How To Motivate Retail Staff: 6 Tips.

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How To Motivate Retail Staff: 6 Tips.

How to motivate retail staff blog introduction.

It happens. It’s not unusual. Retail is a tough industry to work in. It can be difficult to know how to motivate retail staff when they’re dealing with unhappy customers and standing on their feet for long days.

But like many things, you get back what you put in. If your staff rock up to work, half asleep and dreading the day ahead – then your team is setting up for a bad day. If your staff aren’t smiling, don’t expect your customers to smile back. And if your shop is messy, don’t expect customers to worry about the clothes they just knocked on to the floor. Your shop atmosphere is the one you create: this has to start with your staff.

Okay, so that’s not rocket science. The hard part is knowing how to motivate people – it’s a tricky balance. The pendulum swings between feeling unappreciated and feeling patronised, or disillusioned by unattainable goals. But by motivating your team, you can help to create a more inviting shop that encourages customers to visit time after time.

In addition, you can improve your conversion rate as customers will be more encouraged to ask questions about items, rather than think that they might look it up online later.

Here are our 6 tips on how to motivate retail staff:

1: Get The Atmosphere Right. 

Staff can’t be expected to feel, speak and behave like a fashionista rep for your brand if the retail space isn’t right. If the hangers are impossible to use, the lighting is bad and the store looks like it’s last revamp was in the 80s – they’re not going to give you their all. If the space is clean, fresh and inspirational; not only will your staff respect it – your customers will too.

Sometimes if you have worked in the same place for a year or more, it can become more difficult to see the areas for improvement. So try taking a walk around yourself, and making note of areas that need improvement – but also ask your staff and customers for their suggestions.

Simple things can be very off-putting to customers. For example, a top supermarket branch experienced a sudden plummet in sales of what had previously been a very popular product. So, after much analysis, someone decided to actually walk over to where the product was displayed in the store. It transpired that a spider had made a web over the product and so many customers were too nervous to pick up the product and so were selecting a customer’s instead.

Create a shop environment that your staff are proud of and then help them to come up with procedures and processes to keep it that way. By empowering them to make the processes, you can encourage their buy in and their will to make their plans succeed.

2: Bring On The Tunes!

77% of businesses say that they get more out of their staff when music is played. This is particularly effective when staff are allowed to choose the music that is played. There are of course some caveats to this. Firstly, the music needs to be appropriate (no swearing!) and secondly, it needs to provide the right vibe. Heavy metal in a fine jewellery shop is unlikely to work out well.

You will of course need to ensure that you have the correct licenses for the country that you are operating your store from. But, music can be beneficial to both your staff and your customers. You benefit from more motivated staff and also from customers who are more likely to be in the mood to purchase items. 63% of small retailers agree that customers can be encouraged to stay in store longer when music is being paid.

To help you choose the right type of music for your store, read point 2 of this article.


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3: What Is The Bigger Picture?

This is particularly relevant to millennials. If you fill your staff in on the bigger picture, they’re more likely to feel valued and respected. To make this even more effective, give your staff the chance to speak to management about their ideas. This is not only great for motivating your employees, but also contributes greatly to employee branding. If employees know what the company is all about and why they have to add the extra labels, they will do it with pride. Their enthusiasm for the company will also be apparent to customers (this is good news for sales).

Often, staff are not made privy to the reasons behind the things that they have to do. As a result, they do not understand the implications of doing the job poorly or the extra effort that be required by management to solve the problems. For this reason, it is always a good idea to explain why things should be done in the set way that they are. This allows employees to feel more empowered and even the capacity to invent new and better ways of doing things.


4: Flexibility

Millennials will sacrifice pay for the ability to have flexible scheduling and increased holiday allowances. While staffing is difficult enough as it is in retail, offering shifts that staff can swap among themselves, can prevent staff from becoming demotivated by having to miss events that are important to them. This helps to mitigate the irritation that is sometimes caused for retail staff who have to miss important events like weddings and birthdays, because they work weekends. Furthermore, it also makes it less likely that you will have to have members of your team working with a hang over and not getting the best out of them.

Companies like Google employ tactics like allowing staff to work on a project of their choosing for 20% of their time. This may be too large a portion of time for a small business to be able to support. But by encouraging retail staff to work on a project for your store that they are interested in, you can encourage them to take control of an aspect of their job. In addition, this gives you an opportunity to have your staff busy and interested in something during periods of low footfall. This helps retail staff to remain motivated throughout the day.


Feedback on a chalkboard.

5: Offer Feedback, Now.

It’s the age of the internet. Social Media and instant access to more information than is possible to read, has lead us to wanting feedback and wanting it instantly. A yearly review is good, a 6-month review is better. Regular feedback, regardless of appraisal times, is important. This feedback should be genuine and should avoid patronising phrases. Even something simple, perhaps a compliment on a display or the speed of their work.

In addition, regular opportunities for feedback can offer the appropriate moments for important conversations. For example, feedback meetings are an excellent way for you to correct behaviors that could be potentially damaging your business – while also offering your staff the opportunity to tell you what they would like you to be doing to help them more.

When giving feedback, consider offering your staff a sandwich of information. For example, personal trainers, who must always be motivational, offer their clients a positive point, followed by a point to improve on, before again affirming what they did well. Make sure to tell them the mechanism of how to improve on the point you made – not just telling them what the point is. For example, you might say to an employee:

“I’m really impressed with the speed that you work at when you’re tidying. But just take care that sometimes when you are tidying you miss a couple of things. So maybe try slowing down a little to make sure that you get those little extra bits. But other than that, I’m really impressed. Your commitment to your work is great and I really appreciate having you on the team.”

6. Consider Having A Sales Contest

Its important to ensure that your sales contest motivates everyone. If your contest only encourages your top sales people, then you may have a problem. In addition, you don’t want to make it so competitive that your team ceases to operate a a team and begins to work as separate units.

Some retailers use a game called “passing the buck“. To use a British version, a £10 note is picked out at the beginning of the day and will be the prize. Some retailers run this competition over a day, some run it over a couple of days. It is a good idea to not let the game run on for too long otherwise motivation can reduce.

The game works quite simply. The person with the highest sale holds the £10. If they are then beaten by someone, the note is passed to the net member of staff and whoever holds the money at the end of the day wins.




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With over 25 years of experience, you can count on The Display Centre. The Display Centre specialise in bespoke shop equipment and display items. In addition, off the shelf items are supplied.

About the author

Ali Newton is the Strategy and Marketing Manager for The Display Centre, where a team of creative experts provide store display equipment and bespoke items. Ali combines her fine art and fashion qualifications with her market research experience and psychology degree to help retailers drive their sales.

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