November 4, 2015

Product Knowledge

With the holiday season underway, many retailers have expanded their staff to help with increased traffic. These part-time employees not only need a crash course in sales techniques and checkout procedures, they also need quick knowledge of the thousands of products that line the shelves, many of which they may have never seen before. Where do retailers start?

First, help part-timers become familiar with the store layout and department locations so, at the very least, they can lead customers in the right direction. Retailers can help employees by creating a cheat-sheet map for them to keep handy or by holding a scavenger hunt to familiarize employees with the locations of top-selling items.

Second, identify the store’s key holiday categories and new products, and focus on providing product knowledge for those items. Many retailers invite vendors to present new products and provide tips for selling them. Taking advantage of vendor training can take some of the pressure off owners and operators. Retailers can also encourage or require employees to read training courses provided through the North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA).

Third, reward part-timers for their efforts to become knowledgeable about products. Provide them with prizes or bonuses for each department they get through. This will not only provide them with incentives, but it will reinforce the importance of product knowledge in the store.

Last, make product knowledge a priority. The more knowledgeable the employees, the more confident they will be on the sales floor. Retailers who have worked hard to become experts in specific departments don’t want their reputation tarnished during the holiday season because of untrained part-time staff. The extra time will be worth it in sales and staff confidence. Well-trained part-timers may also return as seasonal help year after year or become a potential resource for permanent hires when needed.

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