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Don’t scrutinise the details in retail

Retail is not detail any more than drain clearing, widget making or book binding – it just happens to rhyme. From it we build a whole mythology around how special and different retail is.

Retail is certainly special. It is an industry where we are in direct contact with customers who keep our businesses alive; but we do not have to pay any more attention to detail than any other business.

How often have you spotted a detail someone else has missed, and congratulated yourself on keeping everyone on their toes through your ability to notice the minutiae? Although this makes you feel good, is it really the best way to inspire people?

Paying attention to detail certainly keeps people busy, and makes them feel like they are doing something useful, but it may not be the best use of their skills.

Obsessing over detail breeds a culture of living in the moment and a fear of doing anything new in case we haven’t worked out all the details before jumping in. It plays to our processing powers and supresses our creative powers, both of which we need if we are going to have thriving businesses.

There is no question that detail is important, but retail is so much more than that. It is about using the detail to inform our thinking, and stepping back to see where our customers are going, how they might be changing and what we can do to anticipate their needs.

“Retail is detail” belongs in the same dustbin as “daily sales are our lifeblood”. When was the last time you truly had a great “aha” moment? I’d love to know – and I promise to buy you lunch if it was while you were busy scrutinising the gritty details.

Andy King runs coaching and mentoring business Kingsight

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