Supporting and Inspiring Change In Retail


Supporting and Inspiring Change In Retail

There is an adage that goes “Only three things are certain in life: Birth, Death, and Taxes”. Over the past many years I can, without reservation, add “constant evolution and change in retail” to this list. AND I think that those of us who have been in retail for a while actually enjoy that quality of the business. Change represents challenge and newness to strong leaders. Creative people, especially, enjoy change, it gives us the opportunity to positively communicate change to our teams, we also can, usually, find a fun way to support the team with dealing with the change. Unfortunately, not everyone in retail embraces change.

Here is great infographic for why change fails at times. Here are some of the bigger points:
-70% of all change efforts fail to achieve target impact
-33% of management behavior does not support change (that’s crazy!)
-39% of employees are resistant to change
-14% of efforts fail due to inadequate resources or budget

To successfully implement change there needs to be alignment within the organization culture to support it. There needs to be a top down focus and commitment to deliver all of the necessary information, a pledge to fully (not partially) deliver the items needed to support the change on time, and to explain the “why” behind the initiative.

As far as the area(s) that will be implementing the change – as leaders of those effected areas you need to know the following things:
-Why is the change necessary?
-Are there any components of the current process that we can keep?
-What is the deadline for the new process to be 100% effective?
-Do we have the tools ready to implement this change effectively, efficiently, and deliver this change successfully?

When communicating change to your team – here are the things you need to ask yourself to effectively disseminate and manage the process for your team:
-Who are my biggest supporters?
-Who are my biggest detractors to these initiatives?
-Who can be a mentor to the “critics” for this process to help me ensure 100% compliance?
-What can I globally communicate and support to the team and how can I, proactively, communicate with and support the employees resistant to new processes?
-Do I need to manage this process more closely and hand’s-on with the more challenging team(s)?
-How am I going to make this fun for my team?

I have worked in organizations that were phenomenal at managing change. It absolutely went through a rigorous process before it rolled out to the field or into departments it effected AFTER being tested and success found – obviously that makes the communication and explaining the “why” for the change much easier. I have always been fortunate to be a lead “test” group for change in retail. I always ensure that each new hire to my department is excited and supportive of change and understands that our department is ancillary to and crucial to successful company change initiatives – which helps to eliminate the “detractors” on my team.

I have also worked in companies that sent out “change directives” without testing them or even having the vaguest idea of what the result will be. What this caused was frustration, confusion, anxiety, and conjecture on the teams and throughout all levels of company employees. Addendums were sent out to the original direction to the tune of four to six “updates” within a 48 hours period of the original publication – literally, every single time there was a change direction, this occurred. The hope being that the next incarnation would work for the desired result of someone at Home Office. The only support I could provide to my team, in this case, was to tell my employees not to take action until at least the third edition of the direction had come out (I would share this with my Director of Stores each time that this was my direction to my team members to mitigate the frustration on my team and to improve the ultimate compliance result) then we hit the ground running and executed the change. These are the types of company change “fails” that lead to non-compliance and a culture of people not supporting the change initiatives. When there is haphazard direction and chaos in change communication the culture becomes distrustful of direction and disengaged in process.

Understanding that change is part and parcel to retail (kind of like life) and being able to identify candidates who are supportive and inspired by innovation and improvement, after all – change is designed to improve the quality of a process or a performance, will lead to maximizing the result of the change intiative.

When you sense that change is about to happen – start the communication process with your team. Let them get mentally prepared for the process. When you bring new candidates onto your team, make sure that you are hiring emotionally intelligent and emotionally mature people that are not intimidated by or fearful of change. Discuss how your organization implements change (good or bad) and how they feel about it. Dig into their feedback to find out how they have supported change in the past or been discouraged by it. Invite people on to your team who are positive, supportive, innovative, and intelligent – as these people are more likely to embrace change and be an active part of it.

Change in retail is inevitable. It is not something to be feared. Quite the opposite…it is something that will pave the way for growth and development of a successful organization and it’s people. Stagnation, business-as-usual, uninspired leadership, being predictable, and the inability to evolve are things to absolutely fear in retail.

Embrace change! Be inspired by the possibilities it brings! Be an asset to your company as supporter of it! Doing these things will positively impact your reputation and brand in your organization and will support the growth and success of both you and your company.


Founder and Editor in Chief of Excellence In Retail and 18 year retailer. I am a passionate and creative leader and coach committed to inspiring thought, action, truth-telling, solution-seeking, and dialog about how to maximize talent through identifying and creating a process around critical success factors, workplace culture, signature leadership practices, productivity, profitability, alignment of employees and company vision & values, and workplace happiness inside all retail organizations. I help create healthy, vibrant, high-performing, and highly-productive organizations that are talent magnets and focused on delivering the highest level of customer experience that will differentiate them from competition and result in long-term growth and sustainability.

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