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5 Strategies for Handling Under-Performing Stores

Bob Phibbs, AKA the Retail Doctor, held a webinar recently where he offered five ways to handle under-performing stores.

But what does under-performing mean? 

It can mean different things to different people, but Phibbs says the secret is to focus on 60% of your employees. What that means is, about 20% of your employees will love you and do anything you say, while another 20% will hate you, hate retail, and be ready to change jobs. They have no interest in changing.

What you should care about, Phibbs explains, is the middle 60%—because you can move them up to the top 20%  before they move down into that lower 20%. 

Here are the five ways to handle under-performing stores:

  1. Data. Just because you think employees should do better doesn’t really mean anything. To get anyone to take action you’ve got to give them data about what exactly is going on. 

    “So go granular,” Phibbs says. “Some people say those things don’t matter, but I think they really do matter because it tells you exactly what’s happening in the store. What is the average turnover of your employees? If you understand that people are leaving quicker than they’re coming in, then there’s probably something else going on.

    Phibbs says he also likes to use a personality styles quiz so that he knows what he has to work with as far as personality styles. 

    “There’s no right or wrong, but if you understand their strengths, you’re going to understand what motivates them,” he says. “If you’re the area manager, you want to know about these people who are working with you and tap into their strengths. I think so many times we approach it that we’re going to go in and fix them, and you’re not going to fix them. But if you align the way they like to work with people with the way you want things done, then life gets better.”
  1. Give Them Hope.

    When giving employees hope, Phibbs says it’s important to do it at a fifth-grade level and present it in the right way. Shaming an employee won’t do anything. But if you present it in the right way and they can see the hope in it, then they will follow you and trust you. 

    “Here’s the secret to making multi-level operations work: district managers make the area manager’s day, area managers make the manager’s day, managers make their associates day and then the associates make the customers day. It’s that simple,” Phibbs explains. 
  1. Will or Skill? Your goal is to stay focused on giving hope to whoever directly reports to you. And one way to do that, he says, is to just be 10% better—which requires will over skill.

    “Let’s say a store does 2,000 transactions in a month, with an average of 50 bucks per ticket and the average customer returning twice a week—which totals $200,000 a month,” he says. Well, what would 10% better look like? If you raised everything 10%, your sales would be up 30%. And once employees think it’s possible, then you just keep asking better questions, like, how do you think we could do that? How do you think we could get people to return more often?”
  1. Recognize Progress. You need to recognize their progress, because 67% of frontline workers said feedback was extremely helpful and valuable.

    The only way that is going to happen is if you can tell them what success looks like.
  1. What Does Success Look Like? Can you define what success looks like to you in one sentence? And if you can, have you told your employees, confirmed they know what that is and how to do it, and given them the resources they need?

    “It’s easier to manage tasks than people,” Phibbs says. But we really have to look back and say, ‘did I think this through so they couldn’t fail?’ That’s the key. And then when you get used to doing this, what does success look like? This is where people miss how you handle people. A lot of times it’s on us with information we didn’t share. 

    He adds that Millennials and Gen Z have grown up on the Food Network, YouTube and video games, where they’ve been shown exactly what to do. And they have to really connect the dots to being instructed, and then being able to do it well

    “And yet, we have refused to share what the game of retail is,” he says. “The game of retail is getting a shopper to say yes. That’s all it is. It all comes down to we need to get more people to raise their hand and say yes.”

    The key is to train your employees right. No one wants to do a bad job, but training departments are often the first thing stores cut, according to Phibbs. People quit bosses, not businesses. If you’re trying to change an underperforming store, understand it’s going to have to come from that human element and what you add.

    “I am in the training business, and I hear excuses like, ‘I don’t have time to train,” he says. “But you know what? Everyone has time to train. If you’re clear on why you need training, you understand that the only thing that’s going to separate you from the online is what people feel when they go in.”  

Phibbs concludes by saying that retail has the opportunity to rewire human connectivity in 2022. What are you willing to do to get your piece of it? 

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