5 Qualities of Good Retail Store Managers

Anyone can be a retail manager, right? Wrong. Good store managers have certain qualities beyond being good at retail sales and customer service, knowing how to display merchandise or schedule employees. It takes more than that.

Use Your Talents

5 Qualities of Good Store ManagersGood store managers know how to use their talents to help employees become top retail sales performers. They have good people skills and use them to motivate others. They are good at encouraging employees to set and achieve retail sales goals. Not just in how to do it, but also by encouraging them to meet and exceed them.

In other words, they become coaches. A manager who acts as a coach helps them to find solutions to things that are keeping them from achieving their goals. A good coach encourages others to find creative solutions to performance problems. It is collaborative and helpful, not a confrontation, so good people skills are a must.

Encouraging

A good retail manager also encourages employees to come up with and share new ideas. That helps them to feel invested in their job and engenders loyalty. Listening to new ideas makes you not just a problem solver but someone who encourages a team effort. This also means not just taking an interest in them professionally, but helping them to have a balanced work and personal life as well. Remember little things, like birthdays, spouses or kids names and hobbies. Don’t make it creepy, but friendly. Real people skills are at work here.

Delegate

Good managers also know how to delegate. How good of a team effort can it be if you insist that you are the only one who can do it all? You can’t, and it will stress you out, so learn to delegate. Find out who has the right skills to do jobs and hand them over. This will also help you communicate better and avoid conflicts. If they do pop up, learn to be a good conflict negotiator.

A good retail manager takes good people skills. If you have them, use them and everyone will benefit.

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Retail Operations – Your Staff IS Your Biggest Point of Failure and Greatest Asset

In all retail operations, you staff is your biggest point of failure… and you greatest asset. The success of your business lies in the hands of the people you hire to sell to your customers. If they do it well, you thrive, but if they mess up consistently, they can ruin your business.

Retail Operations - Your Staff IS Your Biggest Point of Failure and Greatest AssetStaffing is more than just making sure you have adequate staff on hand to cover the hours your business is open. Part of your consideration should also be how you distribute those hours throughout the week. That means making sure you have more staff at busy times, and less during less busy times. As important as bodies there when you need them most, keep in mind that if they are lousy staff, they are a bigger hindrance than a help.

Store staff shape the experience of the customer. They are the face of your retail operations, which means you should be paying close attention to what keeps your staff happy, and what ensures they know their job. Listen to what your staff wants and their suggestions, and reward their hard work. Train them in sales so they are good salespeople, and train them in the technology they need to answer the questions of their customers.

Your staff are in your store daily. They know or learn how things may work better. They may have good ideas on displays, store flow or how to better serve the customers they deal with daily. When they have good ideas, reward them. Use the ideas and credit the person who came up with it. If you find there are people working for you who are not living up to your expectations, warn them or fire them. Your staff should be trained well. Pay them well and give them good benefits.

Use e-learning to train your staff. Make them better salespeople. Provide it for them to benefit your business as well as themselves.

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Are Recent Data Breaches Affecting Retail Sales?

Over the last few months several retailers were affected by breaches to computer systems that have sensitive personal information of their customers, including credit or debit card numbers, addresses or more. In the months since then retail sales have been affected.

Are Recent Data Breaches Affecting Retail Sales?The data breaches have caused US consumers to alter their buying behaviors. A company called Feedzai conducted a study called “2014 Reaction to Financial Data Breaches Study.” It found that 40 percent of Americans now use cash instead of credit cards due to data breach problems over the last few months. The study also showed that consumers blame the retailers for lax security. Consumers who don’t trust retailers won’t shop there. Here’s the proof of that lack or trust effecting sales: 28% of the study respondents stopped shopping in the stores affected by the data breaches.

One thing that the study also showed was that despite those data breaches, 52% of study respondents still think that shopping in brick and mortar stores is safer than shopping online. You would think that the data breaches would show otherwise!

All that said, a CyberSource report stated that despite the online fraud, retail losses decreased 0.9% in 2013. Given the short memories of most Americans, it is hard to say that the data breaches of December through February will have a negative long term effect on retail sales. Many people believed that online shopping was too dangerous. Today more people shop online than ever. Since most of the retailers affected have taken steps to make it right with their customers, and shore up the security issues, many consumers will probably stop thinking twice about shopping in those stores.

How retailers bounce back from the rash of data breaches will be the final determination. If retailers as a whole take steps to be sure customer data is safe, retail will bounce back from the past. Trust can be re-earned if the right steps are taken.

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Has Amazon Killed the Retail Store?

Amazon is the biggest online retail store. They sell everything you could think of that is legal to sell, and what they don’t sell, they provide a venue for private sellers. So has this killed the brick and mortar retail store?

Has Amazon Killed the Retail Store?Yes and no. Many brick and mortar retailers have been seriously hurt or put under by Amazon. Let’s face it, for some the ability to shop from their home and not schlep out into a store is a great thing. But beyond that, Amazon provides a lot of other services that a brick and mortar retailer hasn’t, and/or can’t. Comparison shopping is available in any store, but Amazon provides reviews from people who have bought and used the item. This can be invaluable in deciding which one to buy. Being as big as they are they also have the ability to leverage that for lower purchasing cost, so that means lower costs for the consumer. That is a big problem that most small retail stores can’t overcome. Some argue that it’s made up for in shipping costs, but sometimes the difference is big enough that shipping isn’t an issue.

The best bet for brick and mortar retailers is to realize that there are some ways they can’t compete with Amazon, but there are others where Amazon can’t compete with them. When was the last time anyone got personal, face to face assistance from Amazon? Or even talked with someone on the phone with them to deal with a customer service issue? That is the best place where the store can outdo the online retailer. Don’t underestimate it. Excellent customer service can inspire a loyalty that will override price considerations.

Amazon does have some areas where they have killed it over brick and mortar stores, but since there is still a lot of healthy retailers out there, they haven’t put them all out of business yet!

Mystery Shopping Benefits – What Attracts Your Customers

Mystery shopping has a lot of different uses. One you may not thought of is using it to find out what works in your store and what doesn’t to attract customers. Having an unbiased eye on your displays and in store marketing, as well as having them review ads and marketing efforts before visiting the store, can be invaluable for refining your efforts to attract new customers.

Mystery Shopping Benefits - What Attracts Your CustomersMost people think that mystery shoppers are just to test your employees. They are, but they are also another good source to tell you what works in your store where displays and marketing come into play. After all, they are sent into your store to shop, and like any other customer they are influenced by what they see, hear and what they read. Why not make use of that experience as well?

Studies on retail sales and what influences them have proven that displays make a big difference with customers. Even more than big price cuts. Good displays showcase products in the best light. Those who might come in hesitant about a product will see it in its best light and that good display will push them towards purchase. A mystery shopper can let you know if the main product displays are working. Did they find that they didn’t feel the need to comparison shop?

Good displays also lend to impulse buys. A mystery shopper can judge if the other displays, displays set up close to the registers to encourage impulse buys are working as well. If the mystery shopper can be enticed to purchase that extra, then that is a good display that lends to upselling.

Ask for mystery shoppers of different ages and income demographics. Since customers of different age or income demographics shop differently, test out how you stack up to the differences. Your store may be targeting a specific one, or trying to appeal to many of them. Not matter the case, get a mystery shopper to test out the ones you target the most. Make sure that you are addressing what attracts customers to your retail business and use a mystery shopper to test it out.

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Learning Styles – Kinesthetic Learners

If you have to just jump in and get your hands dirty to learn something, you might just be a kinesthetic learner. Of all the learning styles, kinesthetic learners are the “hands on” favorite of the bunch… pun intended!

Learning Styles - Kinesthetic LearnersKinesthetic learners, unlike other learning styles, are more physical. They like to use their body and sense of touch to learn about the world, and are often sports, dance and exercise enthusiasts, and gardeners or like hobbies that require them to use their hands. Kinesthetic learners need to get physical to think about problems or ideas. They will often exercise or run or dance to help get the creative juices flowing. They tend to be very tactile and like textures. They also tend to communicate with their bodies as well as their words, using a lot of hand gestures or movement to make their point.

When learning something new, compared to other learning styles, kinesthetic learners would rather jump right in and get their hands on the topic, than sit and listen to someone discuss it. Think of your high school biology class, they were the ones who couldn’t wait to dissect the frog and very impatiently waited for the teacher to finish their instructions and lecture. Another example is the person who instead of reading instructions or looking at diagrams just took something apart to figure it out and then put it back together.

Many people who are kinesthetic learners go into areas like mechanical, construction and repair work, sports and athletics, drama and dancing for their careers. They tend to use phrases like “that feels right to me”, “I can’t get a grip on this”, “Stay in touch” or “My gut is telling me” in their language. A good learning strategy for the kinesthetic learner is to do role playing. The act of acting things out will help set the learning. As many athletes and performers know, practice makes perfect, and for the kinesthetic learner, practice makes learning possible.

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Learning Styles – Visual Learners

Learning is a lifetime thing, and knowing your learning style is a big advantage when trying to learn something new. Learning styles, people fall into three basic categories: audio, visual and kinesthetic. Everyone has one main or dominant style, but often we use one or both of the others to supplement the learning process.

Learning Styles - Visual LearnersThink back to school and how you remembered things best when you were tested. If you had to remember how you wrote it down or how it was shown to you, you are most likely a visual learner. Visual learners learn best from using their eyes and like diagrams or pictures. They tend to be good at reading people’s body language. Visual learners also fall into categories: linguistic and spatial. Visual linguistics learn best through written language, like reading and writing, and remember information better if they wrote it down themselves. Visual spatial learners aren’t good with written language but learn well from charts and diagrams or demonstrations. Showing them something works much better than telling them.

Visual learners often are good at remembering visual details like colors and spatial relationships, and often have a good sense of direction. Most prefer to read information themselves than to hear a lecture, and tend to be good note takers, although their notes may also have lots of doodles and drawings. When listening to a visual learner speak, you would tend to hear phrases like “Let’s take a look at this.” or “Let’s look at this from a different perspective.”

If you have to teach a visual learner, use a lot of diagrams, mind maps, word webs, visuals, and other forms of graphic organizers. If you are a visual learner, use those kinds of note taking techniques to connect ideas and remember them.

Remember that visual learners have to see what they need to learn in order to retain it, so make things visual for them.

How to Speak Your Customer’s Language

It’s a fact that in some places in the US, English isn’t the primary language. Whether you agree with this or not, as a retail business owner you have to deal with the real world issue of communicating with your customers. So, what should you be doing to speak to your customers in their language, even down to the slang they use?

How to Speak Your Customer's LanguageAmerica is a nation of immigrants, and this has always been true. What has changed is the expectation that people will emigrate here and learn English in order to be able to live, learn and do business. Regardless of your thoughts on the subject, the reality is that not all your customers will be English speaking. In order to sell to them and make them comfortable enough to buy from you, knowing their language, or providing them with materials in their native language is smart for business. The last thing you want as a salesperson is to lose the sale because your information was lost in the translation.

So what can you do to provide this level of service? Hire people who speak their language, especially if you don’t. This isn’t just for the non-English speaking customers, but also for those who English is their second language. That native speaker can help so there are no misunderstandings from translation. If you are in a neighborhood where it’s not so much a language barrier but a cultural one, remember that making customers comfortable is your aim. If they come in speaking all kinds of slang, using the Queen’s English won’t build any kind of rapport. One caveat though, don’t assume that your use of their slang will come across as “cool.” You may just insult them. So be culturally aware.

Next, you can make sure you provide written materials in both languages. Again, not to cater to them but to foster a true understanding so they can make an educated decision. That goes for your website too. If your business is in a neighborhood where the prevailing language is Spanish or French, then have links on your English site to Spanish or French translated pages.

Selling is about providing knowledge and service to those who purchase things or services from you. Isn’t taking the time to make sure you are speaking the language part of that service?

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Best Management Styles in Retail

Retail management has different styles: coaching, team oriented, democratic and pacesetting. Different styles will affect your retail sales too, so what are the best styles for retail? Generally those that encourage, and not discourage.

Best Management Styles in RetailA manager who uses the coaching style in retail sales focuses on developing their staff. This manager is a hands on manager who wants to help improve performance and work on goals. If the staff member is one who shows initiative and wants to be helped, this management style works well. However, this style can also be perceived as “micromanaging.” Done wrong, or used with the wrong employees, it can undermine self-confidence and motivation. Once that happens there goes your retail sales.

A management style that uses a team oriented approach is looking for harmony among staff and connection to people as a group. It emphasizes harmony and increasing morale, good communication and trust. This is a good thing, especially the communication and working together. It can become problematic when bad behavior goes uncorrected in the name of group harmony. Not correcting bad behavior will undermine group harmony when the others perceive that it’s ok to misbehave, or mediocre performance is ok. Why work hard if you don’t have to? If your team isn’t working hard your retail sales will suffer!

The democratic management style draws out and uses the knowledge and skills of each member of the group. This creates a commitment from the entire group and a sense of team. This style works best when the project has an unclear vision and needs the input of the entire group to find direction and stick to the path. It doesn’t work well if there is a crisis and a clear leader is needed.

A leader who is a pacesetter is an individual with high standards and expects the same from the group. They want it better and faster, and completed before “on time”. Pacesetting is not a good style to use constantly as it tends to make people feel they can’t measure up.

As a retail manager you need to find the management style that you are comfortable with, but also that works for your group.

Is Marketing Experience More Important Than “New Blood”

Marketing experience and new blood are both important aspects of branding for our company. The job market is tight, and there is some debate about whether companies want people with experience or would rather have “new blood” full of new ideas on branding. What many are Is Marketing Experience More Important Than "New Blood"finding is that experience counts and people who can show that they have provided real results to another employer are more valuable to prospective employers. That translates to any marketing company you, as a retailer, may be looking to hire. Find one with long term experience but nimble enough to get results in the marketplace.

If you look at ads for marketing jobs, ads for “brand manager” were up 10% from one year ago, and “assistant brand manager” job postings have gone up 10 times. Postings for “marketing director” have fallen though, more than 30%. Companies are hiring for specific skills in order to promote growth in their organization. Things like content development or marketing analytics, and also things like digital and social-media, e-commerce, direct and customer-relationship marketing, market research and analytics and shopper marketing.

Having experience is the key. Even those who are hired as “generalists” should be digital and social-media savvy. For marketing purposes that means knowing technology and having other skill sets that are needed to do the job in the marketing firm.

But what if you are an “old school” marketer? Well, you if you can learn, you are still a hirable and an asset. Why? Because you can prove your track record. A strong company also looks for leadership, creativity and the ability to plan and successfully execute plans. All the skills in the world will get a company nowhere if there is no leadership in place to rope the skills into the plan put in place.

Skills are important, experience and a track record is more important. When looking for a marketing company, like Retail Business Development, find one that has the skills and the experience to handle your marketing needs.