O ne retailing issue always frustrates me. You’ve probably experienced it too. It’s that customer service at the weekend is often not as good as in the week. Unfortunately, this weekend skills gap trend seems to be increasing.

I find it quite baffling. Saturday and Sunday are the busiest time for most stores. These two days can drive up to 30-50% of your weekly turnover. You’d think store managers would do more to create a great customer experience on such important days. You would think they would do more to bridge the weekend skills gap.

Lack of Experience = Bad Customer Experiences

But, it’s evidently not the case. There is an obvious lack of experience among many weekend shop staff, who probably only work a few hours a week. The industry needs to wake up to the fact that bad experiences at the weekend will damage their brand for more than a few days. People will start to avoid your stores if they don’t get excellent service every time.

We also have a duty of care to our staff. I often see customers putting young employees under enormous pressure. Customers, rightly, have high expectations. However, inexperienced staff can struggle to meet them. That’s generally not their fault. Instead, it’s the responsibility of retail managers to run their stores so they deliver a great shopping experience for customers, as well as a healthy environment for staff. It’s their responsibility to fill the weekend skill gap.

What can we do? Well, it starts with recruiting the right people. We then need to invest time in training and developing them. We have to find ways to deliver the right balance of experience across the whole week.

When I was Head of Retail and Ecommerce at Norwich City Football Club (NCFC), we faced this challenge – and more. On match days, our retail footfall would increase about 25 fold (compared to around four or five fold for most high street stores).

Creative thinking

I have done some crazy things to find the right staff. I’ve talked to people on the high street about coming to work in retail. In fact, that’s how I recruited one of our best NCFC programme sellers. He was a Big Issue seller who really impressed me with his positive attitude and friendly nature.

Here are five more ways we recruited and supported people of different ages, from all walks of life:

  1. We actively encouraged local parents back to work. For example, we asked our former Intu Chapelfield store manager to return as a part time sales consultant with flexible hours that fitted her family responsibilities. It was worth the effort. She had so much knowledge and experience. She was a great asset to us on our busiest days. Additionally, she was fantastic at mentoring some of our less experienced team.
  2. We invested in our students. We arranged evening training sessions to help them get ready for the challenge of weekend retailing. They all said how much they loved it because it boosted their confidence and gave them important skills to put on their CV.
  3. We ran roadshows twice a year where our weekday, evening and weekend staff all got together to share knowledge. They created and delivered workshops on topics such as visual merchandising. This helped develop their skills but was also a great team building exercise.
  4. We recruited NCFC programme sellers in their 40s and 50s. You might think this is a young person’s job, but we found people – from bankers to bakers – who were keen to get involved with the club at the weekend. Most of them weren’t really doing it for the money (although it was a paid role). They were doing it because they enjoyed it. They were incredibly diligent and took great pride in doing things well.
  5. We also encouraged our senior managers to actively recruit. My message was this: if you experience good service in a shop or restaurant, give them your card. Ask them in for a chat.

We have a huge amount of talent and experience in the UK. Yet many retailers are still not tapping into it. My rallying cry for 2018 is for retailers to start thinking outside the box when recruiting. Get in touch if you’d like to discuss any of these ideas.

Stephen Balmer-Walters

Author Stephen Balmer-Walters

An experienced international retail omni channel director with a wealth of knowledge. A strong leader able to communicate and negotiate at all levels.

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