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Furniture World Magazine




Considerations that just may help you to find your next $500,000 to $1 million dollar closer, organize your business and keep fully staffed in this tight job market.

Our retail world faces a lot of COVID related challenges right now. You certainly don’t need me to rehash them here. Before the latest variant hit, some experts said that most of these might clear up by the end of 2023. There is one challenge among many that stands out and is unlikely to go away any time soon. It’s not a WHAT, but rather a WHO!

Who will you get to work in your stores in the next five days or five years? Recruiting used to be an overlooked “I’ll get to it tomorrow” problem in retail.


Even if you are fully staffed now, with low unemployment due to many COVID and systemic factors (see Furniture World’s recent “Turnover Tsunami” article at www.furninfo.com/furniture-world-articles/3948), many companies are getting more aggressive with pay and benefits. They are out to steal your best people. Think how much better you would feel if you had a folder with 10 great people you could hire right now.

That’s why it’s necessary to think outside the box when searching for yet-to-be-discovered retail talent. If you don’t have a $500K or $1MM writer on your sales team now, that means they are working for someone else, or are not even in the work force right now. Be different, look for hidden gems where no one else even thinks to look, and with a little polish a diamond in the rough may become your shining jewel.

Check out the following ideas that may just help you to find your next $1MM closer.

Clothing Stores: While I never purchased anything for myself there, I did accompany my everlovin’ bride while shopping at women’s clothing stores like Dress Barn. Sadly, that chain closed its stores in 2019, but in general their salespeople were knowledgeable, assertive, and customer-focused. They knew how to add-on, use credit to build tickets, and CLOSE! Women’s clothing stores share the same customer base as your store and their salespeople resemble your customers. They are used to retail hours and know how to maintain a clean store.

If these sound like the kind of employees that you are looking for, you need to aggressively pursue them. Understand how they are paid and how you can meet or exceed that.

You may not be able to attract a recent Harvard or Princeton grad,
and even lowering your sights to a Michigan Wolverine or UNLV Rebel may not pan out.

Consider Offering Mommy Hours: I recently read about a small clothing store chain that was struggling to fill open positions. They created a schedule specifically aimed at moms whose children were in school from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. They were able to attract and retain a solid base of employees just because they offered this scheduling option.

You may think that your current staff will object to part-timers infringing on the schedule. You may even hear that you are cutting the customer “pie” into smaller slices. The fact is that Monday to Friday from 9-3 are some of the slower traffic hours in mattress and furniture stores. Your professional sharks can relax knowing that they will still have control of the waters when most shoppers swim in. And, remember that the sales pie isn’t finite. It expands with the addition of talented people.

Graduation Month: May and June mean graduation in most communities. You may not be able to attract a recent Harvard or Princeton grad, and even lowering your sights to a Michigan Wolverine or UNLV Rebel may not pan out.

Concentrate on the thousands or tens of thousands of high school graduates in your area. Don’t give me that malarkey about them being unwilling to work or too young to sell. Many of these grads will not go to college and are too talented to flip burgers or work in the local vape store.

The younger set is easy to teach, much more so than a 45-year pro who has one year of experience repeated 25 times. They know how to use social media and are familiar with current technology.

Everyone Starts Somewhere!

While I’m writing about fresh-faced kids right out of school, it’s important to remember that working a job and getting a first paycheck doesn’t reflect the true compensation a new college or high school graduate receives.

Think about your first real job at retail, the one where you got a paycheck with taxes deducted. You probably earned minimum wage or close to it, or commissions if you worked in sales. Back then, from the perspective of your employer, there were added costs in the form of payroll taxes, possibly a health insurance contribution and other benefits such as paid vacation or tuition reimbursement. As an employee, you had to bear employment costs such as an investment in work clothes. And, you probably had to make a difficult investment in working nights, holidays, and weekends at retail.

But, the greatest non-cash value that new employees receive from working at retail is the education they get from the experience. They gain transferable skills and knowledge that last a lifetime. It’s my opinion that the value added is worth at least 20 percent more than the actual pay rate. These skills include:

  • How to dress appropriately for work.
  • How to show up on time and clock out at day’s end.
  • How to greet people or answer a phone correctly.
  • The value of showing respect for your customers, supervisors and co-workers.
  • The hard lesson that a half-hour lunch means 30 minutes.
  • Strategies for prioritizing and organizing workdays.
  • Understanding the value of labor, the rewards it brings, and how not to waste those rewards.

Amazingly, someone PAID you to learn all of these life lessons once upon a time. It’s a lesson that some people who spend over $200,000 (not including room and board) to get a Harvard education may never receive.

Other Candidates to Consider

In this tight labor market, you’ll want to dispel the idea that experience in the specific job role is a requirement. Sure, you’d love to hire Suzy Super Sales for your showroom, or a delivery person with 10 years of final mile experience. But, you may find transferable skills from outside our industry in your next candidate.

Former Police: Selling and customer service skills come from asking good questions. And no one knows how to ask questions better than a former police officer. They ask logical questions and seek “real” answers. Officers tend to retire from the force with many more working years left and can be an asset to your team.

Former or Current Teachers: The greatest part of selling is teaching. That’swhy hiring former or current teachers is a good idea. You’ll give them greater earning potential with far less paperwork. For the most part, our front-line educators are underpaid, and because their job comes with ample time off, you may find that they are able to fill in part-time weekend hours for you.

 Former Department Store Employees: Department stores have closed all around the country. For the most part, it’s not because they had bad employees. You will find good customer skills and people who know how to sell credit when you hire a former Macy’s or JC Penney’s clerk. Just understand that they’re used to hourly wages instead of commission-based pay.

 Retired Military: If you want to organize your company, look no further than retired or former military members. Skill, determination, respect forward and backward, and responsibility made them successful in the service and they will serve you well too. High School or College Athletes: We all must start somewhere. High School graduates and college students who participated in sports or other clubs learn teamwork and leadership skills that can help them become productive in your company right from the start.

Teach People Knowledge

If you provide this 20 percent “learning bonus value” to the people you hire, you’ll reduce turnover and create an atmosphere that promotes and encourages skill development. And as you look to build your team, know that people knowledge is more important than product knowledge. Hire for attitude, you can teach the aptitude.



About Gordon Hecht: Gordon Hecht is a business growth and development consultant to the retail home furnishings industry. You can reach him at Gordon.hecht@aol.com