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Wednesday, 27 August 2014

RETAILING: THE RISE OF THE SCRUFFS


I started in retailing in the 1970s and one of the many disciplined routines in shops was the employee inspection by the Staff Manager.

This was all about appearance, as set out in the employee handbook.

Every morning, the Staff Manager would look for well-groomed, sensibly attired, presentable employees ready to project a neat, tidy and organised image to customers.  I liked the approach, although occasionally sending someone home because they had the wrong tights or socks when staffing was tight was a tad extreme.  But the emphasis on appearance was right.

Fast forward nearly 40 years and I despair at the state of some of the people serving in shops and catering establishments.  I know the world has moved on and people have "their rights" but scruffy assistants are taking over.  The days of the clean, neat, tidy employee are fading fast.

It seems now that anything goes, especially in supermarkets and fast-food outlets.  Bad hair, tattoos, face jewellery, stubble, scuffed shoes, dirty fingernails and on and on, coupled with poor manners seem to be the order of the day.

I cannot understand why modern HR managers (and other managers) do not place more emphasis on employee appearance.  Perhaps they too have evolved into sloppiness in their supervision of their workforces.

Recently, in a Marks and Spencer store, the young man on the checkout had clearly been dragged through a hedge backwards and was in some kind of razor-denial cult.  He looked dreadful.  But, then again, he was allowed to start work looking like that. His fault? Yes. Management fault? Definitely.

I fear it is too late to return to good standards of appearance because the majority of retailers and hospitality businesses do not seem to give a toss.  We really are in a bums-on-seats recruitment and staff management era.  Not a lot else matters.

I was in Betty's Tea Rooms in Ilkley not so long ago.  I remarked to my wife how immaculate the staff looked from top to toe.  IT MEANS SOMETHING!  There will be other businesses with the same high standards and they are to be applauded.  But, scruffs are on the rise and keeping down appearances seems to be acceptable now. Sadly.

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