Gather the strength
Today’s announcement that Blockbuster has handed over the running of the company to Deloitte will come as a huge shock to the 4000 staff that they employee. They now join the rapidly growing list of people who are finding the rug pulled out from beneath them
Its only a few days since HMV also moved into administration and their staff faced into the challenges so recently faced by Jessops and Comet employees. Their fate is yet to be decided as venture capitalists pick over the remains of the company to see if there’s anything worth dirtying their hands for.
The economic reasons for some of the recent collapses are widely reported. In tough times customers are driven by value and all too often that means shopping online with retailers that allegedly take advantage of loopholes and exceptions within our complex corporate tax laws.
Regrettably, some observers have taken the opportunity to turn the spotlight onto the most junior High St staff. They’ve quoted their own personal experiences of poor service as the reason that entire chains have gone to the wall. This is utter horse-shit. A sales advisor that gives poor service is the product of a poorly managed and run business. If they haven’t been properly trained, coached or observed then the responsibility sits squarely with the leadership of that organisation.
I come from a background of retail work, starting off on the shop floor and working through local and regional management before diversifying into roles within operations. Retailers all tell us that they ‘strive to offer the customer a great experience’ and that they ‘put the customer at the heart of everything they do’ but then they pay new starters a minimum wage and schedule the deployment so thinly that staff are not properly managed or developed.
The result of this miserly control of retail payroll budgets is a poorly trained, low-skilled, demotivated and under-appreciated workforce. They often have to work at a consistently high rate and have to skip breaks and lunches because there aren’t enough colleagues to cope with demand. I have seen this first hand and have had to keep goodwill going within teams that just aren’t given the support that they need from the company leadership.
Retailers must start to take the wellbeing of their staff seriously. Having annual staff turnover of 30,40 or 50% is a cancer in your business. People are leaving because you aren’t looking after them. You can’t replace them quick enough and you leave the remaining staff struggling even more.
As customers we enter a retail store in the UK with very low expectations of service but all too often we leave disappointed. Without the necessary pull onto the high street the UK population will continue to order from home. If the experience of driving into our city centres, paying for parking and jostling through the high street results in them wasting 30 minutes waiting to be served poorly they just won’t bother.
Close online retailers tax loopholes. Give investors realistic returns and invest in your retail business. Demonstrate how you value your staff by paying them a living wage and allowing them to work in an environment where they can develop and improve. They’ll reward you by delivering a world-class experience for your customers and will give them a reason to return to your high street