Why retailers looking for staff with experience have their priorities wrong

Why retailers looking for staff with experience have their priorities wrong
Dave Strutton with members of his team.

With more Australians out of work than any time in recent memory, the upcoming busy Christmas shopping period is going to be crucial for jobseekers and employers in the retail sector.

Some retailers will be looking to put on more staff as the festive season approaches and more stores reopen following lockdown – and there is now more incentives to hire following the Federal Budget.

There will be more applicants than there are retail jobs and competition between applicants will be fierce as school and university leavers compete with those recently back on the job market.

So how can retailers be sure they are hiring the right staff?

As a retailer I personally think personality trumps on-the-job experience.

A person who is bright, bubbly and friendly is more suited to working in retail than someone who is standoffish, reserved and a poor communicator.

I had absolutely no retail experience when I decided to open a franchise in Adelaide in 2007, but I love interacting with people and had a willingness to learn.

While some might see retail as a transient industry – somewhere to work during university or over summer – for me and my long-term staff it’s been a rewarding career.

The best retail staff are those who can:

  • Build customer rapport – if you can connect with your customers, they will be more inclined to buy from you and to return to the store time and time again.
  • Good product knowledge – taking the time to learn about and understand products allows you to help customers find what they are looking for or guide them when they are unsure.
  • Strong work ethic – retail often involves late night and weekend work and does not suit those who want a traditional nine to five job.

Retail workers officially make up around 10 per cent of Australia’s workforce and their average tenure in one job is a few months for younger workers and up to two years for older workers.

My longest serving employee has been with him for almost 13 years and the average length of employment for all my 16 staff is about five years.

I’m fortunate to have staff who are loyal, dedicated, reliable and productive.

In my opinion, one mistake that big retailers have made is to shed jobs.

Success in retail doesn’t just come from having the right products on the shelf, it also comes from having the right people and enough people in the store who are committed to delivering good customer service.

A lot of people have written off retail this year, but I think there’s still a lot of life left in the industry and great career opportunities for those with the right personality.

Dave Strutton is the founder of Howards Storage World in South Australia.

Why retailers looking for staff with experience have their priorities wrong