Back to Basics

It’s just a bloody shop.

Keep it properly stocked. Keep it clean. Keep it organized. Make people feel welcome. Don’t put up with any shit.

In the last week: we are out of green “Out of Stock” tags. We ran out of both our best selling red earthworms and a top-five white earthworm variety. Scheduled tasks (centrally determined, BTW) were not completed more than 50% of the time.

I could go on.

When “managers” look up towards corporate rather than straight ahead at the people walking through the door, stuff goes wrong.

When edicts from someone thousands of miles away are perceived as more important than what customers ask for, stuff gets missed.

When no-one has the ability to create systems that simplify and work, someone loses.

When no-one feels sufficiently strong to start the process of starting from scratch (every so often) there is no future.

There is no future.

Sales Blind

New depths of dummery at the Bait & Switch store yesterday.

It was, BTW, my 7th day straight. Did I mention that?

At our morning scrimmage, the fact of our traffic (retail term for “people”) was down around 10% for the previous day. That’s an enormous number, and yet our average transaction value was up 7%, retail for the traffic spending more per person than the day before.

What shocked me was the congratulatory tone about increased sales of large-format earthworms. Perhaps I should explain: earthworms come in two standard sizes, namely 750 ml and 1.5 l containers. Traditionally the best bait comes in the smaller size and bulk, lower quality bait ships in the larger.

Being a bait and switch operation, even this segment isn’t immune to the Earthworms Direct shenanigans. ED has its own brands, but because no-one in the store cares about bulk items – nor the bogans who buy it – sales of National Brand bait dominate.

For unknown reasons, I spent Sunday and Monday repairing and stocking that aisle of the store. Lo and behold, the sales went up, aided by a 12 case (12 container) online order. And yet the managers were very pleased with themselves based on the resulting daily sales increase. The utter ignorance and non-recognition of what’s happening IN THEIR STORE is breathtaking. Absolutely breathtaking.


What’s Your Favorite Color?

This question, a part of the “getting to know you” section of a questionnaire polling Earthworms Direct employees, drove me to extremes of sarcasm.

I think this three-page inquiry was peculiar to our store, administered by one of the myriad under-managers. She promised that the actual store manager wouldn’t see raw answers, but I don’t believe that. In the week prior to my submission, I spotted a completed poll lying around the managers’ corral.

Seeking insights into employee thinking about the business is fair play. There is, however, a way to do it that lessens the appearance of distance between labor and management rather than amplifying it. I managed to avoid handing over my completed sheets, in which I answered all the questions with my two requirements for improvement:

A. More money

B. Better scheduling

The personal info questions I left blank or answered in the fashion of Dr Seuss, a form of passive aggression that I enjoy more than I should.

In any case, the net effect of this nonsense is to strengthen my impression that the Bait and Switch store is stuck in a business model attuned to the cutting edge of 1977.

Rumblings From The Interior

My buddy sent me a job advertisement yesterday. The job, at Bait & Switch HQ was for an Executive Vice-President, Chief Marketing Officer.

My sources tell me that the dysfunction we suffer at store level extends all the way up the chain of command to the C-Suite. Poor communication, reliance on out-dated systems, a confused marketing architecture, growth at all costs mindset; all these contribute to a culture that leaves a lot of junk at the side of the road.

Yesterday was telling. Our store manager said to me, twice:

We need to sell more Earthworms Direct.

She meant THIS MINUTE. A couple of problems here. One is that one cannot MAKE people buy the products you want them to buy, especially if those people aren’t even walking in the door. Secondly, if you advertise National Brand earthworms, people come to the store expecting to buy those national brands. They have it in their minds that’s what we sell, and that’s what they want.

Another, bigger sign inherent to her statement is that it assumes that one day’s trading will make or break the entire operation. Short-termism is rife in this business, a state of mind that leads to focusing on all the wrong elements. Return custom, gradual change of consumer behaviour, long-term education: these are the platitudes issued from on high, but the reality is that this hour’s sales ratios are store-level imperatives.