3 Ways to Be(come) a Better Manager in Retail

Retail isn’t a game where you can win by doing a good job for a few days, or even a few weeks or months. It’s a long game. It’s about delivering a great experience day after day, hour after hour, every single time, for every single visitor. No matter how you feel. It can be compared to acting in the sort of London West End shows that run on year after year. When you perform in these shows, or if you’re a musician, or an artiste singing a song again and again, even for the 1000’th time, you have to make it just as good, if not better, than it was the first time that you sung it. That is if of course if you really want to be the best…

Retail is all about repetition

In retail it helps to think about yourself and your team in the same way as these performers. You have a new audience every few minutes, and that’s who you’re performing to. An actor or singer takes the reward of the applause and adoration of the audience. In retail it’s from the thanks and smiles of happy customers and happy team members.

The bottom line is that retail is all about repetition. Having the same conversations and lines that you’ve done so many times before. But the reality is that for the customer who walks through the door, it’s likely their first time. And even if they’ve been before, they expect at least the same experience that they had the last time they visited.

Learnings from Ingvar Kamprad (founder of IKEA)

I recall a very inspiring experience I had with Ingvar Kamprad when it came looking at retail this way. It was in the London Brent Park IKEA store back in 1994. So he was in his late 60’s. At this time he’d already had 50 years in IKEA. We’re walking through the Furniture Showroom. Just him and I on a floor walk looking at ways in which we can improve the business.

Just before we reached the kitchen department (this is the furniture kitchens where IKEA sells the whole Kitchen, cabinets, worktops, appliances etc…) Ingvar stops. He says, ‘Cliff, we’re going to buy a kitchen. You will be my wife, Margaretha, and we will together buy the best kitchen we can afford…’.  He found a piece of paper, sketched out a plan of ‘our’ kitchen with all the measurements, windows, doors etc… and of course a budget for us to work to. We proceeded into the department. He explained to me that the idea was to ignore the knowledge you had today, forget if you like, everything that you now know, and try to see everything through the eyes of a customer visiting the store for the very first time.

Well what a performance! He was brilliant at it of course. He just got into character and started questioning everything. Where do we find someone to help us? Where’s the full range of doors and cabinets? How do I know this will work in my home? What about the functionality, what about appliances? Who would fit this for us? Can I do it myself? How do I pay? How do I get it to my home? What about the old kitchen we have today? What about the lighting, the accessories, care instructions, appliances, and on and on it went.

We went all the way through the sales and returns process, and at the end of the day I ended up with a massive list of learning’s, a list of things we would work on to improve, and an absolute Masterclass in how to think about a retail business. The staff who were involved were so inspired that the story went round and round the store for weeks afterwards, inspiring everyone to look at their areas in the same way.

That’s the real message. That no matter how good you think you are, there is always room for improvement, and those of us who continually look for that improvement, in all areas of our lives, are more likely to succeed at what we do.

So some thoughts to work within your store:

  • Try to always look at your store through the eyes of your customers. Ask some friends or family to come in and give you their honest feedback. Walk the store from your customer’s viewpoint, and be honest about what you see.
  • Always remember that every day is a new day and full of new customers. See each day like a new show, with a new audience, and deliver your best performance!
  • Know what each person in your team needs to do to be successful and that they have the tools, the empowerment, and the support and encouragement to actually be successful!

So help your team to be(come) performers, let them take the role of a brand new customer, open their eyes to the possibilities and find the ways to constantly improve at what they do. Do you ever wonder how relevant you are as a leader in retail? How does your leadership contribute to the desired customer experience?

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