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How to Build a High-Performing Team in Retail & Truly Stand Out

There are teams, and then there are high-performing teams in retail, much like there are disposable fast fashion garments and durable ethical clothes, or basic saunas with treatments and spa packages that make you feel pampered like a VIP.

In which category does your shop floor staff fall?

Here’s how building high-performing teams in retail can help your stores excel, which is essential… now more than ever.

Retail is changing: how are you adapting?

And I asked how rather than whether you’re adapting because let’s be honest: if you’re not, you’ll be left behind.

While the high street has been struggling for years, online shopping has only been growing. Europe’s e-commerce revenue didn’t reach 300 billion dollars in 2017, and yet it grew to 425.2 in 2020 and is expected to surpass 569 by 2025.

After all, shopping online is fast, practical, and can be done from the comfort of one’s home as well as… wherever they are.

So, if you want to get people to choose your physical location over a random e-commerce site selling the same or similar products, you’d better give them a pretty good reason to get out of their pyjamas!

Long gone are the days when retail was only about stocking shelves, keeping the floor tidy, and ticking all those operational checklists.

For that, putting together a reliable and energetic team was more than enough.

Now? Far from it.

One way in which retail trailblazers like Apple and Selfridges have been luring people into their stores is by turning them into interactive experience hubs.

In-store classes, influencer evenings, new professional figures to ensure a personalised shopping experience, integration of AR and technology…

Their physical locations have basically become a stage that creates a sense of community, brings their brand to life, and makes their customers an integral part of their story.

In my opinion, the future of retail is experiential. However, I get it: not every brand can afford these immersive hubs.

Plus, while they work particularly well for luxury or high-tech brands, they might not be the most logical solution for your specific industry (or budget).

So, how else can you adapt to retail’s changing landscape and help your physical locations not only survive but THRIVE during this online shopping migration?

By developing high-performing teams, of course!

High-performing teams in retail

Retail still retains—and will always have—one major advantage over e-commerce: human connection.

Aka your shopfloor staff.

Unlike impersonal or robotic chatbots, they can make all the difference when it comes to customer service, tailored help with in-store products and AI, a personalised approach, and an overall memorable experience that increases customer loyalty.

Still, you can’t expect all that from a motley bunch of team members!

You need to build a high-performing team in retail to really WOW your audience.

The importance of a high-performing team in retail

Once you adopt this approach in your stores, the benefits will be obvious both for your customers and, consequently, your brand.

What makes a high-performing team?

A high-performing (or high-performance) team is a group of employees using their expertise and first-class skills to actively work towards the same goals and ensure innovative and superior results.

Don’t you often feel that most shop floor staff comes across as heterogeneous bunches of under-trained individuals?

A high performing team in retail, on the contrary, works in synergy to provide a personalised and impeccable shopping experience to your customers, from the moment they walk through the door to helping them with informed decisions and making their day before they leave.

How a high-performing team can make the difference in your retail store

When all of your shop floor members are trained and motivated properly, they can help your store stand out from the competition even if you can’t afford an Apple-style experiential hub.

Not only that: increase conversions while improving customer experience and their brand loyalty.

Here are just some examples of the difference that a high-performing retail team can make, especially when it comes to your store’s hotspots:

  • The moment your customers walk through the door: greeting them with personality rather than just smiling, sticking to the same old scripts, or⁠—worse⁠—ignoring them. You need authenticity over scripted parrots to strike a connection with the customer. The human attention span is short: stand out!

  • Try-on areas like mirrors or footwear zones: making your customers feel at ease and that your staff is there to help them find the best product for them rather than just trying to sell them anything (for example, recommending the right accessories or colour combinations to complement their outfits). I find it staggering how even this basic fundamental is being missed so much in the retail industry!

  • Fitting rooms: helping potential customers make the right choice and feel confident in the clothes they pick (for example, by being available to give honest feedback or offering to go and grab a different size or colour for them). When I was a Regional Manager, I banned the word 'nice' at the fitting rooms. Why? It is predictable and therefore, meaningless. Your role is to interrupt the customer thought pattern and create energy and a need to buy! "WOW, this dress looks amazing on you, do you see how the cut really compliments your shape" ...all of a sudden the customer is engaged with you and keen to learn more.

  • Displays and thoughtful visual merchandising: accompanying your customers to the location of the product they’re looking for rather than sending them to ‘the next aisle on the left’ on their own or pointing to an area of the store. What is this, Tesco? Aldi? No my friend, you are the catalyst of change. YOU are the person who can make a sale happen or shrug your shoulders and think "meh, they can figure it out"

  • AR and high-tech areas: helping customers to use your in-store technology to make more informed buying decisions through an enriched experience rather than being left on their own trying to figure out how your tablets or smart mirrors work. And yes, even tech-savy people want a walk-through of the best bits to navigate! For all the tech installed into your retail store, you can bet only 20% of features are used - do you know what they are? Do your retail teams know the data? How are you leveraging that?

  • Check-out and exit doors: ensuring that each customer leaves feeling valued and with a sense of optimism all thanks to your genuine interactions with them

Nothing like a vanilla store where everyone relies on impersonal scripts, right? Or where customers have to look around for minutes before they can even make eye contact with a distracted team member.

Overall, a high-performing team in retail knows how to effortlessly:

  • Connect with a client on a personal level

  • Communicate effectively

  • Find solutions

  • Ask the right questions

  • Help your customers make informed decisions

  • Make them feel a part of your brand story

  • Add value to their experience, being fully aware of the difference that their own ROI (as in ripples of impact!) can make

How to build a high-performing team in retail: setting your stores up for success

High-performing teams don’t just become that way by luck or accident!

And they are certainly not built by leadership who have their feet firmly rooted in the corporate offices!

They’re selected, trained regularly, and motivated by passionate store managers who empower them with the right knowledge, strategy, and mindset to deliver unforgettable customer experiences.

What are 5 important elements for building high-performing teams?

The five best practices of high-performing teams are:

  • Trust and respect: the members of a high-performing team in retail know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and use them strategically to reach the same goals, holding each other accountable and collaborating rather than competing

  • Communication: they provide honest and constructive feedback, solve problems and challenges together, and talk to each other openly instead of building resentment due to miscommunication or misunderstandings. The best communicators build bridges and resolve conflict with ease. They male everyone feel heard and encourage the introverts to come forward. Great communicators are inclusive and empowering.

  • Well-defined roles and responsibilities: high-performing teams don’t consist of jacks-of-all-trades jumping from one task to the next without a strategy! They’re assigned clear responsibilities, and they understand how they fit into your brand’s mission. If a member of your team does not know the company mission or store KPI's, then how to they know what they're working towards? Do not allow this to happen!

  • Leadership: behind a high-performing team in retail there’s an empowering manager who celebrates their achievements while helping them develop their skills, work towards their ambitions, and stay motivated. The best leadership feels like support. Think about how you felt under great leadership? Trusted? Supported? Driven to be your best? Exactly. But these softskills are not handed to you; they take years to develop and hone this mastery

  • Collective goals: the members of a high-performing team don’t show up to work just to stand on the shopfloor and tick some tasks off a list. They work together towards the same aims and the KPIs established by their managers. They actually care about the team and back each other during hard times. Take a look at the employee turnover rate per store; notice patterns and unusually high turnover. The problem is the leadership. Simple. Deal with it. Don't ignore it. You'll never retain talent by letting a few toxic employees spoil work for everyone else.

Workshops to build an OUTSTANDING high-performing team in retail

Ok, how do I put all this into practice? Where do I start?

Well, you could start by talking to someone with over twenty years of experience in this industry!

I’m Kayleigh, and I founded The International Retail Academy to help brands and individuals learn, grow, and succeed in this sector.

We offer a premium range of workshops that will allow you to:

Regardless of whether or not you can also consider experience hubs, your brand doesn’t have to be left behind or beaten by the e-commerce revolution.

Impressing your customers through a high-performing team will allow you to stand out and thrive in this new retail landscape. (Psst: develop it before your competitors do, too!)

Kayleigh works with brands 1:1 through her retail coaching and consulting programs; if you are ready to accelerate your team performance, visit our consulting page here.

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