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Retail hang-ups

BusinessmanTwo years after my article, The most perplexing activities in retail, there is little evidence to show such mystifying retail behaviour has abated.

Why is it we still see questionable discounting? The annoying multiple buy fiasco? The antiquated hard-copy mailer? Even the perseverance of the shrieking on-screen imbecile selling their wares? Black Friday, Mauve Monday, Teal Tuesday hype? How about the pesky in-store promoter live and online? Or the free-standing display unit cluttering the shop floor? What is it with the awkward checkout activity in the form of scratch and win cards or donation requests? And the persistence of mindless email and text advertising?

Don’t get me started on the bizarre pastime of balloons, streamers, tinsel and handwritten notices littering the sophisticated effects of interior design?

Despite the billion dollars technological scramble, many a retailer is slow to resolve the lower cost and the more crippling issues confronting them from way back when.

How is it that retailers insist on a mobile management force well into the twenty-first century? Ready and waiting, at their beck and call to uproot their families at a moment’s notice. What are the benefits of such an archaic expectation? Apart from the poor succession planning from the top. It is time to put all that talk of community retailing into action. And embed resident leadership teams to nurture active engagement. Enabling both brand and individual to achieve mutual longevity. As the world shrinks so the need to embrace a sense of belonging grows.

In a sector where skills are diminishing and the hours are all but antisocial, the constraint of such a valuable skill set is absurd. The onus of flexibility lies with the side with more at risk and thus to lose. The same is true if there is a reluctance by experienced traders to step up or the means for prospective management to progress.

Another emotional intelligence devoid concept is the bid to impose a one-size-fits-all process. Let us assume for argument’s sake that modern leadership accepts individuality and welcomes the notion of inclusion. With the appropriate mentoring, this will evolve into a unique team where each person’s strengths are encouraged and used. Why then enforce a transform of robotic actions that denies almost every human trait?

One more relic in the dire need for transformation is the reflection of a talent pool under the liability column of the balance sheet. Should this be the case, then it is leadership who has failed to shape its people into a cohesive crew. Remuneration ought to always sit with pride as an asset. Requiring a radical mind-shift by the current purse string brigade who influence the outcome from ivory towers.

If the retail sloth takes an eternity to move forward in dealing with the simplest of obsolescence, then there is a scant prospect for the future. When they sideline staff in favour of technology a similar result is inevitable. The customer expects the basics as a matter of course, which includes convenience, housekeeping, a sense of value and civil interaction. The quest for experience is mute without it.

Micromanagement is an oppression from the past. Let it go. Set the desired outcomes of compliance, vision and concept. Step back and allow for the freedom of passion and intuition to deliver it. Find the courage to accept that we are all different. Or prepare for the impending consequence of Orwellian servitude.

Retail is and will always be about people. It is for the people and delivered by the people. Otherwise, it is not retail.

Dave Farrell is a retailer and writer with three decades of experience on three continents.

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