Cutting Room: The retail freeze


One thing is for certain: last year’s claim this industry is immune to the effects of the recession on the grounds mobile phones are essential items now seems way off the mark.

Whether or not the present staffing and store measures on the high street see thousands of jobs actually go, it is clear all retailers are shaping up to be fitter, leaner and more efficient for the continuing downturn and the eventual upturn.

Indeed, there are a lot of positives to be taken from all the latest industry recession-beating moves.

3, the youngest of the UK networks, is undergoing radical change in its retail business and is, on the face of it, looking to minimise staff losses.

But, whether retailers admit it or not, walking into a mobile outlet is not a great experience for customers because of the existing “strength in numbers” mentality of store staff.

Staffers huddled in a corner of the store filing their nails or discussing the football is a sight seen by many customers because the staffing levels in several stores are disproportionate to the number of customers in the current climate.

With the recruitment freeze, staffers will begin to miss updating ‘MyFace’ or ‘SpaceBook’ while getting to know their customers a bit better.

The recession is proving a time for reflection. This is almost certainly what the networks are looking for in stores now.

Of course, employers are relatively quiet about all this – claiming that store staff have read the signs wrongly, and that all and sundry are on mad recruitment drives.

Clearly, there is an opportunity for retailers to define their operations on the high street. It is urgent they do so, because the industry has shifted.

The market is saturated, and technology has advanced to the point retail is about up-selling and cross-selling, as opposed to simply selling.

It has moved beyond setting up WAP accounts and MMS settings, although that is essential basic knowledge.

Fewer sales, more revenue. That is the message, whether in dealer land or big high street retail.

Staffing stores to the brim to guarantee each customer leaves with a contract is not the way forward when there is a low footfall. And when the market is saturated anyway.

Theoretically a smaller workforce would have a lower staff turnover since higher individual sales equals a happier workforce.