Sunday Soapbox: Corporate Visits

Everyone who has worked in retail has experienced the joy of having a visit from an executive, whether they be the company CEO, President, or perhaps an Area Vice President, but generally these are the guys who you always know are coming and are expected to spruce up the store for.    When I ran a store, I always felt that the customers were my most important visitors, so always had the store looking good for THEM, if a big-shot was coming it would just need a little extra polish and a good facing/blocking/straightening/zoning (whatever your company calls it now.)

Nowadays with less labor in stores, it becomes a panicked frenzy of “try to get the store looking okay so we don’t all get fired” and by “we” I mean the store manager, district manager, and possibly his boss as well.    If the “big shot” decided what store he wanted to see, it might not be a store that’s in presentable condition and it will probably need a lot of work.

In fact, typically, the store might be SO far off from visit condition, just telling the store to add hours and get ready is not enough.  Thus begins the “9-1-1!!  Red Alert!  All Hands on Deck!” and managers and employees from other stores (and even other districts) are dispatched to the store to help create the false impression that the store actually looks that good all the time.    If you’re the store manager of that store, you’re actually happy to see all of the help being sent your way, as your store will get cleaned up, caught up and that will help you out in the coming weeks or months.

What I’ve always wondered is this–do the “big shots” know to what extent this is done, or do they really believe their stores all look that good all the time?  (Maybe that’s why they feel they can keep cutting more labor hours…)   I have to give them credit for being intelligent enough to know it’s a facade for their benefit.    If I were one of those guys I’d be inclined to cut the “planned” visit short and be-bop over to a store who was not expecting me to see the REAL world.    I know one of our Area VP’s would look at payroll reports the week after he visited stores and then would ask the DM why he overspent $15,000 in labor in one week.  He knew what was going on.

So I guess the dog-and-pony show is a necessary part of the retail game, but I hope that the corporate visitors know what goes on behind the curtain and also know how hard people work when they’re coming and treat them appropriately.   One time a prominent visitor at my store ran his fingers through the top of a display (which was over 6 feet high, where most customers would never even see) and wrote “DUST ME.”   I literally wanted to punch the man.   The rest of the store was immaculate, by the way.

How about you, readers?  Any of you who WERE the visitor on a regular basis and care to comment?

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