The Big Game: Retail and Football

Introduction to Retail and Football

 helmet and football

I want to be a football fan. My husband wants me to be a football fan. But the truth is, I am not one, not in the traditional sense.

In fact, I like to shop during football games because the malls are empty and I can get a great parking spot! However, I do have a deep respect for college football, especially OSU. I appreciate the commitment, competitiveness, dedication to excellence, teamwork and the desire to win. That part reminds me what it takes to win in retail. Both college football teams and retailers have a lot riding on what happens over the next few weeks. College football teams are playing their biggest games of the season and retailers will be in the midst of holiday peak, driving the highest volume of the year. How both choose to play will determine their future.

The Link between Retail and Football

There is a strong link between winning in football and winning in retail. One of my favorite phrases (& for anyone who knows me they are nodding along right now) is “If a store wants to win, they must be focused the fundamentals of running a great store”. We will get into what those fundamentals are in today’s blog. If you are running a retail store, you are a coach. And a successful coach is focused on the fundamentals of running their store or district or region just like a successful football coach makes sure the team is focused on the fundamentals of football.

For football teams, focusing on the fundamentals is critical to winning. And it cannot be a “sometimes” thing. It has to be an all the time thing. They have to be consistent if they want to win. Blocking, Tackling and Running. Now I will show my ignorance of the game if I say this is all football teams need to do to win. There is so much more complexity to the game than this. But really good blocking and tackling are the cornerstones of good teams.

Retail and Football: Blocking and Tackling

Back in the early 2000’s when Jim Tressel was the head coach of The Ohio State University Football team, I was working at Limited Brands (that is what it used to be called before the L-Brands days). I remember attending a quarterly business review with Les Wexner and Jim Tressel. They were sharing the commonalities between retail and football. Les described the need to have the fundamentals of running effective stores in place in order to drive sales results and called it “blocking and tackling”. Likewise, Jim talked about how winning football teams have to have the fundamentals in place. Jim shared his point of view how trick plays can be super fun but in the end, don’t win football games. He compared it to a bowl of assorted flavor jelly beans where you might try this flavor or that one and in the end, he said, it is the teams who focus on the fundamentals who are consistent winners, not the ones who keep trying creative plays.

How does this apply to Holiday and My Store?

This is no different for you as a manager. You are a coach. Your team’s success relies on the calls you make. So yes, retail and football are so similar! It is almost holiday, the busiest time of the year for most retailers. There are a lot of new part time seasonal associates working in your store and engaging with your customers. Their success determines your success. So many retail stores see new customers this time of the year. If the sales staff does a good job engaging the customer and creating remarkable experiences, you may just encourage them to shop with you again, before next holiday. And if they don’t have a good experience? Well, I don’t think I have to tell you what the impact is. So what do you need to do? Teach your seasonal associates the retail fundamentals, or “blocking and tackling”.

What is Holiday Retail Blocking and Tackling?

Focus your time and effort on training your new seasonal associates the retail fundamentals (blocking and tackling). This list will vary based on your brand so adjust the list for your use.

Sales Associates Blocking and Tackling

Sales Associates should:
– Create Remarkable Customer Experiences
– Use your brand’s selling model
– Keep their Zone neat / filled in
– Be friendly and engaging to customers
– Look the part (dress code) and be on time, every time
– Be a team player

Stockroom Associates should do the same as above but the selling component should swap out for:
– Keep the backroom clean, neat and organized with merchandise flowing to the floor
– Assist customers as needed when they are filling in the sales floor
– Be helpful to the managers and associates working the selling floor – jump in when asked to help

Manager Blocking and Tackling

Managers should:
– Be super star Floor Supervisors driving remarkable customer experiences
– Watch key metrics closely and coach behaviors that drive sales results
– Keep the team happy and motivated
– Drive operational execution like Merchandise Flow, organized backroom, clean store
– Keep the Cashwrap moving efficiently and friendly

While your company likely has effective standards and expectations with what “excellent” looks like in all of these fundamentals, the question is…
– How are you executing to the standard?
– What is getting in the way of executing flawlessly?

You’ve got this!

No matter how long you have been working in retail and how much expertise you have, if you walk away from the fundamentals of running a great store this holiday, you run the risk of losing the big game (Holiday sales).

Clearly, running a store is complicated and there are many demands on managers every minute of the day, constant prioritizing and re-prioritizing. I think of the managers role as keeping the plates spinning and making sure none of them fall and break.

Action Time: What can you apply to your Store?

Each of you are likely at a different place in how your store operates but I believe there is something here for everyone. The biggest a’ha for me as I think about the upcoming holiday is ensuring your new seasonal associates are focused on the fundamentals. Don’t get overwhelmed with teaching a little about a lot. Teach what they need so you can win this holiday.

I am rooting for you,

0 Points

3 thoughts on “The Big Game: Retail and Football”

  1. jweisenstein says:

    Great analogy and advice! Sometimes I wonder how retailers find that perfect mix of finesse and raw grit, strategy and art, cleverness and brute force. Especially as holidays come draw closer and each year more and more seems to be riding on the success or failure of that shopping season.

  2. Chris Williams says:

    Well said Rachel!!!

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