According to CBRE the Threat of Increases austerity measures win the forthcoming budget will impact on spending patterns.
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Retail and wholesale is the largest employer in the Irish economy, with 263,000 employed last year. Today however, the retail sector is challenged from two directions; the economy is in extreme ill-health, and on the other hand, online shopping continues to erode retail sales. Quality training and superb customer service can be an effective strategy to ‘stop the rot’ of declining sales. The launch of the new retail management degree by IBEC Retail Skillnet later this year can form the keystone of that strategy.
The Challenges Shopping trends and consumer statistics have reduced even hardened retailers to tears in recent times. It is clear that consumers have curtailed their retail spend as the recession continues to bite, and it is in the retail sector that the body count is mounting, as a result of that trend. The CSO has reported that 80% of Irish households have cut their budget for food, clothing, and social life in the past year - no good news for those of us down at the coalface in the retail outlets of the nation. Taking the grocery sector as an example, the average shopping basket now costs €23.61, down over 4% since 2011. Our average food spend mirrors the challenge to retailing as a whole, and insolvency experts predict the retail industry will see more business closures this year than last.
Tighter family budgets are only part of the explanation, however.
In this harsh business climate, retailers have been forced to cut recruitment and staff training budgets, and for some larger players in particular, downskilling has impaired levels of personal service. The slow death of ‘the human touch’ in our shops has been identified as a key reason for falling sales.
The Solution: Quality Training
One retailer already focussing on training as the key to rebuilding customer service is Tesco. Tesco concluded that a 2.3% decline in UK sales over Christmas was due to low staffing, resulting in a less friendly instore experience for shoppers. Tesco will now spend €240m on hiring and training shop-floor staff this year, to redress, repair and rebuild relationships with its customers.
Quality retail training is clearly a crucial element in the battle to improve customer sentiment.
Experienced staff are better staff, and the availability of good training and the impending launch of the retail degree are certain to attract and retain the brightest and the best – stars of the future, who will see their first job in retail, not as a stepping stone to another line of work, but as the gateway to a rich and rewarding retail career.
An additional challenge retailers face lies in the fact that, these days, shopping does not necessarily mean visiting a downtown store. Today, the increasingly computer-literate customer is equally comfortable shopping online, from the comfort of her or his living room. No parking worries, no need to brave the Irish weather on ‘a soft day’!
Again, retail training with IBEC and the retail management degree can achieve the excellent levels of personal service that will draw the customer out of the living room, into the car, and into our shops downtown.
The Service Mantra: ‘Surprise and delight’
The customer of today is sophisticated, discerning, and has highly-nuanced and subtle desires for their shopping experience.
Shopping is no longer a chore - shopping has become a leisure activity.
Yesterday’s ‘gents’ and ladies’ outfitters’ have become today’s superbly-designed and well-appointed retail centres. It’s not all about the shopping – now music, entertainment, and a good cup of coffee are integral parts of our ‘retail therapy’ experience.
Shoppers seek not only to purchase - they seek to be surprised and delighted as they do so.
Again, retail training and the retail management degree are the key to success. The ‘surprise and delight’ factor will come through personal service provided by a team of friendly, knowledgeable, and professional staff.
Training offers a crucial opportunity for the downtown retailer to nurture customer loyalty with a well-trained service team, a team who see feel they have embarked on a retail career.
Well-trained staff will surprise and delight the customer with a ‘human touch’ that the anonymous online retailer can never achieve.Read More >
Date: 4th September 2012
Venue: Institute of Public Administration Education Centre (IPA), Lansdowne Rd, Ballsbridge
A Bachelor of Business in Retail Management: This innovative 3 year programme uses a blended learning approach combining Work Based Learning, guest lecturers, e-learning and traditional classroom delivery. This excellent programme is targeting retail managers, assistant managers, trainee managers and business owners. Unlike most other degree programmes, learners are awarded credits for learning achieved in the workplace and module assessments are closely linked with making improvements in the workplace.
The programme has already received excellent reviews from retail experts representing SMEs and large multinational retail outlets.Read More >
Please look at me when you're serving
We have all experienced it, we're getting served at a checkout and the cashier is busy talking to another member of staff about their night out, or about how they can't wait to see five o'clock come around—they can't even be bothered to look you in the eye while serving you.
Whilst this may sound a tad extreme, I bet it's still something all of us have experienced at one time or another.
Good value for money isn't just seen in monetary terms any longer; customers expect to be treated well, for staff to be helpful and engaging—for the shopping experience to be fulfilling and worth talking about—for customer service to be brilliant. If you can't meet those basic expectations then it's very likely you're losing customers, and worst of all, those mistreated customers won't have any hesitation in telling friends of their lousy shopping experience.
The only way to ensure that the service you're delivering is exceptional is through effective training and ongoing assessment.
The Retail Customer Service module focuses on the importance of the customer to the business, and highlights that Customer Service is a policy that is adopted by all stores who want to retain their existing customers and encourage new customers to visit the store. It emphasises that the customer should be the focus of the staff efforts and the company should endeavour to provide every customer with the best shopping experience through excellent customer service.Read More >
A quick search on the Internet for 'retail' related content and articles returns a never-ending list of bad news about declining sales, job losses and retailer closures. The only good news, it would seem, is increasing sales through online channels. Indeed, you could be forgiven for thinking that your company is doomed to failure unless you invest heavily in an online store.
What has struck me particularly about successful online retailers is their attention to detail in attracting customers, offering them a great buying experience, ensuring timely deliveries and backing up the sale with second-to-none customer service. If I was speaking purely in Internet terms, I might have described SEO and pay-per-click advertising, a robust eCommerce platform, a trusted delivery process and a semi-automated customer service platform.
You see, what online sellers do before they venture online is decide who their customer is, how they will attract them, how they will offer value and retain them. Offline retailers have been doing this for years but those processes are so common place we have forgotten that they can actually help us sell. You already have customer service, but when was the last time you looked at improving it? You already have selling skills, but when was the last time your staff were trained in up-to-date techniques that work today?
And in today's competitive landscape, this becomes ever-more important!
When everyone offers a quality product, it's time to redefine quality. When everyone offers good customer service, it's time to offer exceptional customer service. For online success, you'll need to work with a great web development company, but your offline success centres much more around your staff, since they are the ones engaged in selling, delivering, creating loyalty and offering that exceptional customer service.
The modules on offer by IBEC Retail Skillnet can help your organisation reinvigorate its staff, structures and processes—just like successful online retailers, it's time to re-evaluate who your customer is, how you're going to attract them and what value you're going to offer them to make the sale and retain them. It's what you've been doing for years, but it's time to look at all this again, as if you were a new business.
Don't hesitate to get your staff involved with IBEC Retail Skillnet—every module has been designed for retailers, by retailers, to assist with your bottom line. Contact us now.
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