Retail Best Practices: 12 Tips for the Creation of Exceptional

Bob Phibbs
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best practice retail

Online retailers are jealous. Many retail best practices don't work online.

They can't do what brick-and-mortar retailers can do.

They can’t create an emotional connection to an object. A shopper can’t pick up an item and see how it feels around their wrist or drapes against their skin.

They can't show serendipity. A shopper can't go looking for a crib and suddenly there's a frog umbrella. They’d be like what the hell is that?

Right, they can't do that.

That’s why many are opening stores, even Amazon.

In spite of all the nonsense around the retail apocalypse and the hyperbole retail is dead, brick and mortar stores can still excel in merchandising, in selling, and in creating an exceptional experience.

There are more tools than ever to collect, analyze and create forward-thinking actions to compete.

With good retail practices, it doesn’t have to suck running a brick-and-mortar store.

But from the corporate execs in their ivory towers who obsessively collect bad news to the Main Street independent, everyone is calling each other and complaining that that is their reality.

Most often, there’s hardly a trace of retail management best practices being followed in their organizations.

I’ve said it for years and it bears repeating, retailers are reaping the harvest of decades of rotten customer service from department stores to boutiques to independent retailers.

Traffic is down - I get it.

Like it’s all those darn customers’ fault.

As retailers, you need to get over that mindset because what you set your mind on is where you're going to go. In-store retail sales are expected to rise this year, but not by much.

If you say I'm gonna make it through this, and are up to the challenge, great. But if you wanna just bitch and moan about it…

I overheard somebody doing that in a store about their own customers. And you know the kicker? It was the owner.

I stood there thinking, really?  I would've been fired if I had ever talked like that about a customer.

After all, the only reason a business exists is to have customers.

When did the fundamentals of retail change?

They didn’t. You need to be brilliant on the basics.

I’ve assembled a dozen best practices for you to measure yourself and your retail management crew against when it comes to employee training, customer service, and employee performance management. So here they are…

12 Retail best practices for your store

You may think the best performers in the retail industry have deeply held secrets on how to manipulate customers into buying more. The reality is, they consistently do a fantastic job on the basics. They implement obvious retail best practices everybody knows, but few seem to practice.

1. Offer competitive pay, incentives, training, and benefits

The best retailers offer employees competitive pay, incentives, training, and benefits.

They don’t share a philosophy of
churn-and-burn employees as the norm. If you think you can drive up to work in a brand new Mercedes while your employees have to take a bus and no one notices - you’re wrong.

Retail management best practices demand that you demonstrate restraint and humility -- and support your employees so they can also thrive.

2. Have a well-oiled supply chain

Retail best practices include maintaining a solid supply chain so you have enough merchandise in stock.

Customers shouldn’t arrive at your store to find you are out of the product they could just as easily have purchased from their smartphone without having to use their car.

3. Limit discounts and promotions

The best retailers limit price reductions and promotional sales. They keep a tight reign on inventory to maximize turn and margin.

It doesn’t mean you don’t put on sales, but they are not so frequent customers can time their purchases to wait for the deal.

4. District managers know employees' names

The best district managers know the names of all employees in their stores. They make sure to talk to all of them on a store visit.

Too many come in on a beeline to the manager where they meet in private and leave without any interaction. At its heart, retail is a people business, not a process business.

The best district managers are able to have a face-to-face dialogue with their individual managers instead of just holding conference calls. The worst of them just pass along what all stores need to do and set goals that are unrealistic for many.

5. District managers as a buffer

Retail best practices should include having a district manager act as a buffer, standing between corporate and managers so neither has a chance to get mad at the other.

It is far better to be encouraging dialogue than to let things devolve into us versus them. No one wins in that game, especially your customers.

6. Have enough payroll budget

The best managers have a high enough payroll budget. They can complete all business tasks but also train employees on how to sell the merchandise. You manage down your sales by having fewer employees on the schedule and expecting those employees to do more with less.  

But you can’t do more engagement with less staff, you simply lose your employees to completing tasks, not helping customers.  

7. Recognize individual employees

Retail management best practices should recognize individuals, so everyone feels valued and appreciated. From the daily morning huddle to the weekly store meetings, the best managers make their employees’ day so their employees will make the customers’ day.

8. Hire teachable employees

The best store managers are able to hire employees who are teachable and let go of those who aren't. They know if they don’t hire the best, they’re pretty much left with employees who put it out and hope someone asks to buy it.

9. Have managers on the sales floor

The best store managers are easily found on the sales floor. There on the sales floor is where they can most affect sales goals.

10. Hire associates who like people

The best retail sales associates, at their core, really like people. They don’t have to try to coerce them to go help someone. Retail sales training sticks.

11. Teach associates to juggle customers

The best retail sales associates can juggle customers. More importantly, they can do so without making the customer experience feel compromised.

12. Train associates to sell

The best retail salespeople are able to romance a product a shopper hadn’t even considered.

They know selling is nothing more than a transference of feeling and because they are excited and passionate about it, they can easily spark that in a stranger.

See also: Retail Sales Tip: It's Not About How Neatly Your Merchandise Is Stacked

Instill good retail practices in all levels of the store

Look, there’s nothing I have to drive to your store to buy that I can’t buy online from the comfort of my own couch.

But when I do show up, my business is yours to miss.

If you’re crying the blues, you don’t have to look far to see why. You can’t blame it all on your shoppers when many times it’s your fault.

But you do get a chance to start over with the next person calling you on the phone or walking through your doors.

Use this list of best practices to create a corporate culture that isn’t technology or bean-counter first but exceptional customer service first.

Do that and as other retailers fail, you’ll see the opportunity for you to do even better.

 

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