Retail Workers Trade in Old Jobs for New Ones

Discussion
May 16, 2006
George Anderson

By George Anderson


Most retail store employees do not make a lot of money. That’s exactly what Asbury Automotive Group is hoping to use as an employment sales pitch as it attempts to get retail store workers to trade in their current jobs for a chance to make some “real” money working at one of the company’s dealerships.


This summer, recruiters working for Asbury will visit malls in Florida and Texas on the lookout for outgoing saleswomen in department and specialty shops. Once a potential candidate is identified, a recruiter will approach the salesperson and give them a business card and inquire if they might be interested in going into retail auto sales.


Asbury is specifically looking for female candidates because research suggests that women, on average, might be better at auto sales than their male counterparts.


According to CNW Marketing Research, women prefer buying a car from another woman and even 9.5 percent of men prefer to buy a car from a female (8.9 percent preferred a male). The overwhelming majority, 81.6 percent of all consumers, said they had no preference in terms of the gender of their salesperson.


The fact that most of its female recruits will not have experience in auto sales is not an issue for Asbury.


Ken Jackson, a human resources vice president at the Asbury Group, told The Wall Street Journal, “We would like somebody that has sales initiative, somebody that is money-motivated, that has good communication skills. You can teach them the product and you can train them on the mechanics of selling the product.”


Moderator’s Comment: What do you think of the Asbury Automotive Group’s plans to recruit retail salespeople this summer? Will this have any effect on
how others in various retail channels go about finding workers?


If the recruitment strategy goes according to plan, Asbury will roll it out at 70 of its 94 dealerships.


The National Automobile Dealers Association reports that only about 10 percent of the sales staff at the average dealership in 2005 were women. That was
up from eight percent the year before.


Asbury Automotive Group puts their current female sales workforce at 11 percent of its total. Ken Jackson said the company is looking to eventually increase
that to at least 50 percent.
– George Anderson – Moderator

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8 Comments on "Retail Workers Trade in Old Jobs for New Ones"


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Kai Clarke
Guest
14 years 9 months ago

This is a great way for the automotive industry to get seasoned sales people, who are aware of good customer service and what people are looking for. If they can get more women, that would be great as well. However, the key here is to find women who are into cars, and learning about all of the specifications to pass on their enthusiasm to make the sale an exciting enjoyable one. This should be an inherent part of their search, since finding great salespeople is difficult enough, let alone salespeople who are into cars (and are women). If they are successful, on the scale they are discussing, they will set a precedent for many in the car business to follow.

Mark Heckman
Guest
14 years 9 months ago

There is no question that one of the major impediments to a high and consistent level of customer service at retail is compensation. With the most highly compensated in the organization comfortably seated at headquarters….rarely visiting the actual retail environment, the resulting “service deficiencies” is out of sight and therefore out of mind.

But compensation is only one part of the critical mix of rewards those that work at the front line of retail covet. Stability, flexibility, reasonable benefits, and empowerment are also vital.

While I applaud any retailer who recognizes compensation as a potential competitive advantage, it should also be noted that it is only one piece of the puzzle. Creating a service environment at retail that can truly be leveraged as a competitive advantage requires a comprehensive approach….not just extra bucks!!

Kara M. Maciel
Guest
Kara M. Maciel
14 years 9 months ago

From a human resources perspective, this is a great decision and interesting strategy. Aggressively recruiting women or any demographic that is underrepresented in the retail industry as sales representatives is a great way for companies to reach out to those same demographics who are also purchasers. From an employment law perspective, it goes without saying that at all times retailers must comply with federal and state EEO laws and maintain non-discrimination in their hiring practices or face liability from a male applicant who was not hired solely because of his gender.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
14 years 9 months ago

The main problem I can see with this strategy – which sounds an excellent one to me by the way – is that most of the so-called sales staff I’ve seen in mall stores do little in the way of sales beyond taking customers’ money. Perhaps I’ve been unlucky or perhaps (most likely) I steer clear of the proactive ones but far too often I’ve asked questions or looked for someone to help advise me and and come up blank. Actually, the last time I bought a car, my husband and I had to practically plead with the salesman to sell us the one we had chosen. I think we shocked him by not needing a pitch as we spotted what we wanted immediately and just wanted to get on with doing the deal. I don’t think women need to necessarily love cars; what they have to love is selling.

Carol Spieckerman
Guest
14 years 9 months ago

What a fantastic strategy! Retail workers, not unlike teachers, are often marginalized and “stuck” in their low-paying jobs. In spite of that, some have an absolute gift for what they do…and they are worth finding and re-training for positions that can better utilize their skills. For Asbury to take it all a step further and push females to the front of the line is a win-win that will give them a distinct edge over the competition.

Dealerships that are serious about jamming their revolving doors and breaking up the boy’s club will follow suit..and if they do, we might just see retailers ponying up the pay in order to hold onto their best workers.

David Livingston
Guest
14 years 9 months ago
When I am doing competitive intelligence work for my clients, I do this all the time. I always make note of any worker I find working for a competitor who would make a good employee for my client. I try to find the best workers who are working for the worst retailers. Recently, I was in one of those vanilla chain stores and came across an employee working behind a service meat counter. Meat cutting was this man’s life and he knew everything there was to know and loved helping customers. I made sure my client knew who he was. When I find retail workers who are passionate about their work and I know they are not being appreciated by their current employer, I make sure my client knows about them. What a lot of retail employees don’t realize is they are secretly being interviewed by others every day they go to work. We have recruited many good store directors just by watching them do their jobs at other stores.
Mark Hunter
Guest
Mark Hunter
14 years 9 months ago

I’ll call this “disruptive hiring”…putting a totally new spin on finding workers. If more businesses would look at retail as a springboard, it would help retail attract more people as they would see retail employment as a way to gain attraction and additional long-term opportunities.

Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 9 months ago

Auto dealers are notorious for abusing their salespeople and their customers. Sales personnel turnover is very high since most people don’t like the constant pressure from the management as well as the customers. It’s great to reach out to recruit the best salespeople possible, and it’s smart to look for salespeople in all merchandise categories. Even tougher: retention. Most people don’t like abuse.

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