Hiring Employeers

Consumers often form their impressions of a store by evaluating its sales force. So look for initiative and problem-solving skills in employees who can ring up repeat sales for your business and keep customers satisfied.

Whether selling shoes, computer equipment or plants, retail salespeople assist customers in finding what they're looking for and try to interest them in buying the merchandise. They describe a product's features, demonstrate its use, and show various models and colors. Therefore, you need to hire people with experience in your trade area--or at least people with a willingness to learn.

While these are the basic requirements for selling items, not all sales approaches are the same, and not all salespeople will fit your line of goods or store. For example, some sales personnel, particularly those selling expensive and complex items, need special knowledge or skills. Selling automobiles requires explaining the features of various models, the meaning of manufacturers' specifications, and the types of options and financing available to prospective buyers. Selling fine jewelry involves a certain level of expertise beyond that required for a costume jewelry clerk.

Depending on the type of store and your policies, your workers may also handle returns and exchanges, wrap gifts, stock shelves or racks, arrange for mailing or delivery of purchases, mark price tags, take inventory, and prepare displays. Neatness and artistic talent are very useful. Salespeople must be aware of special sales and promotions. They must also recognize possible security risks and thefts, and know how to handle or prevent such situations.

How Many People Is Enough?
The quick answer is as many as it takes to ensure complete customer satisfaction. In reality, simple economics preclude this. There are as many answers to personnel needs as there are types of retail businesses. Nonetheless, here are a few points to consider in deciding how many staff members your business requires:

  • Size: A single-floor firm will need fewer staff than a multifloor store of the same size.
  • Type of product: The higher the price and complexity of the product, the more personal selling is required. More personal selling means more people.
  • Opening hours: The number of work days and the hours of business may require shifts and flexible work times. Changes in holiday business will also affect staffing.
  • Patterns of trade: The concentration of sales at certain times of the day or on certain days of the week will affect staffing needs.
  • Sales density: The higher the sales per square foot, the more staff you'll need.
  • Business location: A homebased business increases its chances of experiencing zoning problems with every employee it adds.

This article was excerpted from Entrepreneur's "How to Start a Retail Store".

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