Where have all the retail superstars gone?

For the last couple of day, having to burn some time at the retail stores, I made an interesting observation.

A large part of our retail workforce comprises of very “fresh” inexperienced personnels.

This may had been the effects of having a lower entry requirement, coupled with the fact that the salami-like profit margin.

Are excellent retail experience only limited to luxury brands?

A close friend of mine had a retail store selling some fashion accessories and stuff. It wasn’t something that’s got a huge margin. It was a small time business with a monthly revenue of just about 30 to 40 thousand.

Having to hire someone to be put in charge of that particular store, my friend decided to go with a young, energetic and innovative chap. The decision was made for a very different reason, but it did pay off. She practically picked the cheapest of the lot.

He cost about 20% cheaper than the rest of the applicants!

However, it was a right decision. He was different. Having no previous experience, he practically tried numerous “interesting”concepts and the revenue improved by 40%.

The first thing this chap did was to connect with his customers. It helps that he had a chatty personality. He practically asked his customers for their preference, and the contact info. In no time, he had a small database of customers and their likes/ dislikes.

This allowed him to place varied the orders according to his customer’s preference. In that first few months, he’s successfully dropped a couple of ill performing products and added a range of new ones.

Further to that, his free time were filled with informing customers of new stock and arrivals via the phone.

To top it off, his customers liked him. They thought of him as a friend and enjoyed chatting and catching up with him.

The story didn’t end well. He’s left for a much better job, and eventually moved out of the retail industry. The revenue growth wasn’t sustainable as the replacement wasn’t like him. She was an experience cashier, but that’s all there was to it. Eventually, my friend closed down her shop.

For every successful retail business, we do need smart chap like him. Not one that just tend the store. However, we often find ourself not willing to pay to retain such talents!

Or, is it because that the retail assistance ranks at the bottom of the food chain? Thus, they were never important or critical to the business?

Either way, this chap did made a difference to the business. It wasn’t a great deal of money that he’s made. But from an operational and business performance point of view, he’s world-class. Immense amount of potential to be groomed as a very strong retail manager. But the retail industry lost him.

I believe that the retail industry is a challenging one. Not only does it face a talent drain issue with talented people choosing other industry over the retail business. Also in its justification of putting someone really good at the job, which in turn will cost more.

So, my question to you today is – Where have all the retail superstars gone?

Ps. Do drop me the contacts for any retail superstars you’ve came across and let’s see how many we can identify!

Eric Wong