Keeping Employees in the Dark over Store Closures

It was the week before Christmas 2010, I had only been a district manager for 2 short months when I received the call of my first store closure in my district. It was sudden even to the company as the mall had decided to rent out our spot from underneath us starting January 2011.  “Do not tell the employees yet, wait until after Christmas,” I of course was told.

It is typical that once you announce a store closure in a retail environment that associates and managers begin to panic and jump ship.  They begin to speak negatively to customers, their sales will drop as they no longer see the point, and many times you will be left with two, one, or even no employees at all to run the shop to the end.  It’s not an easy position as a supervisor to keep such information from their employee, but there are many times that even your company may be unaware until only weeks before.  There are politics, numbers, and strategies that you cannot even fathom playing through the corporate world, as a result you must understand that your store closure is not a personal attack on your efforts, or character.

It’s standard protocol so I don’t really understand why such a large ordeal being made of it in the news as if it somehow shocking that associates were kept in the dark when Wal-Mart, Radio Shack, or Wet Seal shut their doors this year.  Wal-Mart even offered 60 days of severance pay, which is a pretty decent time period to find another retail job or relocate to a new location.

It seems unfair, and it’s not a cake walk from the corporate perspective either.  No company hopes to close a location and no DM hopes to make that phone call.  For an employee at that location it can be quite frightening, but there are clues to store closures all around you.  If you feel your store may even be on a list for a closure, or even have heard breath of a rumor come up with a back up plan.  And let’s think seriously, turnover is such an issue in retail that you should really have a back up plan anyway.

When You Notice a combination of:

  • Less sales focused calls from upper management
  • Smaller Shipments of product
  • Mall Management asking your manager questions about lease renewal
  • Frequent unanswered requests or questions from supervisors
  • Perspective new renters measuring the length of your store (it happens all the time).
  • Your store has been non performing for over a year’s time
  • When you know the lease of your location is running out
  • An unusually super sale exclusive to your location
  • Read the retail and company news on CNBC & CNN Money to check for any news that your company may be taking a consistent downward hit in earnings
  • Overheard gossip

Do not panic or spread rumors, instead calmly in your free time:

  • Update your resume
  • Network by visiting nearby retailers to get to know the manager and be a familiar face (Do not mention any suspicions you may have of store closing, you want to appear trustworthy and professional)
  • Check the paper, craigslist, and online for any related retailers hiring

When the Store Closure is Announced:

  • Remain with the company until the end, this will glow on your past experience and will show you are a dedicated employee to future employers.
  • Immediately set up job interviews for your time off (now it is okay to announce to potential employers that your store will be closing, and offer them the date you will be available)
  • Ask for a letter of recommendation from your supervisor.  (If you are of a supervisor position, hold onto the recommendation letter until the last week)

For more tips please visit my first blog

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