Titled “Human Resources: Your Best Asset in Achieving Your Corporate Mission,” the one-day gathering brought together independent retailers from around the country.
Kicking off the day was Joe Salzano, Clarks VP of sales, who gave an impassioned keynote address, urging attendees to recognize the importance of the people who help run their businesses.
“If you create an environment where people are self-motivating, you unlock their potential,” he said.
Salzano stressed that a strong, vibrant team is a retailer’s greatest weapon against promotional department stores. “[A great staff] will separate your business from the others who put the focus on price.” But, he warned, “If you are not servicing the people who are servicing your customers, … absenteeism sets in, low morale and turnover.”
The seasoned executive cited recognition, participation, job enrichment, challenges, responsibility, opportunity and fair pay as the cornerstones of an effective philosophy. He noted that with the economy in recession, it is even more important to invest in front-line employees. “In difficult times, people will rise to the occasion.”
Morning and afternoon breakout sessions touched on ways to improve store operations, staff recruiting and reviews.
A panel on buying strategy and skill sets proved particularly dynamic. Attendees dove into sticky topics such as managing relationships with vendors when you still owe money and negotiating purchase order terms.
During the break for lunch, the NSRA Next Generation Leaders held a closed-door meeting to discuss their upcoming initiative with the Family Business Center at Loyola University of Chicago. And the day ended on a festive note with a networking reception sponsored by New Balance that featured live music and refreshments.