Just-In-Time Employees?

The job numbers came in this past Thursday and the market looks to be on the uptick, however, an article by Chris Isidore called Attention shoppers: No jobs here on CNNMoney says that it isn’t happening in the Retail segment. Chris hits on several themes as to why there aren’t any jobs in retail.
    a) Retailors are simply not hiring
    b) A labor shortage is making candidates hard to find
    c)Internet shopping is increasing
    d) Better scheduling

I found the part about better scheduling interesting. Software is enabling the merchants to have personnel on the floor only during times of peak sales. So if a big box store is selling the Nintendo Wii, then the entire staff will be there for that day, since the store should be filled with potential buyers of additional merchandise. The software must do a great job predicting when buyers will be present and what their needs are. So I assume it tracks normal buying times, and then says that Fridays or the 1st and 15th of the month after 5:00 PM are more likely to have potential shoppers. But what happens during slow times? I know there is staff there because there must be enough sales to cover operational costs. Otherwise, you would just close the store and only open during optimal sales time. But you know that can’t happen – shoppers would not have clear expectations for the store. But isn’t that happening as a result of the staff reduction? I don’t know how many times I’ve been to a big box store and haven’t been able to find something (unfortunately, when help is present, they seem to only have a 50/50 shot too). Another assumption I will make is that many retail store workers (excluding commission based employees) don’t have high salaries or hourly rates. I would guess that the opportunity cost would surpass the hourly rate. Maybe the problem Wal-Mart is having with selling more high end products is that they haven’t trained their employees to act like high end salesmen. I know several people, including myself, that consider Wal-Mart a “get in and get out” store. Their employees, either too busy because there isn’t enough of them or not interested in helping, don’t prevent that mentality.

So what is the alternative? Commission sales? Too many sales people that end up getting in the way? I guess I would do some hybrid. Have an employee in a specific section. Have that employee be an expert in that area. Then let commissions come into play. But have the commissions be some sort of voluntary system that is two fold. For instance, if I need a hammer, I go to the tools section. All I want is a hammer, but the sales person asks for what type of work. I answer that I’m hanging alphabet letters for my new born. He can recommend a hammer and the appropriate nails. When checking out I get the option of identifying my sales rep and answering the question of whether I would engage him again if I were to purchase something similar. Simple Yes or No. Wal-Mart can compensate either by providing a percentage additional to the work check or some other meaningful way, but more importantly, it changes the perception of the store being an in and out store. Eventually, I would buy more than just nails.
But what happens when there are more shoppers than sales reps? Obviously, the software isn’t perfect… yet.


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