Monday, May 28, 2012

Automated Store Replenishment – Volume VI

Never losing sight of the tendency for most retailers to place having a ‘full store,’ as their primary consideration, we can still consider other non-conflicting alternatives. We could re-section the gondolas to hold the proper amount of inventory and still make it look full, but as it is now, your space requirements for candy and gum are the size of the box the product comes in.

Recently, my wife and I had dinner with her boss, a division manager of a US government facility, and she related an experience she had as a part-time worker for a retailer while studying for her PhD. Every day, when she arrived for work, her job was to clean up the shelves and replenish every item that had been sold with replacement items from the storeroom. Her boss knew something most retailers will never learn. By delegating the responsibility to an employee, he solved the problem of overstock on his shelves and kept the store having the appearance of being full.

I have always advocated assigning sections of the store to different employees and teaching them how to become ‘inventory control specialists.’ Most operators I propose this idea to are incredulous. So I turned it into a research project. I discovered a large amount of their employees’ time was consumed gossiping about boyfriends/girlfriends, husbands/wives, kids and pets, NASCAR races, how much they hate their boss, and their DEAD-IN jobs. Is this the kind of employee you want working for you? Operators will not delegate responsibilities to employees, because from the get-go, they consider them being as dumb as a box of rocks and unable to be trusted with responsibilities.  

I hear it all the time, especially from supervisors while making themselves look superior, relating their ‘expert observations’ back to upper-management. They tell you, “Oh, my job is so important because those people out there are STUPID!” This presumed characterization of store employees is most likely the main reason you are going broke. If you hire stupid, you get stupid. Whom do you expect to motivate with an attitude like this in place?

Do you want to effortlessly turn your retail store around in a heartbeat? In order to motivate, you must do what? DELEGATE! When you hire a new employee, the first thing you should ask them is, “What do you expect to get from your employment with our company?” Then explain to them that your company is different from other retailers because your company not only expects excellence from them, you expect to contribute to their future by training them to become ‘Inventory Control Specialists’, not just clerks in a dead-end job; a title like that sounds much better than having been ‘a cashier at a retail store’.

If you are laughing at what I just said, you are part of your problem. Believe me, your employees will become exactly what you expect them to become. Then when they haul them off to jail for stealing, I’ll bet you’ll take great pride in telling everyone, “See, I told you so.”

I often relate an experience I had in 1981 with a retailer who regular summoned his employees to the office and forced them to take a polygraph. Simply due to the severity of the ordeal, you would see them exiting the building in tears. If they failed his test they were fired immediately. If they passed, he would fire them in ninety days anyway, because according to him, “all employees started stealing after being on the job more than three months.” The government put a stop to that kind of activity and he got out of the retail business entirely.

The situation has gotten so bad that even valuable, intelligent, loyal and hard-working store managers have a turnover rate that’s unacceptable. Your employees are your most valuable asset. Learn how to treat them with respect and you will get respect back. The bottom line? You will never get Automated Store Replenishment to work if you are not willing to change.

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