Child's play is a serious business

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 March, 2007, 12:00am

I STARTED WORKING for Toys 'R' Us 18 years ago as a part-time sales associate, and I am now head of store operations.

Right now, we are expanding because local people are buying more educational toys. It also helps that when a new type of toy goes out of style, people can always go back to the classics, such as Monopoly. The makers do gimmicks for anniversaries and different versions, so products like that have a really long life.

I am in the process of hiring four to six store managers. They will be responsible for generating sales and maintaining cost control and efficiency.

It is an interesting job and usually starts about an hour before the store opens. The morning check list includes a store survey, checking that the shopping environment is safe, turning on the televisions and changing shelf labels to reflect any price changes.

When staff report for duty, the manager does the morning briefing. This covers a review of the previous day's sales and setting new targets for the day. They might even do a role-play to demonstrate something, like how to do an add-on sale.

We have about 30 seconds when a customer is paying for items and that's when we can ask them to buy one more small thing at the counter. We just make a suggestion, such as mentioning a Christmas CD that is playing in the store. It's not hard selling, but it works in most stores and the average hit rate is around 50 per cent, which proves it's a good sales opportunity.

The company wants managers to spend no more than 10 per cent of their time on back-office duties. They should be out in the store showing staff how to do things.

All employees are different. Some need a bit of a push from the manager, while others just need recognition of a job well done to keep them motivated. The main thing is to know the staff and observe what works for them. Then it's possible to develop their strengths.

At the end of every day, the manager completes a closing check list, turns off the lights and televisions, closes the safe and does another staff briefing. This is a chance to point out what went well and to report if the day's targets have been achieved.

It plays an important part in keeping staff happy.