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Retail ‘dumbing itself down’: expert analysis

Sasha Karen
03 April 2017 1 minute readShare
A closed sign hanging in a shop window

Retail business owners may have noticed a drop off of employees, and the reason why is indicative of a larger problem that can’t be easily fixed.

It is no surprise that retailers have been facing an employee shortage, with 40,000 retail jobs lost over the past year, and the reason has been revealed to be a lack of a customer experience.

Talking at a seminar in Sydney, David Bush, former head of fashion for David Jones; and Anthony Bittar, director of Maker & Co and an authority on retail sourcing, said that current retail business owners have instilled the importance of culture into a workforce that is not willing to work and as such has dumbed itself down.

“That problem [of retail job losses], we haven't solved that, and I think that that problem will escalate as more of the millennials come into the marketplace and actually have no interest in doing anything other than to getting themselves in a mirror and building their own brand, let alone working on a shop floor,” David said.

Despite being a big business, Anthony gave the example of MECCA Cosmetica as a brand that champions their sales staff above all else in the business, as opposed to senior management. David agreed, saying that other brands have not been able to do this successfully, as the emphasis has been placed on the culture.

“There are lots of those businesses that have these unbelievable cultures that they all play table tennis ... [but] none of them work. It's a real problem,” David said.

“MECCA has found a way where they have managed to drive customer service through reward, recognition and culture, but it's a fine balance, and there aren't many Australian brands that have found the right balance.”

Anthony added, “We don't have a culture of service in this country.

“When I owned retail stores, most of our staff were on the way to something else. They were either students or on the way to do doing something; it was a stepping stone.

“There was no career path, so I think even if companies do have a very well-articulated path for their staff, and they recognise them, and they reward them, there's still this cultural cringe if you are, like in Australia, that kind who don't want to walk in shops.”

Retail ‘dumbing itself down’: expert analysis
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Sasha Karen

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