Revitalising your people in a retail downturn can pay dividends

I understand the economic climate at the moment, particularly in the retail industry with many retailers posting disappointing results and looking for ways to improve.

I would love to share a similar experience and how I learned some valuable lessons during a downturn.

In my role as State Leader at Flight Centre, I had just come off 2 outstanding years of strong profit growth and then… the GFC hit. This of course, had a huge impact on leisure travel.

The year of the GFC saw profit fall by 10% on the previous year. 

My approach during the GFC was a little different from the industry norm. I knew things would improve and I wanted to be ready to capitalise when they did. I saw it as a huge opportunity to increase my staff numbers and made sure everyone really well trained.

While the rest of the industry was reducing their marketing spend, closing stores and not replacing staff, I did the opposite.

·        I invested in my people and in particular, leadership development.

·        I increased my marketing spend.

·    I opened more stores and negotiated some great leases.

The year after the GFC saw results grow by 48%. I am convinced the investment I made the year before paid off in spades.

In difficult times, we can focus on shrinking our business and reducing costs or we can see this climate as an opportunity to be ready for when things turn around.

During a downturn the greatest investment you can make is in your people. Your competitors will be doing the opposite.