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Talent crunch

Carole Sloan, Staff Staff -- Home Textiles Today, December 11, 2000

Well, here we go again. Another round of new concept stores, all destined to churn out dozens if not hundreds of offspring across the country.

This new round of retailing launches, as exemplified by the highly touted Dekor in Atlanta, will bring to home furnishings retailing a new twist on the store-as-decorator concept that will make everywoman's home a showplace.

Dekor follows a launch on the West Coast of House2Home, not quite as "decoratory," but moving to the direction of Expo Design Centers and The Great Indoors.

It's great that retailers are thinking of ways to make our lives easier and better-or are they? Perhaps they're trying to make a buck and figuring a way to make that happen.

The reality of the world is that people-the core piece of the success of these new businesses-are hard to come by: not just talented superb people who will work for virtual peanuts but also run-of-the-mill help.

So the big question for all these concepts is, as the new stores roll out like popcorn out of a popper, where are they planning to get those folks to provide decorating experience?

At Home Depot, Lowe's and even Expo-when you get beyond the core bath and kitchen expertise-it's more an enormous spirit good will and desire to help than design talent. Even at Bed Bath & Beyond, a leader among conventional retailers in trained sales staffs, it's not even close to 100 percent.

Similarly, The Great Indoors-with four stores-has a better than average talent pool but few decorators in the decorative home segment of their stores. And when the rollout begins in earnest, senior management will have less and less time for individual store and store personnel hand-holding and tutoring. And with Sears management looking really closely at the bottom line, we all know what the first expense item to go is: people. And decorating talent, especially, is something management typically doesn't understand.

It takes constant one-on-one training to make these decorating concepts work. These retailers can't expect to just snap their fingers and attract the dozens of decorator-trained sales people needed to support these stores.

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