The retail judge speaks out

Just had the privilege to spend the day judging entries for business-of-the-year submissions. Doing what I do, I naturally observed the retailer entries closely and saw a few common ‘mistakes’ or misjudgements repeat itself in almost every submission.

1.       Everybody thinks customer service is a way of growing the business. Many don’t want to spend money on marketing, and then proclaim that they rely on word-of-mouth generated by good customer service. This is naive and wrong on so many levels; I should blog about that another day.

2.       All but one submission had any idea of the risks the face. Almost everybody had ‘losing staff’ as the key risk. Occasionally one might mention OH& S as a risk. Nobody had any risk management strategies (or at least awareness) of the risks associated with loss of a supplier, competitor activity,  fraud or a zillion other things that send businesses broke everyday.

3.       Rare was the retailer who understood the potential of networking as marketing tool.  It reinforced the belief that a number of retailers have a passive approach: open the doors - wait & see what happens. Retailing is tough and someone has to mind the till, but networking is how a sandwich shop wins the contract to supply sandwiches to the local council meetings – and so on. Time and opportunity must be created for networking opportunities. (They all say customer service is about relationships, but if the relationship can only happen on your terms in your shop, that isn’t really a relationship, is it?

4.       Their biggest concern is staff retention, but they expand in detail how they tell at the beginning of every shift about… whatever. The extent of training and personal development was almost exclusively limited to cross-training. They pretend they care, but they really just want to make sure they have all the jobs covered when someone leaves. If it comes through on a paper submission, how much clearer is it in the flesh?

5.       Very, very few could identify a true, sustainable competitive advantage. In 90% of the cases they opted for ‘great customer service’. Invariably this was simply the only option they identify, because nothing else was evident in the submission. Is it any wonder so many fail?