By Mario Toneguzzi
The COVID-19 crisis, which forced the closure of thousands of retail businesses across the country over recent weeks, has also provided retailers with an opportunity to engage their teams in professional development during this time.
April Sabral, Founder & President of retailu, an online learning platform that focuses on competency-based leadership development programs for retail managers, said leadership development is essential to store managers, district managers, and higher levels.
“Currently, we are offering our courses to everyone on a pay-what-you-can-afford donation. We have been amazed how many retail managers have taken advantage of this offer and joined, telling us that managers want leadership development,” said Sabral, an experienced retail executive who has worked for companies such as Apple, Gap, Starbucks, Holt Renfrew, and DAVIDsTEA.
“For businesses wanting to purchase for their management teams, retailu is simple and easy to onboard. We literally can have them up and on the platform within 24 hours with no integration. Fully accessible on an employee’s mobile device. After working in operations for over two decades, I understand it needs to be simple. We are adding live lessons for retailu members to support our retailers right now develop their people during this time.”
Retailu recently engaged managers from Huddle Group, a management and consulting firm specializing in retail, to develop their leadership skills, in a time when strong leadership will be required when returning to their stores, dealing with conflict, problem-solving, developing ambiguity, and communication skills. Those skills will all be necessary, especially now.
The Huddle Group’s services range from strategy, analytics, recruiting, and team building to full-service management of Operations, Marketing, HR, Payroll, and inventory control. It provides leadership and expertise to support all areas of retail operations.
“We believe that ongoing employee development is critical to delivering results, keeping our leaders engaged, and retaining the best talent.
The majority of our retail clients are provided with brand-focused training, which connects their product, visual displays and selling behaviours for a seamless/branded customer experience. Building on this foundation, we strive to fulfil our leadership teams’ desire for professional development through ongoing mentoring, coaching and skills development training,” said Jason Sanderson, COO of Huddle Group.
Sanderson explains, “The sudden change in the retail landscape due to COVID-19, coupled with our clients’ desire to keep their leadership team with full employment, provided us with a rare opportunity to roll out a leadership training program that was able to leverage the ideas and input from our entire team of leaders. We’re proud to work with clients who put their people first, partnering with April at retailu allowed us to seamlessly transition to work-from-home with a full range of leadership training. The online platform of retailu paired with follow up virtual meetings allowed us to continue our commitment to the growth and development of our team, without interruption. This kept our team engaged and set up for success, ready to hit the ground running when the stores reopen.”
Sabral said many retailers took the opportunity during the ‘down time’ to pursue professional training development programs for employees.
“Many people are doing it. However, a lot of people don’t have the content we have. They’re very focused on policies, product knowledge, campaigns and all the stuff that happens on an everyday basis. Still, they don’t have the leadership skills and the competency skills, we even have an online District Manager skill-building course,” said Sabral.
“That’s where we fill that gap, I would say consider us like LinkedIn learning for retail leadership development because that’s basically what we are. The best investment you can make is in your frontline managers, and Huddle Group did the right thing, their managers will go back stronger than ever, engaged and ready to lead. We want more people to discover retailu because the feedback has been so positive from the managers who take the courses,” they always say, “I wish I knew about this sooner.” “ We have managers from Gap to Tory Burch joining retailu.”
“As retailers think about the new norm returning to business, finding solutions like retailu.ca and Huddle Group who together can support operations and training could help retailers save cost and help them with efficiencies. I have known Jason Sanderson COO of Huddle for over 15 years from our time working in operations. Having experienced retail leaders like us supporting retailers could really pay off. I feel like we are like the best-kept secrets of operational support and training and development. The new norm of retail will have to find affordable solutions without sacrificing these two areas, operational support and development of people. We all need to look at the way we run our businesses a bit differently”, Sabral says.
The platform was launched last fall.
Amber Hamilin, Store Manager of Pandora in Devonshire Mall in Windsor, Ontario, said Huddle Group provided the store with an amazing opportunity to complete the retailu courses while working from home these past few weeks.
“This proved to be an impactful growth opportunity for us as leaders. These courses are exactly what we needed and are so consistent with the support we have with Huddle Group.” Huddle Group manages brands such as Pandora, Swarovski, Tous, Soccer shots, and Oshawa Jewelry.
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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
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