year sales plan, and then the plan is delivered at store level by millions of holiday pay teenagers who’ve never worked in retail before!”




This might seem a little harsh on the generation who will be our next captains of industry, but it is an indicative observation on the need to flex up staff at retail over the highest sales period in the year, often with young part-time staff learning their way in the world of commerce. However, in every apparent cloud there are many pieces of silver that make up the lining.

Over the past week I’ve had several friends remark about having great shopper experiences in the run up to Christmas. I’ll mention five as I do believe that they aren’t random. I believe that they are a symptom of leadership flowing through to the store and improving the shopper experience.

At a new fresh format Coles store on a brand new site, a young and vibrant crew of store staff wearing badges that say “Ask me” are genuinely assisting shoppers to find products in the store. Is it working? My friend is approached by a smiling young lady in her early 20s who helps her find what she’s looking for in the store. My friend leaves with stuff on her list that she would normally have not bought because she couldn’t find it, plus new stuff she was advised to try.

We’re in grocery land here, so let’s assume this meant $20 more in the basket because somebody from the store spent two minutes with the shopper.

At a refurbished Kmart in a very well-established suburban mall, (read “this mall is in need of some loving”) all the store staff looked to be in their early to mid-20s and all were smiling, and assisting clearing queues at checkout. We’re talking mass merchants or discount department store land here now, so let’s say 10 fewer people per hour abandoned the long queue, along with their $100 worth of purchases, and walked out of the store.

At a Toys R Us a mum is approached by a smiling early 20s young man, who asks her what she is looking for. She’s there to buy a bike for her son for Christmas. He ask her questions, recommends a bike, suggest she needs to spend $17 more to have it assembled, and helps her choose safety equipment. This is toy store land, so let’s say she came with a $120 budget, but got everything she needed, spent $200 and left very happy.

Now in two separate JB HiFi stores, one in a metro mall and one in the ‘burbs.

In the metro JB HiFi store, a harried dad with a toddler in a stroller enters the store. A smiling guy in his early 20s approaches him asks what he’s looking for. Then the young man escorts the dad, with toddler and stroller, around the store for 20 minutes. He buys everything on his Christmas list that he planned to buy there, and substitutes other products on his Christmas list that JBHiFi doesn’t stock for products JB HiFi does stock.

In the ‘burbs JB HiFi store, a guy “just looking” walks in to check prices on a personal GPS for bushwalking. A young man in his 20s asks him what he’s looking for, takes him to the Garmin explains why it’s good, what else it could used for, kayaking, mountain biking. “Just looking” guy leaves happy having purchased what he was looking for. This is JB HiFi land so we drop in on our lunch break with no intention to purchase anything, and always leave with $50 worth of stuff we just had to have! But in this case the two sales combined totalled over $2,000.

Now here’s the go: In each case these experiences have been in a new store or newly renovated store. Apparently not only the fixtures and fittings are new and fresh or have been refurbished, but so have the store staff,

These “good shopper experience stories” have been told to me in passing. I’m not special, so I assume each of these people has told another five or 10 friends, and I’ve told you, the thousands of people a week who read this blog.

Good news always spreads fast, so please don’t diss the young staff working in store this festive season. Talk to them, ask their advice, and they might just make your Christmas shopping experience your best yet.

Merry Christmas shopping!

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In his role as CEO of CROSSMARK, Kevin Moore looks at the world of retailing from grocery to pharmacy, bottle shops to car dealers, corner store to department stores. In this insightful blog, Kevin covers retail news, ideas, companies and emerging opportunities in Australia, NZ, the US and Europe. His international career in sales and marketing has seen him responsible for business in over 40 countries, which has earned him grey hair and a wealth of expertise in international retailers and brands. CROSSMARK Asia Pacific is Australasia’s largest provider of retail marketing services, consulting to and servicing some of Australasia’s biggest retailers and manufacturers.



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