Are Your Employees in a Retail Coma?

A 1929 study hypothesized that people in monotonous situations are likely to fall into a sleep-like state without closing their eyes. You’ve probably experienced something like this yourself on a long, boring drive or during an uninteresting class or seminar. Either way, it’s hard not to drift into a stupor when you’re about as engaged as a doorknob.

Now apply this to the employees who work in your retail store. The more familiar employees are with your store, the less information their brains have to process. After all, they already know the store’s layout, where all the merchandise is located and what the product specs are, as well as which questions customers will ask them when they walk through your doors.

The fewer mental challenges your employees’ brains have to work through, the more they atrophy and stop learning something new, and the less they make new connections with new visitors and shoppers—they simply transact sales.

As The Retail Doctor suggests, they have entered into a sort of “retail hypnosis.”

How to Wake up Your Retail Sales Team

Many say retail is a boring job. But that typically comes from retail employees who get bored between waiting on customers, haven’t had enough training and/or don’t have enough accountability.

But just because they are disengaged in your retail store doesn’t mean they won’t search out stimulation somewhere else. And that typically means they’ll be on their smartphone whenever the opportunity arises.

To prevent your employees from slipping into a retail “coma,” they need opportunities to learn something new and make new connections each day.

“With consistent training and challenging of the brain, your employees’ synapses will work to perform better and in fact, give better customer service.”

Source: The Retail Doctor

Here are 6 helpful ways to wake your employees from their retail-induced trance:

1. Have a morning huddle

In your morning huddles, let your employees know that they’re expected to learn one new thing from each shopper that day. Then the morning after, have them share what they learned about your customers and invite questions, insights, and comments from other associates.

Customer observation and feedback is invaluable. And by taking a few moments to really listen to customers, your employees will come to understand who your shoppers really are and what they really want. Your whole team will benefit from these experiences and learn how to better serve customers by sharing this information in your daily huddles.

2. Train, train, train

“Recognition in the form of training and development works wonders for employee motivation because it’s proof the company is investing the necessary time and resources for employees to acquire new skills,” says Direct Recruiters Inc. “An employee who believes their employer is genuinely concerned about their career development is likely to exhibit an increased level of job satisfaction and motivation.”

You might also consider cross training to not only stimulate the senses but help employees build their professional, technical, and soft skills so they feel more confident and valuable.

3. Practice role playing

Have each employee select a random product in your store and try to sell it to another employee they’re partnered with. Afterward, have them share their experiences with the group and discuss questions, insights, and improvements.

Another area you could work on with your employees is how to ask better customer questions instead of the canned ones like: Can I help you? Looking for something special? Do you have a budget?

Whatever you decide to roleplay, just make sure you stop when a shopper enters your store!

4. Network

It’s pretty likely that each of your employees has at least one social media page that they use to share information with family and friends. Downtime is a great opportunity for employees to reach out to their tribe with special promotions, store events, and more.

Remember, your employees can be a very effective means of providing free advertising, as well as helping you expand your customer base.

5. Rearrange the Store

“Nothing engages a mind more than discovering something in a new place,” says The Retail Doctor.

As your employees discover products in a new space, it will spark their synapses and they’ll become more alert and engaged as they locate and learn about something new.

6. Follow up with customers.

Take advantage of your POS software—which stores customer phone numbers and email addresses—and have your employees reach out to recent customers to personally follow up with them and see if they were satisfied with their purchase or have any feedback about their in-store experience.


Apathy can infect almost every workplace if there’s nothing new to learn. And if your employees are walking around in a retail coma, your store will suffer.

The more opportunities you can provide for your employees to learn at least one new thing a day, the easier it will be to keep your employees happy with their jobs and more engaged in their work. In turn, your happy employees will improve the in-store experience for customers.

Incorporate the six ideas above to help your retail employees “stay awake” and prevent them from disengaging in what should be a productive, enjoyable workday.

Find out how retailers like you are saving time and making money with the Rain POS system. POS, E-commerce, and Marketing all in one.

Also published on Medium.

Sherene Funk is the author of the contemporary romance Autumn in Your Arms and two small business e-books. She is a voracious reader who owns more books than she can ever read in this lifetime. A graduate of Brigham Young University, she worked in advertising for many years before moving to her current writing position at Rain Retail Software. She researches non-stop to see what successful retailers do and loves to share what she learns with small business owners.