Another important advantage of smaller retailers, say experts, is its staff. A good sales staff provides an invaluable resource to consumers that will drive traffic to your door—and away from the big boxes.
“Box stores lack soul. They are cookie-cutter operations planned like a science. The staff often reflects the same lack of depth and caring,” says Batt. “We stock our stores to reflect what we believe our audience wants to see. Our staff is devoted to our culture—a culture that is passed down from the owners and that is obtainable and on the job on a daily basis. There is a genuine sense of pride and community in a smaller operation, and the customer feels that.”
Staff is an integral part of a well-working store, and “extremely important during economic downturn,” adds Costello.
“Our employees are our No. 1 asset,” agrees Batt. “We’ve come to realize that no matter how well we set the table our employees are responsible for bringing the customers back.”
The importance of a good team, especially in difficult economic times, makes the hiring function extra important for retailers. Peninsula Beauty follows a tried-and-true hiring philosophy, says Schaar. “Hire the smile, train the skill.” The company focuses its resources on teaching product knowledge to naturally service-oriented employees and “quickly removes” those who are not service oriented, says Schaar. It has also invested in hiring a part-time sales and service coach for its staff of more than 50 people.
Training and enthusiasm are the keys to a successful employee, says Costello. The company looks for employees with great morale and willingness to work. Skills are honed with a variety of training opportunities, which include ongoing product training, and sales and management seminars for staff members who show growth potential. “We try to nurture people and give them opportunity to learn, grow and be confident on the sales floor. Good employees are such an important thing,” says Costello.
In addition to offering training, it is also important to recognize employees for a job well done. Schaar, for example, has employed a variety of staff bonuses and incentive programs to energize employees.
[Photo caption: Peninsula Beauty uses a part-time sales and service coach to keep its employees primed for great customer service and sales.]
[Image: Courtesy of Peninsula Beauty]