New Challenges in Retail Human Resource Management

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Why Do We Need Professional Human Resource
Management in Retailing?
Such terms as globalization, process management, and value-based management dominate the current discussion of management in retail co mpanies. There has been an increasing realization that people are one of a company’s key assets. Re- tail means working and serving customers in a direct, personal way. This calls for special actions from retail companies to fulfill the demands of an increasing num- ber of well-informed and sophisticated consumers. In view of all the c hanges in both national and international contexts, it is ab solutely essential to get the right people if a business is to be successful and sustainable.

Retailing is a major labor-intensive industry sector. The refore, companies are continually challenged to re-organize and adapt their st ructures to become more efficient. The necessity for part-time workers, because of long store opening hours and peaks in the trading day/week, requires a flexible framework to optimize labor processes. Emotionally, the workforce needs orientation and vi sion in changing times. Human resource management (HRM) has to provide a “coach,” not only to organize, but also to support employees and m anagement mentally and p rofes- sionally in fulfilling their tasks in terms of future company goals. People are the driving force behind all transactio ns that occur in retailing outlets. In the future world of retailing, there will be an increasing need to adapt and change towards a more formative and proactive style of HRM.

M. Krafft and M.K. Mantrala (eds.), Retailing in the 21st Century: Current and Future Trends , DOI 10.1007/978-3-540-72003-4_16, ? Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2010 257
258 Julia Merkel, Paul Jackson, and Doreén Pick
Changes
Changes in Retail
The formats of retailing have been evolving continuously over the last 100 years, and individual retailers have changed tremendously in the products they sell and in the manner in which they operate. Retailing of lifestyle products impacts directly on the changing culture of our societies—one has only to think of the introduction of the Sony Walkman or the Apple I-Pod to grasp the international range of con- sumer needs. In order to provide an expanding product and service range, retail has had to alter and amend its approaches to satisfy ever more voracious and in- creasingly sophisticated consumers. For several years, retailers have had a promi- nent role in today’s society in their capacity as employers: the retail industry em- ploys one in nine of the UK workforce, for example (Gilbert 2003). Nearly two thirds of employees are female. Therefore, special concepts in HRM are require d to allow for the compatibility of work and family. Gilbert (2003) also points out that: “[T]he retail sector has had a reputation for not supporting its employees and for having lower pay and longer hours than other sectors.” Future HRM h as to find a practical ap proach that will lead to the right balance of companies’ and employees’ needs in terms of pay ment and hours for the workforce, and service guarantees for their customers. The developments in many European countries show the changing attitudes of young university graduates for whom retailing now provides modern and attractive career pro spects. However, retailing is still far from the first choice for top graduates and this needs to change. Environmental factors such as economic, social, political, cultural, and demo- graphic developments are driving the rapid changes in the retail business. Retail management and HRM departments have to be aware of all these changes. Some of the environmental factors are described below.

New Forms of Trading
New trading formats have been the lifeline allowing businesses to gain and sus- tain competitive advantage. New t rading form ats are constantly appearing at both ends of the spectrum. Higher margin goods, sometimes even...
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