Managing Millennial Retail Employees: Are You Managing Yours?
By Bob Phibbs
I was in a store as retail consultant, teaching how to do a display with a manager. We were creating a simple four-tier display using navy and yellow as the primary colors. (A great example of how to display correctly is at left from ZOZOs in the Minneapolis airport concourse.)
I explained the basics of great visual merchandising to the retail employees: why height captures our interest, the power of a couple colors, the need to make it a logical display and one item that is different. The manager "got it" and created a couple too.
The next day I came in and everything had been taken apart and reassembled. There were the four cherry tumblers next to a plaque about cats. The solid blue mugs had all been combined with all the blue mugs from navy to periwinkle to baby blue. The risers were gone and everything was on one level.
The manager was gone and I asked the assistant what happened. "Oh we moved things around, we always like to change it." "Yes," I said, "I can see that. Did she tell you why she did it that way?" "I just liked my way better."
I was boiling as I'm sure you would too if you had spent time to create a killer window, a display, a marketing piece and it had been trashed.
Don't worry, I didn't blow up on her...
But it led me to thinking about how Millennials and Gen-Y are different from my generation. "I have an a opinion and it is valid," seems to be a recurrent theme from an early age.
Participation, equality, I get it. But that has to be based on a shared benchmark first...
My friend Melodie sent me a presentation prepared by interns at NASA. It is a pdf of a presentation presented to NASA about what NASA needs to do to get Gen-Y interested in the space program.
It is a great window into how Millennials, those born since roughly 1976 think and shows how they approach things very differently from us baby boomers. You can view it here.
The challenge for retail managers and store owners will be to not stomp on Millennials' creativity and interest. As to the assistant manager I realized it would have been better to teach all the employees the 10 Steps to Merchandising, rather than just one.
After the displays were re-done, the assistant should have been asked to leave them be so that their effect could be evaluated. In hindsight, we should have also included her in the re-set.
Millennials bring a lot to the table if we train them first. If they don't get trained they'll do their own thing which can result in a retail display that doesn't sell or worse...
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