SGB: What can DMC offer the Independent retailer in these difficult times?
PD: The first thing that goes out of the window when times get tough is training and any budget for training. Unfortunately there’s a dearth of really good man managers around and I think that’s one of the keys to good retail, keeping the morale up; staff will perform better if they feel better. Good managers should be judged by the quality of their staff, so it’s very important that those managers constantly train and develop.
SGB: Is there a basic strategy that Independent retailers can follow?
PD: One of the greatest things I’ve ever done, making retail into training, is what we call a Business Focus File. On a cold and wet day when perhaps the shop is a little bit quiet it’s a great opportunity to find out what’s happening in the local areas, things like: Who else is promoting your products? Who else is running window displays and who else is running staff promotions? Are people offering student discount at that particular time? So what I would say is actually to go out and to be aware of your local environment and the local competition to get ahead. Don’t sit in the retail outlet waiting for people to come in, it’s not going to happen.
SGB: Is this process for management only?
PD: The Business Focus File is built by the entire team as business awareness at every level should be encouraged. So if you’ve got an expert on ladies wear, she might go out and look at all the ladies denim in the area and by communicating her findings to the group; it’ll give a really good feeling. Encourage staff to read the magazines and find out what’s going on in the world. Some of the best people who have ‘worked out’ in the outdoor industry have started in retail and worked their way up.
SGB: So what would be your advice for staff advancement?
PD: In the hard times, people have got to be that much smarter; the selection of managers are often made for the wrong reasons. It’s usually because they are pretty good at their existing job, but what you actually need to see is if people have natural coaching skills. What people like MacDonalds have done is the buddying system, where someone with three stars looks after the guy with two stars and it’s for him to get that guy up to that level. Eventually you will spot your managers very early in the chain of command as it’s gives people the opportunity to prove that they are natural coachers.
SGB: Are there any brilliant words of advice?
PD: The key thing is standards: You need to have a standard that would outstrip your competitors in terms of customer service, the way you dress your mannequins, your windows, the way you greet your customers. We introduce company standards and get the team to gain ownership to those standards by agreeing and adding to them. The manager’s job then is to give evaluation and appraisals so everyone’s aware of their strengths.
The team ethos can be brought into play by brainstorming: So the manager will introduce a new collection and ask. “What are going to be the challenges?” Could be price, could be quality, it could be colours, and the team brainstorm the solutions. So a really good pro-active manager gives his team direction and vision, and then helps to set standards. It’s a constant personal development plan as well as a team development plan.
SGB: What about relationships with suppliers?
PD: I think even the independents should try and use their muscle and stress their importance to their particular suppliers. I think the representative from the brand needs to understand the business he’s dealing with and the retailer – even a small multiple retailer – needs to know the strength of the brand and then to agree a joint strategy, so you’re working together on maximising the sales. This strategic partnership between the two people means retailers will maximise what the brand have got to offer.
For more information, and to find out how the DMC Group can benefit your business, large or small, contact:
DMC Group Human Resource Consultants
t: 01582 461555 e: firstname.lastname@example.org