7.5 Million Retail Jobs To Vanish – 73% Are Women. It’s Now Or Never For Retail Sales Training

By Bob Phibbs

retail sales training improves candle storeA study warned recently that up to 7.5 million retail jobs could be gone in the coming years due to automation. For perspective that would be twice the population of Los Angeles and nearly that of New York City.

What really got my attention was that 73% are women.

Are we prepared for this many people to be out of a job?

I said it in a previous post that the rust belt layoffs of autoworkers and other manufacturers during the 80’s in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan are going to pale in comparison to the shrinking of brick and mortar retail.

And many will read this and smugly say, “So what? I love getting my stuff from Amazon and the heck with retail.”

The Dirty Secret

But here’s the dirty secret about online – they pay no taxes to support your community.

Live where it snows? What happens when the budget isn’t enough to clear your roads?

Enjoy all your parks or libraries in your neighborhood? What happens when they have to close or go barren?

What happens to the entire lifestyle of your community if too many brick and mortar stores go under in your area?

Who loses?

You do.

And your friends and your neighbors.

Got your attention yet?

There will only be two ways to fix your local money drain – raise property taxes, which usually require a local vote and I don’t know of any that have passed lately – or getting Congress to get off their butt and institute a nationwide sales tax on web orders. And we can see how Congress works…

Without taxes, everyone’s going to be out of luck, not just people who work retail.

But let’s face it, for most of us the process of paying at stores is a friction point of waiting and receiving little if any perceived value. No wonder so many retailers are using automation to remove cashiers from the buying process.

And if all cashiers do is scan and process payments, I’d say, as a customer, good riddance. Heck, checkout this review of AmazonFresh Pickup service. It’s pretty impressive.

But I don’t think they have be fired or laid off; instead, they could be trained and moved onto the salesfloor where they can add value.

And it’s not just cashiers who deserve training and the chance to improve.

Consider my last trip to the store...

I went to my local deli to get 1 1/2 pounds of sliced turkey for sandwiches. I spotted a new honey-roasted turkey. When it was my turn, I pointed to it and gave my order for 1 1/2 pounds.

The deli worker asked if I had the coupon. I replied, “No, that’s fine.” After a couple minutes, she came around the counter with a flier, pointed to the coupon and said I could use it for my turkey.

When she got back to her place she asked, “Now what were you wanting?” I said, “The honey roasted turkey.” She then asked, “How much did you want?”

I know most of you reading this will say how great that was. And I get it – you feel her going out of her way to give me $2 off a pound of $10 meat was saving me money.

But was it really?

I spent twice as much time with her as I needed to. I already could clearly see the price and was prepared to pay full price and get on my way. She got 20% less revenue for that grocer and took twice as much time to do it while other customers waited. 

Now what if instead, she had had retail sales training on how to suggestively add the bread that was on a rack next to the counter because it is a better sandwich bread? I would’ve purchased it.

But wait – how many times have you ever heard a deli worker suggest the potato salad or the cheese?  I’ll bet never.

And yet, food should be the easiest thing to sell. I mean – we’re animals looking at food – how much more sensory experience can you have then when you’re salivating and considering eating?

Oh right, you feel that’s pushy.

That you’d be a phony.

That you would be seen as just wanting to get more of your customers’ money.

If that’s you, give me a break.

This is a blog designed to help your brick and mortar retail store compete. It’s not a savvy discount shopper blog for people who settle.

It is a blog for retailers who sell items for which they need to get real hard cash.

Any retail employee who adds nothing to the value of the experience will be replaced unless they are trained.

A big push from retail workers right now is for a $15 minimum wage. I hate to tell you, there won’t be anyone with minimal skills making $15 an hour because they'll be let go.

Everyone has to add value or each of us will be gone from the manufacturer to the retailer, from the C-level executive to the front line associate.

And if you’re one of those bean counters anxiously anticipating the day you don’t have such high labor costs with benefits, you can’t look at this as cutting labor.

The smart ones will redeploy those employees and have them trained to actually add value to your product and make the sale.

It behooves all of those minimum-wage earners to educate themselves to prepare for the new world that's coming.

Think the world is going to owe something to you? You'll be lost.

You have to bring something to the table.

When I walk through most stores, there's nobody there to tell me anything that piques my interest or engages me. No wonder the whole shopping experience is broken!

Especially when you’re paying employees just to wait behind a counter to ring up a sale that is less likely to happen.

They’re absolutely worthless.

And the bean counters, what they're seeing is those associates never added to their bottom line to begin with.

Which is why the bean counters hate paying them more.

But they're missing the value of training them to be worthy of what they’re paid.

They could be paying someone who knows your product and is in the aisles instead, selling your products.

I walked into a candle store. I saw a million candles on the shelves, but not one meant anything to me.

If you’re used to this type of store, I suppose you might like silently roaming shelf after shelf of products that look alike while someone glares at you from the counter - or ignores you completely.

But one employee came over and engaged me, realizing I might be overwhelmed by all the choices. She helped me narrow down my selections.  She found out that at my dinner party, I didn’t want a table full of strongly scented dripping, smoking candles, so she sold me the very best tapers which cost about $9 apiece.

But none of this was about price.

Because of that one trained, engaging employee, I had a beautiful dinner party. And I wasn’t left with two melted stubs that I didn’t quite know what to do with, but with a pair of expensive candles I could use again, as if brand new, for another dinner party. So I got great value over price.

Is This You?

But if you only have untrained associates on staff, you have to sell on price. So you're going to sell crappy candles that only cost a dollar each because they’re cheap enough to sell themselves. They don’t need anyone to talk about them.

And those customers who came in, bought them and burned them.

But because they melted and dripped over everything....

They stopped using candles.

In this cruelest twist of fate, you killed their whole desire for your product.

But it doesn't have to be that way, if you just train your crew.

That’s one example. I know there are more than deli turkey and candle stories out there.

Just like a nice dinner and a show, people want to take their time and have an enjoyable experience. That’s both in purchasing from you and in using your products when they get home; and that’s worth a lot more than a discount.

See also, Retail 101: Retail Sales Training - A Primer For Success

In Sum

You need to provide retail sales training for the people on your sales floor right away. I think I should help you with your needs or I wouldn't be in the retail sales training business.

Christine Best, one of my LinkedIn contacts shared, "I recently went into a store and bought 9 items where I would have probably walked out with one because their regional manager had an amazing taste level and ability to actually merchandise clothing as well as the skill to understand and read each customers language. 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."


If somebody doesn't understand your product to the hilt and isn't on your floor to sell it, then shame on you because it's not going to happen any other way.

Shoppers drove to your store to buy that day.

What the hell are you thinking?

And if you’re reading this as a minimum wage employee, someone who just stocks shelves or performs minimum tasks, get on the band wagon because nobody is going to pay you to do that in the very near future.

Technology is just waiting to take that job - especially if you are a woman.

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