The Store Meeting


 

The store meeting is one of the most important forms of direct communication between owners, managers, buyers, and sales associates.  Once a regular part of the work week during the era of mostly full-time employees, this long-held tradition seems to have fallen by the wayside.  Taking its place is communique in the form of texts, emails, conference calls, and notices posted by the punch clock or in the break room. Admittedly, the scheduling of store or department meetings is a bit more challenging today then in year’s past due to split shifts, days off, vacations, and the increasing use of part time employees- all of which makes the store meeting that much more necessary.

 

Timing and Notice

Some stores can get by with regularly scheduled monthly meeting, while others wait for circumstances to dictate a store-wide get- together. Either way, remember to provide ample notice and pick a time when most employees are able to be present.  If store management deems the meeting mandatory, hourly workers will need to be compensated for their time, whereas salaried workers do not.

The ideal time for a meeting really depends on the size of the operation.  A small store with few employees can perhaps get by with as little as a few minutes on the floor when business is slow. Larger operations will sometimes have meetings before the store opens or after it closes. I work with a particular store that has a storewide meeting every single day prior to the store opening and has for years.  Store executives would tell you that this form of communication is one of the secrets to their success. They back up their claim with sales exceeding $1200 per square foot, margins of 55% and a stock turn of 4 times annually.  The meetings are so informative that employees who end up missing a particular meeting- due to a day off or a staggered starting time- feel that they have missed out until they are brought up to speed.  Meeting notes are provided to those employees unable to attend.

In multiple store operations, it would be impossible for owners and even buyers to attend each individual store meeting. However, it does lend a feeling of inclusiveness when an owner makes the effort to attend branch store meetings on occasion.

 

What to Cover

Be sure to keep meetings relevant and positive so that those attending feel that their time is being productively used. There are an array of topics that should be covered regularly including customer service issues, policies and procedures, shrinkage control, business goals and objectives, sales training techniques, upcoming ads and promotions, and definitely features and benefits of new merchandise arrivals.

 

What’s Hot, What’s Not

If you are the meeting organizer, one of your goals will be to get as many people involved in the meeting as practical.  Role playing when dealing with suggestive selling or sales training techniques works well in this situation.  Something I used in during meetings was a conversation starter called, “What’s Hot, What’s Not”.  Each buyer or manager would bring two items to the meeting and be prepared to discuss both.  During the What’s Hot portion, each buyer would share with the group the item that was currently the hottest in the department.  This discussion included vendor, quantity purchased, sell through, initial markup, reorder possibilities, how the item was being featured, and just what was making the item so “hot”.  The procedure was just reversed during “What’s Not”.  Buyers would take turns presenting the item that was currently the biggest dog.  Discussion points would include why they bought the item, how many they still had, why it was not selling and what they planned to do to move the slow seller. At the end of each buyer’s presentation, other buyers and sales associates could offer ideas and suggestions that might prove beneficial.

The What’s Hot, What’s Not discussion was not only entertaining, but also became a great learning experience.  Each buyer wound up learning what was working and what was not from other buyers in the organization as well as techniques for solving merchandising issues.

 

Invite Case Studies & Guests

Case studies also make great discussion starters. Have a different employee each meeting bring up an actual issue that has come up for the group to analyze.  This promotes group interaction and helps build  problem-solving skills. Sales associates can learn from each other the best ways of handling objections as well as complaints.

Another way to make staff meetings interesting is to invite an outside guest.  One great idea is to schedule a rep from one of the stores major lines to give a “mini clinic”. This is an excellent way for sales associates to hear in detail about the merchandise that the store is or will be carrying.

When your return from buying trips, always share new merchandise trends, styles and lines that you have purchased. Your enthusiasm for the upcoming season’s merchandise is contagious-use meetings to share it and pump your employees up.

 

Involvement Brings Satisfaction

Also, in an effort to get everyone involved, solicit input and invite meeting participants to air grievances as well as possible solutions or customer comments that affect the store.  It’s a good idea to monitor this portion of the meeting closely so that it doesn’t spiral into a gripe session.  Be sure to follow up as quickly as possible to questions that arise. This leads to job satisfaction and employees feeling valued.  One way to get everyone involved might be to select a different employee at each meeting to take notes of the meeting and make sure that everyone, both those in attendance and those that were not, receive a copy.

If you are already conducting regular store meetings, keep doing them. If not, consider scheduling one soon. Your employees will be very pleased with the open communication.

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