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Why staff is essential to your brand's growth

March 21, 2020

Staff is one of your highest operating expenses, but without your staff, achieving growth for your independent pet retail brand is impossible. When you’re weighing whether hiring more roles in your shop is worthwhile, or if you can get ahead by sticking with the current roster, remember that staffing is something you don’t want to skimp on. The people on your sales floor can make all the difference between growth and stagnation.

Expand or build on what you have?

If you follow business news, you can probably come up with a list of big names that have fallen by the wayside over the past 15 years.

Why did these ubiquitous brands fail and why do others have staying power? One big study detailed in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) found an unexpected path to retail growth by uncovering one key difference in growth strategy. The lessons about staffing are applicable to independent pet retail.

According to the research, the brands that failed had emphasized growth in terms of expansion, while the brands that thrived stayed in place and focused on operational improvements.

The brands that focused on aggressive expansion did achieve growth in the short term, but as they pressed on, they eventually oversaturated the market and collapsed under their own weight. However, the brands that survived looked at ways to improve customer experiences to drive sales. According to the study, revenues grew more quickly than expenses.

Part-time workforce vs. the full-time professional

When retailers are looking at optimizing their revenues, one solution that often looks good on paper is hiring several part-time workers, rather than investing in more expensive full-time employees. In the same study published in the HBR, they compared two major home improvement chains. One cut costs by building a work force of part-timers, while the other stayed the course by staffing up with their full-time experts in the home improvement space. The results are striking. The brand with the part-time workers experienced 1.6% growth over a several-year period, while the full-time model brand experienced 4.6% growth.

It makes a certain amount of sense. Taken as a collective, which group is more likely to be invested in the success of your brand, the full-time sales associates or the part-time workers (who may be working three other part-time jobs to make ends meet)?

What’s your store experience?

When a retailer focuses on creating the best possible experience for customers, some of the things that may appear on the list may include remodeling, catching up on deferred maintenance, and building a strong digital presence that helps pet parents find great products that help them build happy, healthy lives for their furry friends. Of course, if you don’t have the right selection of products at reasonable prices, you’ll never drive growth. But having the right salespeople on the front lines has a big influence on how people make decisions on whether to buy and how much.

According to a study, when shoppers speak with a helpful sales associate, they’re 43% more likely to buy something, and the sales that involved interaction with the sales associate have an 81% higher value.

If sales associates are too busy (or too introverted) to make a friendly approach to browsing customers, it’s pretty easy to imagine what plays out. After looking at the products for a few minutes, the customer whips out their smartphone to perform a little comparison shopping and decide they’re better off getting into the car and going elsewhere. When a friendly and helpful sales associate approaches, says hello and engages them in a conversation, they can build momentum to convert this opportunity into a closed sale.

Develop staff into product gurus

One thing that goes far with customers is a warm greeting and pleasant personality. But your customers are also seeking answers, which is why it’s important to shape your floor staff into product experts. According to a study cited in the HBR piece mentioned above, associates who are well-versed in products and their features had higher success at selling. This is great news for independent retailers, because the vast majority of product reps should be ready and willing to spend time at your shop to teach your crew all about their products. In the end, it will be a win for everyone.

Your staff is truly on the front lines of closing sales and increasing your revenues. Certainly, it’s important to hold the line on costs by monitoring overtime and early punch-ins, and maintaining the staffing levels. At the same time, it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that your sales associates are the critical team members for your growth.

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