How Brands Can Create Retail Jobs People Actually Want

SMCP Group, the holding company of French ready-to-wear brands Sandro, Maje, Claudie Pierlot and De Fursac, hopes to find a solution to its retail store staff problem. It’s a training academy for salespeople.

On January 30th, the SMCP Retail Lab, a one-year program in partnership with the Paris school Ema Sup Paris and the Institut Français de la Mode (IFM), welcomes 22 students to its first class. SMCP Chief Executive Officer Isabelle Guichot said the course was designed to train participants on “how to interact with offline and online clients” and “how to increase customer satisfaction.” Classes are taught by professors from both schools and feature “meetings” with SMCP’s Brand Director her level employees.

The idea came from a hackathon the company will host in late 2021. It was a time when big resignations were reaching a feverish pitch and many fashion companies were feeling the scarcity of talent most acutely at the store level. The hope is to do more than simply remove hiring from companies’ to-do lists.

According to Guichot, the academy will help SMCP diversify its talent pool, educate people on the upward movement of career paths in retail, and evolve the role of the salesperson to make it more modern and exciting. represents an opportunity.

“The problem we see is that we always try to hire people who come from the same kind of field or from other brands,” she said. [change] That means building schools and being very open to the talent that we have. [bring in]”

The challenges fashion companies face in hiring and retaining in-store sales associates, and extending their reach beyond the shelves and cash registers, are nothing new. But in a post-pandemic world, all employees have new demands regarding compensation, purpose, and more, and luring people into these roles is especially difficult.

Many retailers, including Macy’s, Walmart and Target in the US, have increased hourly wages. Pressure is growing globally. Zara’s parent company, Inditex, is deepening negotiations with a Spanish union that wants the retailer to implement pay raises for all store roles in the country.Just last week, Uniqlo’s parent company, Fast Retailing, Corporation announced wage hikes of up to 40% in Japan.

Some companies are working to make these jobs more flexible when it comes to scheduling, but often with minimal results. Nearly 80% of global business leaders in retail and similar industries with frontline employees such as restaurants see increased frontline turnover and employees rejecting terms that were fine just two years ago It says it does. , a software application for retail employees.

The role of sales, especially in luxury stores, has historically been highly praised, and employees can take home higher, more stable commission-based revenues. Lisa Yae, managing partner of Hanold Associates’ Retail & Luxury Goods Practice, says it’s leading to a lower experience shoppers expect.

“The way companies have required hiring has led them to lose sight of some of the more comprehensive training and onboarding salespeople need,” she said.

Experts say most fashion companies are unaware of the comprehensive education and development their salespeople need, as well as the level of overall employee experience. As a result, many people leave money on the table.

“When it comes to priorities for business leaders, the need to increase profitability and [importance of] Workjam CEO Steve Kramer said: “Until now, companies didn’t think of frontline talent as a way to grow their bottom line, but it really is.”

Opportunity and step change

When today’s digitally savvy consumers walk into a store to buy a fashion item, regardless of price, they say, “I expect salespeople to love fashion as much as I do. ‘ magnifies the need to attract and retain top sales reps. said Marie Driscoll, Luxury & Retail Managing Director at her Coresight Research, an advisory and research firm specializing in retail and technology.

To solve this problem, companies increasingly need to create and shape their own sales representatives.

“Today’s sales associates must be able to speak a glossary,” says Driscoll. “Even if you’re not selling luxury, a salesperson who can say, ‘Look at this blue jacket, Chanel has a blue jacket like that, but ours he’s a tenth the price.’ I need someone.”

These are the kinds of lessons and techniques that SMCP courses are meant to instill (albeit with an extravagant tendency), Guichaud said.

“If people are passionate about it, it doesn’t have to be a basic sales job,” she said. “You can also enrich yourself in this job with all the features, live shopping, customer service via social media, giving styling advice, etc. It makes you more customer-centric.”

To find the first class, SMCP expanded its outreach beyond typical posts on LinkedIn and Indeed, inviting social media users on TikTok, Instagram, Spotify and Facebook to apply. (The only prerequisite was that she was over 18.) In honor of the young talent, the company asked applicants to submit a short video in which they answered a series of questions. This may include your reasons for wanting to participate in the program.

SMCP narrowed the list down to “people who felt most motivated in the video” and the group was invited to a “speed date” style interview with the team leader.

“We’re really adopting new communication methods to get new talent,” she said. “We are very inclusive [draw in] You may have thought, “Fashion is not for me.” they don’t accept me ”

As veteran employees leave their jobs (and in some cases at a more rapid clip due to pandemic safety concerns), brands and retailers are upgrading their approach to “engineer younger Gen Z with different motivations. and attract talent from the millennial generation,” Yae said.

In 2017, the U.S. National Federation of Retailers launched Rise Up, a credentialing program to elevate retail jobs, using a curriculum developed in collaboration with retailers such as Macy’s, Nordstrom and Burlington. introduced. So far, the initiative has trained 425,000 people, he said, the NRF.

SMCP’s program is offered free of charge to participants, with students taking classes at both schools’ Paris campuses and hosting internships at 22 of the company’s stores, operating like on-the-job learning.

The company, which operates 1,670 stores in the US, Hong Kong, China and Europe, hopes to expand to other regions, namely the US to work with schools like the Fashion Institute of Technology, Guichot said. rice field.

At the end of the school year, the first group of participants will be formally accredited and offered the opportunity to work for one or several of the group’s brands in-store.

“If we do our job right… [the students] You’ll want to stay with us,” Guichaud said. “This could go viral…there are no limits to this program.”

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