JC Penny Puts in Greeters, Another Dumb Idea.

salesperson greeting introducing handout

In a recent article in the New York post, JC Penney announced they are implementing greeters as a test in the Northwest Region. And…? Why? Another completely misguided idea from the company that thought the switch to everyday low pricing was a good move. (See Strategic mistake that haunts JC Penny)

We all assume that greeting people helps to deter theft. When customers are looked at and greeted when they arrive they are less likely to steal. That’s a fact, but is a greeter in a big box environment going to accomplish that?  Absolutely not. Nothing stops thieves other than the eye in the sky or plain clothes security. And Salespeople.

But in the case of JC Penney, the article said their motivation was to increase sales. Sales?  There is even mention of backend workers taking shifts to implement this new strategy. In the same article they talked about wanting to increase the number of people signing up for accounts. By the greeter?

Yup I get it. Labor can account for 50% of a retailers operating expense. It is by far the easiest way to cut. In this case they are not going to add payroll, just move it around. Can you imagine Nordstrom doing this?

JC Penney is a good store for its category.  Their merchandise and visual merchandising has improved. The people? Same-‘ol same ‘ol. Dull, Lackluster, untrained, unmotivated, watching the clock kind of folks.  Now, I know it’s hard to get the right people, but it’s not necessarily the people; it’s the management of the people.   The expectations of those on the selling floor are minimal.

Assisted sales can run between 20% and 40% higher than a non-assisted sale. For JC Penney that could mean hundreds of millions of dollars. That is where the money is. Follow the money. Instead of a group of minimum wage people, get yourself some rock stars who love to sell, put in a few extra cashiers and go go go. Yes, easier said than done. What you really need at the top of the food chain is a person who values salespeople and what they can do. To get there the hill is steep and the commitment is large. I have helped retailers do it many times and can tell you that it is worth every painful moment. A greeter? I don’t think so.

-Harry J. Friedman
Founder/CEO, The Friedman Group