RSR Research: The New Front in Omni-Channel – Store Labor
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of an article from Retail Paradox, Retail Systems Research’s weekly analysis on emerging issues facing retailers.
At Epicor’s recent user conference, I moderated a panel of Millennials discussing what they wanted from the retail experience. The most interesting part of that panel was the fact that all of the participants were employees at retailers. Two were store managers, two were assistant managers, and two were part-timers — all ranging from 17 to 27. We eventually got into their perspectives as retail employees.
Two main things emerged from that discussion.
One, they are enthusiastic about their jobs. But except for those that made it to the store manager ranks, they saw no future in it. A 17-year-old part-timer who is thinking about college admits she loves her job. She could be a stable, experienced employee that any store manager would love to depend on. But she’s not going to stick with her job. And one of the most surprising things about the entire panel was the universal perspective that this is just the way it is. The pay isn’t great and the hours get tiring, so it’s fun for awhile, but it’s only going to last until something better comes along. That’s kind of sad.
Two, as the store managers attested, while they feel like their companies do a good job in scheduling people, they do feel like there is generally not enough labor on the floor for both the selling and non-selling work they have to accomplish.
This takes us back to a plea that RSR has made regularly — me, especially. We need to put an end to the practice of setting labor budgets primarily based on percent of sales calculations. Sales is the wrong measure — it has to be based on traffic or you’re not measuring to real demand, you’re only measuring against transacted demand. And consumer technology shifts mean we need to reconsider the employee’s role in the store, that technology to address the gap between what consumers know when they walk through the door and what employees know will only deliver parity. If employees are going to play any kind of relevant role, they have to know more than customers or what’s the point? They’re just there to keep the inventory from walking out the door unpaid.
Service industry jobs are supposed to be the better paying jobs and retail — on average, there are exceptions — is a clear outlier. Just imagine a future where store employees make a career out of helping customers, where you can find knowledgeable and enthusiastic help in great quantities, as at the Apple Store. (I know, I said it.) I fear this may be the only way to ensure the store’s future relevance.
Discussion Questions: Is the mobile-enabled consumer raising expectations around the quality of labor in stores? Do you think that the current model of low paid, low service employees in most retail stores is a model that will work in the future or does it need to change for stores to remain successful?