Empowered employees separate Zumiez from the competition
Last week at the B. Riley 3rd Annual Consumer Conference, Chris Work, CFO of Zumiez, noted that three out of four key factors that separate the chain from competitors involve motivating employees.
Zumiez, with 693 stores, sells a broad mix of skateboard, snowboard, surf and streetwear brands.
At the conference, Mr. Work said the “Zumiez Competitive Advantage” begins first with “Culture,” and that involves finding employees driven by its “very incentive-based” pay system.
A Glassdoor review finds Zumiez pays a low base salary but offers commission and bonuses, including better hours and bigger discounts for top sellers.
“We look for people who fit the lifestyle,” said Mr. Work. “They’re passionate about what they do. They embrace competition. We’re going to reward success.”
A second differentiator is “Growth.” Rather than store expansion, that again refers to employees being offered opportunities for advancement. Most regional and district managers started on the sales floor. Said Mr. Work, “Even at our home office environment, we provide great opportunities for people and continue to challenge them.”
A third differentiator is “Zumiez University.” All of Zumiez’s store managers are brought together three times a year to provide “some recognition,” but the major focus is “intense training” including not only improving product knowledge but instruction on “how to be a leader, how to train your employees, how to operate in a great sales manner to serve the customer.”
The fourth differentiating factor — this one not directly involving staff — is “Unique,” which refers to the company’s efforts to support emerging and local brands.
Like many teen stores, Zumiez has been hurt in recent years by the shift to digital retailing, but the company recently scored its fourth-straight quarter of comp gains attributed in part to efforts to step up employee empowerment.
“We want the customer to come to Zumiez and have an engaging experience and have something different than they can feel online,” said Mr. Work. “And if we can empower our people to lead that and reward them, we think it’s a really successful long term approach.”
- Zumiez Inc. at the B. Riley & Co. 3rd Annual Consumer Conference – Zumiez
- Zumiez – Glassdoor
- Q2 2017 Earnings Call Transcript – Seeking Alpha
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What’s your ideal motivational package for store associates and managers? Do you think of Zumiez’s package of incentive-based compensation, advancement opportunities and extensive training hits all the important points?