We’d begin by saying “We hope you’re doing well,” but we already know you are. After all, you’re the biggest retailer in the world and the largest employer in the country. Your 2017 total revenue was $485.9 billion—we’d say you’re doing just fine.
It’s those numbers that we want to talk about. We’re not trying to convince you to share the wealth or split the pie; we understand you’re a global conglomerate and have little sympathy for the mom’n’pop shops you’re putting under. Besides, the days of preventing the monopolization of general retail are behind us, a charge that was led by you and Amazon years and even decades ago.
We’re not trying to stop you, but what we are trying to do is get you to change your ways, to use the force of those almost incomprehensibly large numbers for good. It’s a subject we know you’re already considering. Speaking of which, congrats and thank you for increasing the minimum wage for your associates to $11/hour last January (though we’d also like to point out that $11 isn’t even living wage). As the largest employer in the US, even that small allowance is significant, not just for your employees who are all now lifted just a notch closer to above the poverty line, but for retailers everywhere.
You see, you set a standard for retailers. When you climbed the food chain of retail, you didn’t just gobble up your predecessors, you also ascended to the highest role in the industry. It’s to you that other retailers look for guidance and standards. If you can get away with only paying your employees minimum wage, so can other retailers; after you raised your wages in January, so did Target (in March) and Costco (in June). That effect trickles down to the little guys, too, as we see more and more retailers raising their income standards.
What we’re saying is, you obviously have the potential to change the retail world—so why not do it right? Because let us say, you’re definitely not doing it right yet.
When we walk into a Walmart—not just our local neighborhood Walmart, but literally any Walmart across the country—we’re immediately hit with a sense of jaded, mechanical weariness. Every employee we run across is just a drone; they stock shelves and scan items without a smile or even a glance in the direction of the customer. Your employees are not happy, and that means your customers aren’t happy, either.
Yes, admittedly, raising wages would help with the aching resignation of your employees, but even that wouldn’t solve your problems entirely. Imagine if you actually trained your employees. We don’t just mean teaching them how to use a forklift or a cash wrap, we mean soft skills training. Imagine if every Walmart employee was taught to engage and interact with every customer they saw; imagine if they were taught to ask questions and offer assistance; imagine if resigned ineptitude was replaced with real knowledge; imagine if that bright yellow smiley face found a new home on the actual faces of employees?
We have a few predictions. First of all, that $485.9 billion revenue would rise even higher. It’s a fact that folks buy more when they feel welcomed and catered to in a retailer, and it’s also a fact that those feelings spur them to return more often.
We also predict you’d increase your employee retention. Trained employees feel valued and seen; they engage in and contribute to a team mentality, because they feel invested in and they want to invest back in the company. Employees who care are less likely to leave (and less likely to steal—which we hear is a problem for you guys with a $3 billion loss every year).
Another prediction: other retailers would follow suit. Just as your new standards for wages inspired other retailers, large and small, to raise their wages, so would you inspire them to raise their level of customer service if you set a new precedent. If you trained your employees well, it could have a trickle-down effect that positively impacted every retailer in America.
So what we ask is this: help us, help your customers, help other retailers, and help your employees by investing in quality soft skills training to increase customer communication and engagement. We don’t think you’ll regret it.
With High Hopes,
The Mann Group