Retailer Tips April 2000

Employee Perks

Being a retailer in the skateboarding industry, there are many ways to reward and compensate your employees other than the standard hourly wage. When you begin to use the numerous perks our industry has to offer, you will find that you can give your shop employees plenty of incentive to work hard and provide superior customer service without increasing your payroll. There are bonuses to every job, but in our industry the rewards for a skate-happy employee go far beyond his hourly wage. Here is a look at some of the ways you can stoke out your staff by rewarding their hard work and making your retail business thrive.

A discount on store merchandise is the most common benefit you can offer your employees. Most businesses offer some sort of discount for the products or services they provide to their employees. At XXX Sports in Nashville, Tennessee, Owner Barry Page rewards his employees with discounts that increase with their continued employment. “We start new employees off with a fifteen-percent discount on store purchases and increase it to 25 percent after 30 days. When they have been with us for a year, their discount is raised to cost plus ten percent.” For Barry, the ten percent helps offset shipping charges and other miscellaneous costs the store must absorb.

Occasional freebies is how Jay Manek, owner of EXO in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada, keeps his staff motivated and familiar with the products they sell. Manek says that every Christmas he lets his employees choose a pair of pants and shirt as part of their Christmas bonus: “They will usually get a nice outfit that they can wear during family gatherings over the holidays.” In summer he gives each employee a free pair of shoes, but adds a little twist-he writes the name of each brand of shoes he carries on pieces of paper and puts them in a hat for his employees to pick from. They can have any shoe that he carries in the brand they selected. “I raffle the brands so that the staff is not all wearing the same thing, and so that they are more familiar with all the brands that we carry.”

Using shop-logo T-shirts or hats to reward a job well done is another perk that you can offer your employees. Not only will you find it a good way to offer positive reinforcement, but an excellent way to advertise your shop through the people who know it best.

Pro forms are an excellent way for your work force to score products at a substantial discount, which makes them a big benefit of being a shop employee. Pro forms allow your staff to purchase products directly from your vendors at prices that can be as much as 25 percent below your wholesale cost. Actively work with your reps to get the necessary forms so that your staff can easily take advantage of this type of offer, which your suppliers so graciously provide. Mike Hoefer, director of sales at Nixon watches in Encinitas, California says, “Pro forms for us are a very prestigious thing, and the sales reps only get a limited amount of them, depending on their territory. By working closely with their outside reps, shop owners can reward the most deserving of their employees.”

Gaining your staff access to local skateboard parks and ski resorts is another bonus that you can provide with little or no out-of-pocket expense. This type of bonus creates a win/win opportunity for all parties involved. The local skateboard park wins by having your staff familiar with its facility and more likely to send patrons their way. You win by having employees who are an active part of your local skate scene, giving your store good exposure to your target market. At 118 Boardshop in Granada Hills, California, Manager and Buyer John Toungaian not only gets his employees low cost access to Skatelab, their local skatepark, but also allows employees and their close friends free access to snowboard rentals. John explains, “It gives ourr staff an opportunity to bring in new customers who will hopefully make our shop their shop of choice.”

In-store sales contests can increase sales in targeted categories. Many vendors will jump at the chance to provide the prize for such a contest in exchange for pumping their product in your store. General Manager Curt Perry of the four South Coast stores located in San Diego says, “By working with our suppliers to have sales contests, we are able to quickly move product in the stores and provide the employees with prizes without any out-of-pocket expense.”

At Spy Optics, East Coast Sales Manager Ulises Thomas says they often run sales contests for stores in which each employee who sells six pairs of sunglasses or goggles gets a free pair of sunglasses. “This type of promotion definitely helps the sales of our products, while at the same time helps the shop owner reward the employees who are actively working to turn product over.”

While free and discounted merchandise can be a good motivator, don't forget to show your appreciation for hard work by rewarding employees with praise and varied responsibilities that can help break up the mundane day-to-day duties inside the shop. An opportunity to design a new window display or control a section of the store can give your staff a chance to shine and feel that they are an integral part of the team. If you have a considerable staff, an “employee of the month” plaque or a special parking place can go a long way to bringing out the best in your employees and rewarding their efforts.

Our industry is a great one to work in. The fact that we have chosen this as our profession shows that money is not our biggest motivator. The same holds true for most of your employees. Help compensate for what might seem like a low-paying job by using the many perks our industry has to offer as incentive to work hard and provide your customers with outstanding service. The fringe benefits of being a shop employee often make them the envy of their friends, and give you a line of applicants waiting to take their place. Happy employees make happy customers, and when you have both, your business is poised for success.