The Biggest Crime in Retail

That’s right, I said it. The biggest crime in retail. It’s not employee theft or check fraud or “bait and switch.” Its much more damaging than that. It’s this – you can make a living selling at retail by being an order taker – Or at least you can get a paycheck for it.

Granted, it’s not much of a living, but it will pay the bills. Here is what I mean. In my 28 years of retail, I have spent countless hours working on retail floors watching, studying and monitoring customer/salesperson interaction. It never ceases to amaze me how the “luck of the draw” (or should we say “luck of the up”) can make a salesperson’s day. Every day, a Customer will walk in the door and tell you exactly what they want and even ask for it in 7 different colors. There was no “selling” in this situation, just order taking.retail crime stopper

You know I am right. You see it for yourself everyday. And its frustrating to you. You Practice, Drill and Rehearse to make your selling skills as great as they can be and the lazy-show-up-late-shoot-from-the-hip-too-cool-for-retail person has a big ticket and we cry “why!” (say that i your best Charlton Heston voice from Soylant Green) Oh the injustice of it all.

I agree. It’s not fair. And I wish there was a way to make it fair. I wish we could make sure this behavior does not get rewarded by a sale. I do know that if I could event an app that would monitor and solve this problem, I would be a hero for many, many retailers. I even love the question at the cashier when they ask, “Was anyone helping you?” People have a very different definition of help. Customers define it differently than salespeople do. The question should be, “was anyone selling to you today?” This is a question I would like to answer.

You see the crime on the retailer’s part is that they reward and allow this behavior. The simple question “was anyone helping you or assisting you today?” is designed to make sure they track the sales of people. But this does not give you an accurate reflection of whether or not someone is selling. It means that someone pointed me to the socks when I asked where they were. They did not sell me; they helped me. And helpers do not make retailers money. They do not add-on to sales or accessorize or try for the Add-on (as we say in The Retail Sales Bible.) Oh, don’t get me wrong. They do have tickets with multiple lines on them and even accessories. But they did not add these on – the Customer did. And this is not selling, it is order-taking.

The crime of the salesperson is the money they are leaving on the table. Sure, they can pay their bills, but the #1 reason for turnover in retail is money. Yes, all of the surveys say it’s job satisfaction and we agree. But set that reason aside and all you are left with is money. And of course, they always say it is the retailer’s fault they are not making more money and not their own! At least that is the lie they continue to tell themselves as they move from one place to another to make $.25 more an hour. It took me a long time to learn the damage of “retail math” – at least that is what I have learned to call it. You know what I mean- you hire someone and tell them the wage. They say that is great. And then 3 months later say that have to quit because they are not making enough money. There has to be something wrong with the math somewhere!

People inherently don’t want to the the best they can be. They want to be the most they have to be to keep their job – nothing more. If we were “self-starters” as the ads in the paper always say, then this would not be an issue. But we are not self-starters. Too many people are in retail because they are on their way somewhere else. Its a pit stop along the way. Sad. But true.

These people cost the company money and more importantly, themselves money. And I bet your expecting the next post to be “The 6 Steps to Solving this Crime.” But here is the rub. This is a victim-less crime. The retailer is not a victim here – they are culpable.

You want to fix this? Then do not hire them in the first place! How many times have we said before – hire people who fit your culture. Period. We like to hire based on instinct or past sales experience. We need to hire based on culture. If your culture is a high performance selling and service culture, then this issue will not be in your store. You would not tolerate it and the culture would not tolerate it and the problem gets fixed by the salespeople on your floor who do the policing for you.

But, if this problem is in your store as it is in 85% of retailers today, then rest assured – you do NOT have a selling/service culture. You may be close. And you may be better than anyone in your town. But today, that is not enough. You have to exceed the Customer’s expectations, not meet them.

So, this public service announcement is about crime. And only you can solve this crime in your store. You are not a victim of a weak workforce. You are a product of your culture. But you can solve the crime. Look for signs in your culture that reward this type of behavior (like asking was anyone helping you today at the register.) The best way to manage this, though, is to be on the sales floor. Too many managers get into their role and become “suits.” They are “above” selling anymore. They have more important things to do. They are more important now. And they spend little to no time on the sales floor watching, listening and learning

What could be more important than increasing revenue and service in your store? (if you have an answer to that question, then this blog is not for you!)

Copyright 2017, Matthew Hudson is an award-winning retailer, keynote speaker, master sales trainer and author of over 4 books on selling, corporate culture, retail, and sales and marketing.

Matt Hudson

Master Sales Trainer with 31 years of sales & marketing experience. Author of 4 books including Advisor Selling and the Retail Sales Bible.