TDmonthly Magazine!
December 2012 | Vol. XI - No. 12


5 Reasons Part-Time Employees Could Undermine Your Retail Store

I read a disturbing article today in the New York Times called A Part-Time Life, as Hours Shrink and Shift about the trend of retailers and restaurants to cut or limit hours of their part-time employees.

Are you following the trend? If so, this article is a must for you.

If you’re not operating solely on part-timers but are considering it, you need to read now too…

This trend is putting the employer in the smug position of expecting their part-time employees’ undying loyalty to the brand and their peak performance at every shift.

Employers are doing all of this to achieve savings of 3-4% and deliver it to the bottom line.

Instead of boosting part-timers’ hours for the holidays, they hire more part-time employees so the business can remain "flexible."

And, I’ll bet their loss prevention departments are being beefed up because of internal theft. (According to recent survey, on a per-case average, dishonest employees steal approximately 5.9 times the amount stolen by shoplifters [$665.77 versus $113.30]).

It isn’t brain surgery: if you treat me like a dog, I’ll come back and bite you.

Managing your schedule based on demand is a bit backwards, isn’t it?

Maybe if you have poor salespeople to begin with – clerks, really – this might work. But do you know how much you are missing out on because your employees don’t feel they are treated fairly?

Yet the employers who operate like this expect employees to be loyal, to call and give advanced notice if they can’t work a shift, to help customers with a smile on their faces and be loyal to their brands.

But no self-respecting employee will deliver so much when he or she receives so little, so employee turnovers ratchet up and Operations Directors complain they can’t find good help.

The best retailers understand that if you skimp in one place, you’ll pay for it somewhere else…

Get the cheaper location and you’ll have to pay more to get people to come through the doors. Don’t invest in the latest inventory technologies and you’ll have more markdowns and merch sitting on your sales floor.

Likewise, if you skimp on treating employees as humans, they’ll skimp on treating your customers as humans.

And how does that help you to be profitable?

What goes around comes around. Treat your employees like serfs and they’ll either chafe and steal or revolt by walking – leaving only the dregs to deliver your brand.

And as sales move southwards, you’ll tell yourself it’s "showrooming," the "economic crisis," or "government," when the finger points squarely back at your disrespect for other human beings.

Yes, computer programs can help deliver great information to manage labor. I have no problem if someone is scheduled 9-4 and the computer suggests they go home 15 minutes early to complete their shift. A good manager would have done that already.

But hamstringing managers with strict budgets and labor schedule programs based on past sales makes employees feel downtrodden and costs your business more than you save in labor.

The 5 Reasons They’ll Take It Out On You

1. An employee working under 20 hrs a week simply won’t be engaged enough with your brand or your store. They won’t know what a customer’s experience should be in your store.

2. Limiting their hours and their training leads to part-timers willing to be lackadaisical and even listless on the floor. With less exposure to the products, less chance to find out what works and doesn’t work, it pretty much guarantees a pointing finger to the general area where an item is located, or a shrug of the shoulders or a call for someone else – the higher paid manager- to try to help the customer, thus doubling the effective cost of answering a question.

3. The less connected they are to the manager/brand, the more likely they will call in sick with no notice or leave with no notice. Wait ‘til the holidays to see how bad it can get.

4. The lower the number of hours – especially if you won’t promote them – means they will feel "entitled" to steal. You’re kidding yourself if you think this isn’t true.

5. When they don’t feel their efforts are appreciated, they are much more likely to suggest that customers go to a competitor, that the special "isn’t worth it," or suggest going online or waiting for a sale. Why? Because they’ll feel appreciation from the customer for "telling them the truth" – even if it is at your own store’s peril.

If retail is indeed responsible for one in four jobs in America…

If showrooming is a real threat to brick and mortar retail sales…

If customers continue to be courted to use mobile devices…

Isn’t it time we treated and managed employees like the worthy human beings they are?

What say you?

Bob PhibbsWriter's Bio: Bob Phibbs is the Retail Doctor®, a best-selling author and speaker who has helped thousands of independent businesses compete. His new book, The Retail Doctor’s Guide to Growing Your Business has received praise from both Inc. magazine and USA Today and can be found at your local bookstore or ordered at He and his work have been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Entrepreneur magazine. Questions? Contact Bob at This article was reprinted with permission of the author, Bob Phibbs, aka The Retail Doctor®. Read more articles by this author


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