Theres an old saying, Youth is wasted on the young. As an
independent natural products retailer, you probably wish you could
hire someone who possesses the wisdom that comes with age, but with
the back muscles of a high school wrestler. Because retail is a
physical sport, you must recruit able-bodied individuals with
enough energy to work the long hours, both early and late. This
means you wont be able to fully staff your store using the oldest
and wisest candidates, but must select from the younger, more
active set, whose personalities, shall we say, are still
Add to this demographic dilemma the attitude most people have
that retail is not a career. A store-clerk gig, in the minds of
most, is a waypoint on the path to something more intellectually
engaging and financially rewarding. What can you do to overcome
these two major obstacles?
Be About Something Larger Than Yourself
In its heyday, Whole Foods Market was one of the coolest places to
work. The products were cutting edge, the stores were beautiful,
the shoppers were trill (true and real, a millennial update of
hip). It was a place to see and be seen. In the 1990s, it was
perhaps the best example of the community space described by Ray
Oldenburg in his 1989 book The Great Good Place, as the third
place, after home and work, where people spontaneously gather and
As a result, Whole Foods didnt have to work hard to recruit
highly motivated employees. Energetic, quality-oriented, smart
young people naturally gravitated there to work. This is a
phenomenon known as self-selection, where people select themselves
into a group of individuals with like characteristics. It really
worked for Whole Foods.
The Independent Play
Although you cant be as highly visible or influential as Whole
Foods, you can still make an impression in your community and help
inspire the desire to work in your store. Ive seen it happen in the
best independents around the country. The common thread among them
is a single word: integrity. The dictionary defines integrity as
adhering to moral and ethical principle; being of sound moral
The most successful independents I know all possess integrity,
but more important, they put it to use. Every day, these retailers
actively model the behavior they want their employees to
Empathy; listening intently to and
acknowledging customers concerns while putting aside ones own.
Explaining to employees the principles behind the
policies; such as, why we stand behind our products with
an unconditional satisfaction guarantee.
Engaging the customer with questions to gain a
fuller understanding before making recommendations, including not
just product, but awareness of stress triggers, the importance of
rest, and of having fun.
Give to Get
The other t...