In the roles I’ve played in my retail career, I’ve had the pleasure of working with Retail District Managers in various capacities.  As a Store Manager, I’ve reported to District Managers.  As a Marketing Director I’ve relied on District Managers to help execute campaigns in their stores.  And now, in my role at Graff Retail, I collaborate with DM’s on rolling out and sustaining new training programs at store level. 

In all of these roles and through all of these initiatives I’ve learned that there are 2 kinds of District Managers; one is The Pencil Pusher and the other is The Sales Driver.  There’s a big difference between these two types of DM’s.  Let’s take a closer look. 

A few weeks ago I was speaking to a group about leadership; one of my favourite subjects!  One of the characteristics of effective Leadership we focused on was Enthusiasm. I'm not talking about running into the office or your stores and high-fiving everyone, every day. I'm talking about the type of enthusiasm that inspires people to want to achieve their goals.

To train or not to train?  The answer to this question usually comes down to a core belief in a retail organization.  It’s a mentality or culture that we see when working so closely with retailers for so many years.  The organization either believes in growing and developing their teams, or the organization just doesn’t “get it”. 

If you’re wondering which side of the fence you (or your organization) are on, I’ve listed the top 5 reasons not to train below…or, as a retail training company with proven,  award-winning training systems available to all retailers, we refer to these ‘reasons’ as excuses.

We have been working with retailers, both big and small, for almost 30 years.  Our job at Graff Retail is to help retailers drive sales revenues, reduce turnover, improve the customer experience and drive overall store performance through effective and ongoing training of their front line teams.  Over the years, after so many conversations with retailers, we can draw one main conclusion…retailers who invest in training their team members are more successful than those who don’t. 

This is not a challenging statement.  It just makes sense that a trained team (that is constantly learning and growing) performs better than a team that works for an organization that is more merchandise driven; one that doesn’t believe in developing their teams.  But, what kind of training are these top performing retailers investing in that separates them from the competition?  Let’s take a peek inside the training cupboards of top retailers and see where they are investing their training dollars.

I would like to start by asking why are we still struggling with compliance and consistency?

It’s our job as leaders to flawlessly execute corporate strategy through our people; however, we are repeatedly dealing with issues relating to compliance and consistency. Is it because our people aren’t listening or is it because we are not influencing their behaviours? This may be the difference between a good Manager and an exceptional Leader, one that has a strong personal brand.

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.

A few weeks ago, I was speaking to a former colleague of mine.   In a past life of mine, we worked side-by-side in the Head Office of a big retailer in Canada.  At the time, I was a leader in the Marketing Department and she was climbing the ladder over on the Store Operations side of the business.  She is now leading Store Operations for that same retailer and I, of course, am here at Graff Retail doing my best to support retailers far and wide with all of their training endeavours. 

After catching up a bit, our chat moved over to reminiscing about how she landed in her current leadership role.  Our walk down memory lane revealed some interesting truths about the contrast between how much training she received during her days at store level vs. the lack of training she has been exposed to since moving into Head Office and continues to progress in her retail career.  My path at Head Office was the same.  Promotions came my way and I just jumped in and figured it out.  But how much better could I have been?  It was a bit laughable to be honest.

How are your customers being treated every day?  Do you know for sure?  Maybe you’re simply accepting the input and opinions of your management team.  Or maybe you’re just assuming?

Whatever process you use to ensure that store staff are properly servicing your customers, it’s probably time for you to consider taking things to the next level by formalizing your service standards.  Why?  Despite beliefs to the contrary, most retailers fall down in this area … big time!

The much-anticipated holiday season has now come and gone.  Biggest selling opportunity of the year, right?  How did you do?  Move more merchandise than ever before?  Keep the cash registers running at full tilt?  Set an all-time revenue record?  Good for you!!

Now for the bad news.  Your success wasn’t shared by every retailer.  And it isn’t because the crowds didn’t show up or the weather was too nice.  The ‘sales damage’ we’re talking about was self-inflicted.  What do we mean?

Here we are, just 11 'sleeps' away from Christmas day.  How have sales been in your stores so far this holiday selling season?  Hitting your targets?  Celebrating success?  We certainly hope so, because there can hardly be one good reason why you shouldn't be doing better this year than last.

But, ask yourself a bigger question:  Do you have the Christmas spirit yet?  Does your staff? How about your customers?

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