I just got back last week from NRF’s Big Show in New York.  It was my eighth year in a row attending the event.  As always, it’s a wild ride down there with lots to see, do and learn.  What’s even clearer is that the trade show isn’t really a ‘retail’ show as much as it is a “Retail I.T. Show”. 

The size and scope of the technology-focused booths is really quite something to see, as are the crowds that are jammed into them.  Yes, sometimes it’s for the free booze or great swag item, but more often than not everyone is looking for the newest, latest and greatest magic pill to bring their business to the next level.   There is no shortage of amazing technology to look at.

But let’s hold on a minute before we get too excited about spending all of our money on a tech solution.  There’s a little more at play when it comes to making your stores actually work.

The most optimistic prediction for online sales has it growing to 14% of total retail sales in North America by the end of the decade.  That means 86% or more will still be done in brick and mortar stores.  This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t look at and be concerned about all things online, mobile and ‘omni’; rather, it is to say there’s a lot of stuff happening today in your stores that you can’t afford to ignore.

Face it, customers are more knowledgeable and demanding than ever before, in part due to the availability of online shopping and the increase in the number and quality of competitors.  The pressure of satisfying these customers in your stores falls squarely on the lap of front line sales staff and managers.

There are some great technology solutions out there that will help your front line staff provide a better shopping experience for your customers.  But, it still doesn’t address the fact that you have customers in your stores today that aren’t getting the service and salesmanship they need and deserve.  Store Managers are struggling to attract, hire, manage and retain staff.

Here’s the challenge I give everyone.  Go sit on a bench in the mall outside any store and just watch it for 30 minutes (or until you get a headache!).  Watch how many lost sales opportunities will happen in the store.  You’ll quickly see that there was at least 10 to 20% more potential sales to be had than what the store actually made. 

That’s the case I’m making for investing more time, energy, effort and resources in your store staff.  The untapped potential in your stores today is massive, and your store staff is your first and best option when it comes to recovering that potential.

Yes, technology is important.  Just don’t give I.T. all of your money and think that the shopping experience you’re providing to those customers who make up 86% of your sales in your stores is going to get better in the next little while.  An investment in your staff is much more likely to give you the sales lift you need right away.

Kevin Graff is the main guy behind all things Graff Retail. A renowned retail expert, Kevin is recognized in the retail industry as a speaker, author and expert trainer. Kevin's main passion is to help retailers drive staff performance.

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