Denver Department Stores

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Denver Department Stores, a Colorado retail store chain, is an entity that was suffering from the effects of decreased sales volume. Jim Barton, the supervisor of four departments within the main location in Denver, was struggling with developing a process to improve the store’s sales. Barton identified with the notion that the decrease in sales volume was a simple matter of a slowdown in the economic landscape, and that the downturn would effect all stores in the retail business. However, Barton’s superior, Mr. Cornwall, the general merchandiser of Denver Department Stores, told Barton that some stores have experienced a 15% gain in recent sales. Cornwall made it clear that he expected Barton’s segments to have sales equal to the other departments within the company due to more aggressive salespeople. As a result, Cornwall proceeded to employ a tally card system that would keep track of each employee’s sales as a method of evaluation. It should be noted that Denver Department Stores employs part-time clerks, those responsible for the majority of sales within each department, and head clerks, the superiors to the part-time clerks. The head clerks are responsible for organizing the stock room, training part-time employees, and maintaining the positive appearance of the store. Cornwall concluded that the tally card system would allow the company to eliminate the weak salespeople and replace them with people that possess stronger sales skills. Ultimately, the tally card system did not help increase the company’s sales. The tally card program was eliminated by Mr. Blanding, the store manager, after the realization of the program’s failure. The details within the case description give us the main points, but our remedy for the company’s problems rely on some facts that are derived intuitively. These facts are in regards to the organization’s structure, employees, and management. As for the structure of management, we assume that Denver Department Stores is governed by the traditional hierarchy of authority. In this specific instance, the hierarchy would mean that the order of authority from greatest to least would be: Mr. Blanding, the store manager; Mr. Cornwall, the general merchandiser; Mr. Barton, a middle manager who oversees four departments; the head clerks; and the part-time sales clerks. Also, our analysis assumes that the head clerks do not have any input in to how their respective departments will be evaluated; they are simply told what methods they will be enforcing in their stores. Lastly, since some department stores experienced a gain in sales, we can safely assume that the sales loss in Barton’s area is not completely due to a struggling economy, but also ineffective management and poor implementation of selling methods. Analysis of the case allow us to classify the major personalities involved using concepts and terms defined in organization behavior. Neither of the major people involved in our case consider the reality that a mix of factors contribute to the loss or expected gain in sales, nor is management willing to look at its own personality conflicts as a possible cause, either. Cornwall blames the sales clerks, while Barton blames the economy. The clash of opposite personalities can cause a breakdown in the hierarchy of authority due to unwillingness to work cooperatively to solve problems. Mr. Cornwall, the general merchandiser, is a prime example of an individual that classifies people in terms of “good” versus “bad”; this is defined as the “halo effect”. When evaluating each employee in terms of sales, Cornwall is only concerned in getting rid of the “bad” salespeople while keeping the “good” ones with no regards to the other dimensions of the clerk’s sales techniques. We could also classify Cornwall as a “Type A” person. Another effect of Cornwall’s personality is that he expects the poor performing stores to have equal sales to those of the most successful stores, but not every store is the same...
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