It’s no surprise that retail has plummeted the past few years. The economy, alone, has been an utter disaster. Consumers are strictly looking for the best deals and why not? E-commerce has changed the way people shop dramatically. You can buy goods from across the world with free shipping, better prices, superior quality, and in bulk. For example, in my last internship I helped my boss style her outfits for New York Fashion Week (NYFW). By shopping online, I saved her over $500. It’s all about keywords and knowing what to type into the search bar.
Due to this accessibility, in-store sales are horrendous. If you talk to anyone who works in retail, chances are the most business they do is taking back online returns. On the positive side, this decline has caused some retailers to be more innovative with products. Sally Hansen had to go back to the drawing board. As a result, they will launch a Miracle Gel this summer because their products just weren’t selling. Some department stores cannot use innovation for more traffic. Profits have been down for many of the major players – Wal-Mart, Kohls, Macys, JCPennys, Nordstroms, and Dillards. The list goes on and on.
Only 48 percent of working-age adults are holding a full-time job. This, in addition to the inflation of food and gasoline prices, causes problems for retailers. With bad weather obliterating store traffic, retailers have become dependent on e-commerce. As much of a fan I am of e-commerce, I feel that it is a responsibility to remind consumers what happens when you no longer shop in stores.
1. Eventually, the in-store shopping experience is going to disappear. Retailers will no longer think that it is necessary to hire employees. As a result, the personal shopping experience will become extinct. Thus, the era of more computer generated operators on telephone will flourish (more than it already has).
2. The returns made at certain retailers on brands count against department sales. For example, every department has a targeted goal for how many sales they need to make. This number is absolute and does not waver with circumstance. Corporate will not/does not factor in the weather or any other conditions when looking at numbers. The department then gives the sales associates goals that need to be achieved. If the sales associate is unable to make this number, they face getting “written up” or fired. If you are a Brand Ambassador, your job is to run a brand, sell it, and market it to other associates to sell it. When someone brings in a return from offline that is your brand, it hits you personally. Meaning, every sale you have that day will now try to compensate for the negative return that has just been established. This is despite the fact that the item was not sold by you or purchased at the physical store for which you work. If your online returns are more than the amount you sell at the end of the day, you are now in the negative. It’s a never-ending cycle that will destroy the little sales you may receive from the very few customers that come in.
Retailers have also been known to use a draw system. In this system, any type of return that you originally sell negatively affects a sales associate. A sales associate has to sell a certain amount of money each week to even make commission. With the draw system, if your returns outnumber your sales monetarily, the resulting end balance is in the negatives. Essentially, this means you do not get a commission and owe the company money. Basically, being a retail associate in today’s economy is a very volatile profession. There is no guarantee from one week to the next you will have a stable paycheck or even get commission. Add this to having to deal with some unruly and condescending customers all day, and it is hardly a good deal.
The reason for writing this article is strictly to inform the public on how shopping trends affect the people who work in the business. If you want to shop online, by all means, continue. I, personally, would rather shop online. However, I do realize that there are repercussions to actions. From the way things are progressing in the industry, I will be extremely shocked if in-store retail still exists in five years. If you are a consumer that enjoys the one-on-one time with a stylist or associate, my advice to you is to buy your goods from a store. Come out and support the men and women who have to stand 8 hours a day. After all, everyone likes to walk around the mall every once in a while. Once we stop doing that, internet buying will completely take over. Then, the in-store retail will truly have gone down, down baby.