Retail has a staffing problem

Noticing long checkout lines in stores? Many retailers are cutting staff almost twice as fast as they’re closing stores, reports The Wall Street Journal. Although the population around shops surveyed by the government has increased 12.5% in the past decade, the number of salespeople grew by just 1.5%. The smaller staffs can be traced to technology — like self-checkout lanes — switches to smaller stores and the hiring of full-time employees in the place of part-time workers. But the trend, seen at J.C. Penney, Kohls, Nordstrom, Walmart, Target and others, may have reached diminishing returns as sales get crimped too, say analysts.

One day, I went to Walgreens to buy a few things. When I got to the checkout line at the front of the store, the line was so long that I dropped my basket and walked out.  Brick and mortars want to complain so much about how the e-commerce retail business has destroyed their market share. Maybe they need to look closer at how they are addressing the needs of their customers, and whether their customer support structures are in line with what we value today.  We as consumers in this day and age of rapidly changing technology have become impatient. We want something and we want it now. We are no longer willing to stand in a line longer than three people at a supermarket or any other retail store.

What many retailers don’t see is that customers want to see other humans and interact with them. Many people are turned off when they go to a large retailer or grocery store only to find no other humans there. Why not stay home, order online, and save gas money and time? So they do. I have personally become accustomed to using the apps that many of the retailers and restaurants have out there right now. Sam’s Club with the scan and go app. Walmart with the ability to order online and pickup at the store, thus bypassing the checkout lines.  Wawa and Chic-fil-A allowing you to order via their apps to speed you through the line. However, given the still long lines at the drive through at a Chic-fil-A, many people are still slow to adopt the use of the technology. 

It’s a vicious circle that retailers can’t see. Barnes & Noble used to have couches in all their locations, staffed with friendly employees and were always packed with customers, people meeting, book lectures, event calendars, and on and on. Now they’re almost always empty, they’ve removed the couches, no longer have as many events (if any), have fewer staff, hawk their failing Nook, and of course sales are failing. Technology makes everyone more productive. However, a human being still has to be present for those times when troubleshooting is needed, or when you encounter a non-tech savvy individual.


Retail’s Other Problem: Too Few Clerks in the Store.

No help at the store? It’s no accident.


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