I was recently having lunch with a former client contact and reminiscing about the project we had worked on together.

In the course of the conversation, I asked how training is viewed at the retailer for whom he currently works who happens to have a rather large training department. You might imagine my surprise when he said many of the promotions and initiatives could generate more profit with proper training, but the stores often have the attitude of “Why Bother?”

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Common Mentality in Retail Training

Since one of our projects involved rolling out a new branding and store format that included comprehensive training, I reminded my lunch mate that we had evaluation data showing that stores who adopted the new branding and store format saw an increase in sales.

However, the stores that also sent sales associates to the corporate sponsored training saw an even bigger lift in sales. So, we have evidence-based proof that training increases product knowledge, sales confidence and customer engagement – which, in turn, increases sales. So, why would retail store managers or franchise owners hesitate to participate in training activities?

My lunch mate’s response was, “Exactly. They are making money on the promotions and initiatives anyway, so why bother spending additional effort on training?”

Extra Effort

The additional effort being referred to can be summed up by these three perceived barriers to conducting training in a retail environment:

Training takes time away for sales floor.

Training is a wasted effort due to employee turnover.

Training is more work for department heads or managers.

Training takes time away from the sales floor.

Yes, training does take time away from the sales floor – maybe. There are a lot of different methods for delivering training that takes more or less time. But does it make sense to invest in marketing efforts to drive customer traffic into the store only to have customers interact with sales associates who have limited product knowledge, poor service and sales skills, and who deliver a poor shopping experience?

Training is a wasted effort due to employee turnover.

It’s easy to generalize that the retail labor pool is made up of part-time workers who work temporarily or entry-level workers who move from job to job for a nickel raise. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 1 in 3 retail sales associates work part-time and retail represents 10% of all careers. And while it is true the turnover rate is fairly high in the retail industry, a Career Builder survey found that 92% of retail employees are more loyal when the store invests in their training.

Training is more work for department heads or managers.

Which is more work, training a new retail associate on his/her job responsibilities, or hiring a new employee and spending time answering questions, fixing mistakes, apologizing to customers, worrying about their work performance, and interviewing/hiring their replacement when it doesn’t work out?

You Should Bother

So why bother? If making more money is not motivation enough, then consider that training retail employees can also create competitive advantage over other retailers, improve employee loyalty and reduce turnover, and ultimately more peace of mind for department heads and store managers.