Retail Employees Are Not Just For Christmas

Danny Andrea

Retail Director Danny Andrea talks about the Artisan du Chocolat approach to employee retention and morale building at the busiest time of the retail calendar.

Christmas is a notoriously difficult and challenging time in the retail calendar. It is the time of year that retailers rely on to set the standard for the year to come or to make up for any shortfalls they’ve had so far.

Everyone is under extreme pressure; senior management are putting pressure on their management; store managers are putting pressure on their sales teams and customers are putting pressure on the sales teams. Hold that thought. Everyone is getting one direct line of pressure, that is, apart from one group; your frontline sales employees. These employees have that pressure twofold, from two angles. They have the pressure to make sales from their managers, and they are also on the receiving end of direct pressure to effectively and efficiently make the sales from the customer.

Walking into many a store or retail outlet after the Christmas period and it is often noticeable that the teams have changed. The same smiling (or perhaps not so smiley) employees are either no longer there or they are even less smiley than they were previously. So what exactly is going wrong? Why are retailers not retaining happy employees? Have we as retailers forgotten the true meaning of Christmas?

I would like to think we at Artisan du Chocolat have not. So here are my top three tips on how to retain employees over the festive period. But not just retain them, instil in them a joy of retail in the festive period and a want to serve the business, not only at Christmas but throughout the year. They may seem basic, but it really is the small things that make the biggest of differences.

1. Say thank you

Yes, it really is that simple. We’re all busy rushing around in a fury of gift wrap and receipts that sometimes we forget our manners. Those two little words mean a lot to an employee who is relentlessly dealing with the demands of a busy Christmas shoppers.

Before their break, at the end of shift, whenever they make a great sale, drive home to your management teams the importance of these two words.

On your senior management visits, stop and make the time to say thank you to the team. Those two words could change the entire dynamics of a shift and really improve team motivation.

2. Get stuck in.

And yes, I do mean senior managers as well. When your teams see you getting stuck in, whether it be an hour unpacking deliveries, or half an hour on the tills, or helping them to tidy up after a busy day, it makes a difference.

Employees are more inclined to do something that they see their seniors doing. For example, each year at Christmas I book myself one day in each store when they are receiving one of their busiest deliveries and help them unpack and restock.

3. Reward great sales

Your employees are the ones who are representing your brand; they are the ones physically putting those sales through the tills. Imagine the numbers they see ringing through those tills everyday. Whilst your sales increase, and your bank balance goes up, so do theirs. Oh wait, no they don’t.

Your employees at Christmas are earning exactly the same wage as they have all year, the same wage they earn when you are half as busy and they are half as stressed. By no means am I saying pay huge bonuses. It does not need to be a major gesture. It just needs to be something meaningful that shows you appreciate the extra hard work they are doing.

It could be a gift voucher at the end of the week if they meet targets, or even something as small as buying the whole team a coffee. Every now and again I’ll drop by one of the stores with a box of cupcakes or a tray of coffees as a thank you for making great sales. The surprise element adds excitement, but it’s that feeling of hard work being recognised that really drives the team to want to work harder for you.

There are many other basics that can be done but these three really are the top of the proverbial Christmas tree.

Look after your team and they will look after your customers. Loyalty in your team means loyalty from your customers. And loyalty from your customers will keep your tills ringing not just at Christmas, but all year round.