By Mario Toneguzzi
April Sabral is on a mission to inspire retailers to value their best asset - their people.
After working within retail for over two decades and developing teams to their highest potential, Sabral has launched an online education site called retailu which offers accessible and affordable leadership development programs for retail managers.
Sabral, founder and president of the company, said, “retailu is an e-learning platform and library of resources for retail managers. Many retail store managers start their career through default. They may have time or money constraints which don’t allow them to go to college or university or they haven't decided what they want to do as a career, so they fall into retail and many stay. The idea was to make leadership development accessible and affordable for all retail managers so that they can afford to buy courses and develop themselves. I myself landed in retail as a young mum, time and money was tight.”
Sabral, who is from the UK originally, is a senior retail executive with more than 25 years in various sales and operations roles. She’s worked with stellar brands such as Paul Smith, Starbucks, Gap, Banana Republic, Holt Renfrew, Apple and David’s Tea. She is also a John C. Maxwell certified leadership coach and Shift Business Coach (WBAC).
“My entire retail career has been in sales and operations as well as working very closely with HR, training and development,” says Sabral, who is based in Toronto. “Having worked as a Sales Associate all the way up to Vice President, I understand the skills required to develop as a retail leader.”
The concept for retailu began three years ago as a passion project - a blog. Her vision at the time was to share her personal leadership life lessons with other retail managers, in an effort “to inspire them and see retail as a great career choice, where they can make a difference,” she says.
“I have worked for amazing brands and was fortunate to have worked with leaders that invested in me. I now feel a sense of responsibility to share those lessons which have now turned into this amazing library of courses on retailu.ca”.
Sabral says anyone can go to the retailu website and buy a course individually if they want to further their development as the price points are very affordable, being between $25 - $225 for each course. “There is also a ton of free resources for retail managers, such as her personal Interview Guide,” she notes.
“It started as a concept for individual users; however we’re also doing business to business now. We’re selling enterprise bundles and subscriptions. The idea came about as every retailer is trying to figure out ways to save money due to the transformation of online to bricks and mortar.”
The retailu website was developed by innovative design agency Volume 18, which is based in Halifax.
Sabral’s retailu provides an affordable way to support ongoing career development for retail teams. More than 80% of retail sales still come from stores, which means that retail teams need exceptional training and development programs, she says. As retail becomes even tougher to recruit for, providing a growth and development plan will become even more crucial in retailer recruitment and retention strategy.
She goes on to say, “retailu gives you retail-specific tailored training at an affordable price to enhance what you already have and focuses on the leadership development piece, which is lacking.”
“Facts show that people leave jobs because of the leader they work for or a lack of growth and development. We want to provide a service that can help retailers provide leadership development for all of their retail managers.”
Sabral says the initiative can add value to retailers. Engaged employees create engaging customer experiences, and that translates to sales growth. It also translates into long-term employee loyalty.
Sabral grew up in retail and says that she knows how important leadership development is to the success of a retail leader. She is highly passionate about what she does and has a proven track record of developing teams to their highest potential, she explained.
The retailu courses are short videos, under five minutes in a podcast style so busy managers can learn on the go, learn at their own pace or network with other retail managers to find solutions and coaching for their most significant challenges through the chat forums.
Courses include a wide variety of topics such as Principles of Communication, How to Be a Successful Coach, The Art of Conflict Management, How to Build Resilience and Agility Into Your Leadership, Developing Your Problem Solving Skills, and Multi-Site Management.
After working in Quebec for the last ten years, Sabral says that she sees the importance of providing French courses for national retailers, which will also become available this fall.
The gap and the need she saw was to help retail managers grow in their personal and professional skills and to be ready and prepared for promotions in their career to different levels.
“It’s retail-specific and the reason why I’ve stuck with retail is because number one I know it. Retail basically has its own language. Most people who work in retail are not highly academic, so when you’re training in retail you have got to keep the language simple. You have to keep the courses visual and very short because everybody wants to be on the sales floor and not sitting in a room for five hours, learning in between customers can be very effective,” says Sabral.
She also offers retailers live training and leadership development workshops.
“The transformation (in retail) today is happening at light speed.While introducing and enhancing technology, re-inventing store experiences and trying to figure out how to drive sales are all on the high priority list, the whole people piece kind of gets missed. However, we need to remember people build brands and everyone should have a people strategy that is active and includes career development as a big piece of their actions. Millennials want to grow in their careers, ask any manager in retail what they want more of? And they will tell you more personal development.” adds Sabral.
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Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary has 37 years of experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, city and breaking news, and business. For 12 years as a business writer, his main beats were commercial and residential real estate, retail, small business and general economic news. He nows works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.