The Making of a Great Retail Store: Retail versus Sales-oriented Managers (Case Study Restaurant or Retail Store #6)


Today marks the last day of a retail manager I have to work with. I have dealt with too many people in my time in retail and restaurants and some are more interesting than others. The retail electronic firm I work for has a long history of recruiting, training and installing managers and not bringing managers directly from other companies and installing them. A big problem with doing a job that requires learning too many procedures and too much detail is the learning curve. Some people are more suited to such jobs but everyone needs the time and exposure to acquire the knowledge and develop the skills. An experiment was done not too long ago and a top executive decided to recruit and install very experienced managers from outside and install them in lieu of the old system. He has been history for some time and the few managers he installed have had less than exemplary performance hence the problems that follow. Here goes another one because of poor job design and the lack of understanding of how things are done by the corporate executives. The only thing that is right about the pressure and trickery that took to force this person out was that he is a genuine retail manager. Our firm has two kinds of managers running its stores. One are traditional retail managers and the other are sales managers. The former run very nice looking and presentable stores at the cost of the sales. Some items in any retail store sell on their own while others need to be sold. These managers do well in okay to good economy because everything sells to some extent and they appear as doing their jobs. Our friend who left is one of them. The other group of managers are sales managers. They think and understand the business activity in terms of selling and sales transactions versus retail orders placed by volunteer customers. I myself am of the second class and frankly see the process of running a retail store as destruction on the way to higher sales and short-term restoring. Anyone who tries to sell things, especially in a retail store (had 4000 items in stock when I was a manager) with too many times will be forced to handle the store any way possible to get the sales. This usually means moving things around and having too many of some items. This manager will be always high on sales scales but at best average on showroom appearance of the store. The good thing about such manager is his or her store does no less than average and possibly much better in all economies. The problem is one cannot find and recruit such managers. The typical retail manager (as our friend who has left) understands business in terms of unlocking in the morning and greeting and helping. That is the high point of sales activity and many things to be done in sales (or retail support). These managers are abundant. One can recruit them by the dozens or hundreds off the street, the Internet or just walk into other retail stores and recruit someone who seems likeable and possibly qualified. The sales manager cannot be recruited. The thinking process is very different and one does not find such individuals in static environments. They may or may not turn out to be good at their jobs (and more importantly honest enough for a corporate job plagued by rules and guidelines hindering more sales) but they are hard to recruit because they don’t have corporate attitudes. They refuse to conform and do exactly as told by doing needless things (not the essentials) that serve no genuine purpose but keep people in their jobs and acknowledge the position power of some higher ups. They are not necessarily mavericks nor rebels but are not yes-men. They are realistic, motivated, energetic individuals who can get some jobs done much better than anyone but have to do it the way they can or find a way that will work. The problem lies in that the corporate solution is often a political solution and does not fit many situations. The retail manager loves the corporate solution and instructions for the security it provides. The sales manager will abide by as much as needed but will seek to get the job done as he or she best can do. One problem can be the difficulty to deal with such person as a corporate employee and another is finding more of them. The basic recruiting formula does not work and the outside recruiting solution fails in a long-hours mundane retail position that requires a high learning curve. The bigger challenge remains where and how to recruit more of them and who will be able to manage these (by nature) problem employees who get great results.

*This post belongs to this week’s edition of Wine by Cush Magazine blog and published early in World of Cush also.

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