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Post-Pandemic Retail

Updated: Jan 11, 2022

What will stores look like up and down our high streets and inside malls?

How will the store teams interact with customers and, each other?

What about corporate offices – the look and feel of many offices will vastly change.

In 2020 we ALL got a huge wake-up call. The world changed. You changed.

As we enter this new world, it is the PERFECT moment to assess our internal values, to think about what we want to accomplish as individuals and as a part of a team.

I see this is as a huge opportunity to make significant shifts for the better.

To positively impact yourself, peers, your friends, family, your business and well, life in general.

Before the Pandemic

Pre pandemic, many brands were fantastic at talking about in-store experience and to achieve high velocity all brands must be Omni-present and incredibly easy to shop. Some brands executed this extremely well, others got stuck in the talking phase, and got caught up in internal bureaucracy and completely lost touch with the vision and purpose.

This slowed everything down, rapidly.

Some of those businesses have now closed down, some have scaled back on their footprint and some are right now, on the edge of total annihilation.

Recovery is not even a topic being discussed, only how to preserve some cash, sell-off stocks, protect pensions and exit the market with limited personal damage to owners and leadership reputations.

The pandemic impact is global and in one-way or another you were affected.

It is the modern common denominator of all human beings on this planet.

So how can you as an individual or a business ensure recovery, growth and eventually be thriving in all areas of your business?

By instilling a culture of purpose, which is spoken about all.the.time.

You personally need to have a vision so incredible, that is scares you.

The brain does not know the difference between fear or excitement, so this apparent ‘fear’ can easily be flipped into excitement!

As a business, all leaders and management need to recite the purpose frequently, through e-mails, on the conference calls, face to face.

If it matters to you, it will matter to them.

This trickles through all layers, and it must, so much so that the part-time team member knows it.

You may be thinking, well this is rather extreme and unnecessary?

Well, no it is not, and here is why – that part-time team member is on the front line of your operation, they are the closest person to the physical consumer, they get to enjoy all kinds of feedback, first-hand, unfiltered and because of this, they have the biggest influence over that consumer at that moment in time!

They will either convert that consumer OR casually let them pass by.

The difference between a team member actively contributing to the success of your business (or not) is all down to purpose. Being aware of what it is, being motivated by the line management to achieve this, being a part of something way bigger than just themselves!

Working towards success

As a weekend sales assistant in a sleepy North West town in the UK, I took great pride in being the top account opener.

I was had an 8hr contact and was paid £3.25 ph.

It was the store credit cards with a limit spend of around £1,000 at that time. I understood from the management that opening these contributed to our KPI’s, and the more we opened, the better we looked. It seemed that this was the goal, to be ranked highly as this meant success.

We also saw the regional ranking on this metric and my name was often called out as the top opener, which kept my efforts going, kept me focused and maintained consistent results.

But this is only half the story.

I understood from customers that they wanted to buy more pieces but often they’d say ‘next payday’ or ‘maybe not today’ so I presented a solution to them. It was entirely their choice to say yes or no, as a 16 year old ‘selling’ this solution to grown adults I felt confident that they would either love it or simply say no.

I was comfortable with either. I always knew another customer would say yes, so I just needed to get passed those no’s.

You see the store management team had this ‘together purpose’ of being the top store in the region for cards opened. It was such a big deal.

We had a huge whiteboard in the back with everyone’s name on, it was considered a great privilege to write on it each evening, it was celebrated, spoke of in every team talk. The purpose was driven into the core of everyone’s mind

And we won! We won big! We won consistently!

Leaders with Purpose

Over the last 20 years I have worked with teams driven by leaders with purpose, and these were the teams and businesses that continually delivered, regardless of any economical downturn.

Fast-forward to post pandemic trading and purpose driven leadership has now evolved.

This new world requires next-level minds, next-level leadership.

The successful leaders of the now and the future need to evolve into a coaching style of leadership blended with enormous purpose.

How can coaching yield results?

Retail workers have an abundance of skills; everything from operating complex POS systems, processing deliveries, accuracy in product standard, maintaining compliance across all areas of the front and back, physical strength, incredible ability to multi-task etc. But what they often don’t have is a leader who is available to coach teams through difficulties.

Everyone knows that we learn when we face a challenge however, you’ll only learn the lesson well with someone coaching you through that – so you can calibrate faster and move on.

Notice how some of the best Store Managers are superb operators.

The tasks are done, the shop look great, the back of house is immaculate.

This is great! But who is taking care of the team?

Who is really harnessing their passions and encouraging them?

Often a great operator is not so great with people. They can plan, give targets, monitor the floor and score great audits etc. But when it comes to building up confidence, holding hindsight conversations and listening to team grievances, these leaders fail – why? They are programmed to achieve measurable results; they themselves are motivated by deliverables. Coaching someone is seen as time consuming and unnecessary.

Our New Normal

As we enter this new world of retail, every single leader must come to terms with this fact: This last year has been hard, in all kinds of ways. People have been deeply affected and if I’m to re-build my team and get results, I must be available to coach my people, to re-build confidence, to build trust in this brand and to provide a safe community inside the store. One where we can celebrate together and talk easily through tough times.

Notice how I mentioned to build trust in the brand. It is ever more important to communicate with teams with absolute crystal clear clarity. Teams are scared ‘is our brand next…are we going to close down too’

This is a REAL frightening concern and will easily consume the minds and output of all your people.

So, communicate. Build trust. Keep doing that! A great one-off talk is not enough.

Compare it to working out. No-one shifts ten pounds by hammering the treadmill once; one has to keep on visiting that treadmill, put in the effort, get into a cycle of repetition and eventually the weight will come off.

Eventually – the trust will build.

You may have come across the kind of people or teams that continually talk about what went wrong, or the poor way something was handled, or a process that is still not fixed.

Maybe you have thought ‘ufff, I thought we figured this out’ well, perhaps someone put a plaster on it, but it wasn’t enough. These workers will not move on until they have been an active part of the solution. They don’t need convincing or telling – they want to actually learn and be a consulted part of the solution.

Such times leaders will need to coach their teams are:

1. Problem-solving; difficult customers

2. Taking poor feedback; angry customers

3. Giving feedback peer-to-peer. You know the kind, Ben is not happy with Jake because they have the same role but Ben is more productive and Jake ‘gets away with doing nothing’

You don’t need this kind of disharmony in the team. The solution? Coaching!

4. Onboarding of new team members. Did you know, the first 100 days will determine the longevity and commitment of each person? Fail to deliver and you’re setting yourself up for high staff turnover, taking you away from building a successful team

5. Motivation. It won’t last, but discipline does. Solution? Leaders coaching people through this transition

Retail can thrive again and it can be a place of incredible community, a vibrant place to discover the brand, customers physically trying-on seasonal pieces and learning more about offers, events and more. Dwell-time increases so the chances of converting increase. Everything starts to snowball.

All of this is the result.

The result of a team who have been well equipped to navigate any situation, well coached frequently and given a purpose to perform at their very best every single day.

Post-pandemic retail starts with re-building your people.


Coach your people, give them skills to proper and watch your business recover fast!

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