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Why pay staff what they deserve? Because they’re worth it

Caroline Nodder

Drapers has written its very first Salary Survey, carried out in association with Fashion & Retail Personnel.

This project has proven extremely timely given the huge commercial pressures on businesses at the moment and the effect this is having on salaries across the board.

Some very interesting trends have emerged, not all of them positive for an industry that relies so heavily on its people. Talking to retailers across the board over the past year or so, most acknowledge that one of the key factors that differentiates a good business from a poor one is the standard of customer service, and there is no doubt this is driven by the quality of the store staff.

When times are tough, as right now, the temptation is to look for savings internally to offset shrinking margins and rising costs. Unfortunately, one of the biggest and most obvious areas for saving is staffing costs and it is common for retailers to look at saving by making redundancies, freezing pay, cutting benefits, and increasing responsibilities for existing staff on the same money.

Our survey shows clearly that this is what has happened in our industry over the past year or so. A whopping 71% of store staff have taken on additional responsibilities and tasks in the last 12 months without any extra pay.

The problem here is that this breeds discontent. Over time a short-term saving made in this way can seriously backfire when staff start leaving a business in their droves as other opportunities become available.

Staff loyalty is sorely tested in a business where they are made to suffer during the bad times, especially when they can probably see people above them on more money still enjoying pay rises and bonuses.

Our survey found that more than half of the staff surveyed were planning to look for a new job in the next 12 months and that for the majority of them their motivation was better money and working conditions.

All this suggests there is something of a ticking time bomb sitting at the heart of fashion retail at the moment and it will only take a slight upshift in the economy, and a rise in the number of vacancies on offer, to begin a widespread exodus from some of the businesses that have been toughest on their staff in the recessionary period.

It is really difficult to measure the exact value of your staff, how much they directly add to your bottom line, which is probably why this type of cost cutting seems so easy to do and least damaging to your business. But in terms of customer loyalty, advocacy and repeat business, your staff can make or break your bottom line, especially in a sector where one bad customer experience can put them off for life.

Treat your staff well in the hard times and they will more than repay you in the longer term.

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