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Retail's backbone: sales and service

Sales and service have always been the backbone of retail. But as technology, the economy, the environment and social awareness change, so too must retailers and consumers. RUSSELL ZIMMERMAN explains how to keep up.

Business terms like connection, relationship building, consumer loyalty and customer experience are increasingly used to express the new ways retailers and consumers interact. Customers now have immediate access to information about price and competition, which is changing the way traditional retailers operate.

The ability to comment on social media is challenging retailers who have low customer service standards. This is great news for brands with a commitment to customer service, and retailers who offer a unique product, but unfortunate news for others. The trading environment may be rough, but there is a real opportunity for dynamic businesses to thrive in the new world of retail.

Be customer-centric
"Being customer-centric is all about having an underlying commitment to placing the customer’s interest at the centre of every business decision"

In today’s retail environment, being customer-centric is all about having an underlying commitment to placing the customer’s interest at the centre of every business decision. The classic saying ‘the customer is king’ is now more relevant than ever. But rather than signaling the death of retail, this attitude creates an opportunity for retailers to tailor their offering and provide value that goes deeper than the product itself.

Retailers need to become smarter about how they connect with, and appeal to their desired customers. There is no better time than now to be a retail customer because there is so much choice. Using technology, consumers are able to globally source, price and purchase products from the comfort of their living room, or in-store via their smartphone.

Retailers both large and small benefit from paying close attention to how they develop their sales and service strategies, because in modern retail, the success of their business depends on it.

 Staff are the spirit of retail

The spirit of retail lies with its staff, as salespeople are essential to the growth and sustainability of the retail industry. How staff approach, interact with, learn about, and introduce their product to customers is a strong part of the business, and every effort made to resolve customer expectations or complaints are an investment.

When customers measure the performance of a retailer, brand or store, a different set of rules apply. Each customer varies, and they may have differing expectations for certain retailers. However, there are several consistencies in how they decide whether a retail experience was to their liking or not.

Ultimately the aim of great sales people is to develop long-term relationships, which provide an opportunity for future sales.

Invest in a superior workforce

With great service being the key to retail success, it’s important to take a close look at the recruitment process. Employment, training and staff development all contribute to business growth and sustainability. Investing in superior retail staff not only instills a strong service culture, but it also gives staff an opportunity to grow.

 Here to help 

The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) assists retailers to enhance the staff development process, transforming retail from a stepping-stone industry to a long-term and fulfilling career.

Their training department provides employment training solutions, which include Retail Buying, Visual Merchandising, Financials, Marketing, Operations, and Sales and Service Strategy.

The ARA also promotes and protects employer interests. As Australia’s largest retail peak body industry, the ARA is a strong pro-active advocate for Australian retail. The ARA works to ensure retail success by informing, protecting, advocating, educating and saving money for its small, medium and large members.

The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) is the largest association representing the country’s $310 billion retail sector, which employs more than 1.2 million people. Providing expert advice across multiple disciplines including leasing and wage rates, the ARA’s mission is to ensure retail success by informing, protecting, advocating, educating and saving money for members.



Russell Zimmerman

Russell Zimmerman is the executive director of the Australian Retailers Association (ARA). Email:

Peter W Beck

Thursday, 28 May, 2020 07:01am
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