Businesses that have a passion for training and staff development will excel during challenging times – how can independent retailers make the most of the opportunities available?

With the average turnover of staff or attrition rate, at 63% in retail compared to the national average of 15% across all employers, isn’t it time that retailers take stock of this a little bit more? Considering how much it is estimated to cost retailers – a recent report cited that globally retailers lose $19 billion each year on new staff costs –  it’s a false economy not to treat your staff as a highly valuable asset. Instead, much of what is spent on recruitment could be channelled into refreshing stores and training staff to enable them to be effective in their roles and provide an exceptional customer journey for shoppers.

The focus should be on retention rather than recruitment and with over 32% of retail staff stating that they receive no formal training at all, it’s a critical part of the puzzle that creates the whole picture for your customer experience.

Brands know this and that’s why they invest millions each year to train third party retail partners. New starter or induction training isn’t where staff training should begin and end. An ongoing plan for individual staff members is essential, with regular reviews and new initiatives implemented. Also consider all the brands that come in and train your staff week in, week out and then compare that to the training you deliver to your staff. How does your internal training stack up in comparison and ask whether your own training benefits your employees and enables them to be the best that they can be and are motivated whilst doing it?

It’s recorded that one in three staff leave their jobs due to a lack of training that allows them to learn new skills and develop their skill set. This shouldn’t be the case, as shoppers expect to be engaged by sales staff who know how to handle the sale of a considered purchase. The sales associate has to understand the importance of the sales process and how to navigate this to meet the customer’s needs and enhance their experience. Without training, who’s to blame when the sale doesn’t get closed or the customer walks out and later orders online? Often I think it’s the retailer for failing to develop the associate’s skill set to identify the need, create a journey that responds to the need and close the sale through an enhanced customer experience which builds on your customer service proposition.

Now more than ever, enhancing the customer experience is critical to create theatre in order to take the consumer through the varied steps of the journey from demo to sale. To do this, the responsibility as the employer is to equip your staff to be the best they can be – and this all starts with training. A key element of success in store, especially for considered purchases,  is the engagement of shoppers with any retail sales advisor [RSA]. Therefore as the employer, are your RSA’s proactive, helpful, skilful, knowledgeable, and capable of providing a personalised experience? This is something the online experience can’t replicate and physical retailers should be capitalising upon and drawing people in-store with the promise of a worthwhile face to face engagement.

The difference is down to individuals, their training and management, all of which are critical when it comes to talking about a brand and its products. It is vital that RSA’s are informed and motivated to deliver an exemplary customer experience through being not only advocates of the brands ranged but also of the store itself.

So what can be implemented at very little expense, apart from time, in order to give staff the opportunity to grow with a view to be successful in their roles and motivated to remain as an employee of your store. Here are five suggestions that you can influence:

  1. Ask your suppliers for training support or choose to work with brands that offer recognised training e.g. those who’ve been shortlisted for an ERT training award. Look around your store and identify every brand or category that your staff can’t sell effectively. These are the brands you can lean on for training support.
  2. Seek out and invest in training specialists to support your business and develop your staff to be effective in their roles. But first, you need to understand what things are like from the shoppers’ point of view. What is their experience like when they come into your stores and engage with your sales people? Consider commissioning a mystery shopper survey to provide an independent assessment that can be benchmarked against other retailers and indeed your competitors. This will provide you with insight on what behaviours need to be changed and skills improved so that the training can be tailored accordingly.
  3. Membership of organisations such as BIRA (British Independent Retailers Association) can offer specialist retail training and bespoke learning – https://bira.co.uk/benefits/retail-training as can seeking out support from your buying groups or trade bodies such as CIH, Retra, Sirius or Cedia to name but a few.
  4. Check with your local authorities to see if they offer free specialist training and support to you as an independent retailer in the community. An example – https://www.midsussex.gov.uk/licensing-business/independent-retailers-support-programme-2021-2022/
  5. Build and develop a Sales Advisor training program for your store(s) that recognises personal development and rewards individuals for their efforts. This does not necessarily need to be monetary, it could be in the form of certificates and or treats.

To read the full article by Dan Todaro, Managing Director please visit ERT Online

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