Fashion Jobs – Motivate Part Time Employees

Before I started Style Nine to Five, one of my jobs was a Store Manager for 4 years for a top Canadian Retailer at their busiest location downtown on Robson Street. During busy seasons, I’d have up to 25 staff—many of them part-timers. Some would stand around twiddling their thumbs, call in sick and just really not want to be there. I tried to relate and think…what would make me want to come in for a 4 hour shift twice a week? How would I make things fun? Yes, there’s a job description they’re supposed to do, but sometimes just telling someone to do it, isn’t enough.

I found ways to motivate my employees and here are some tried and true tips that made my store work like a well-oiled machine and be the top in B.C.

1. Lead by example. Don’t manage from ‘the backroom’ or ‘cash register’. I got out there and folded tops, put away clothes, removed gum off the floor, helped customers, the list goes on. Get out there and show your team what’s expected. After all, how can you ask them to do something when you’re not willing to do the same?

2. Have fun all while keeping things professional. When I first started managing at 18 years old, I was an ‘Ice Queen’ and wasn’t open to any fun whatsoever, and just expected employees to perform to their best abilities and to give 110% like I did. If you loosen up a bit and become approachable, that gets you a lot further than fear.  I learned you have to earn respect, even as a manager.

3. Ask for employee input. Make your employees feel like their ideas matter—because they do!

4. Recognize their achievements—a good sale or a customer compliment.

5. Find out their passions and strengths. I made one part-time employee in charge of the accessory department, the other one shoes—this included making sure the shoe display was freshly merchandised, no dust on the shelves, and all styles were out. Another was the ‘Part Time Trainer’ for new employees if I saw leadership qualities in them. Delegate small tasks to your employees to make them feel important (because they are) and in return, they’re more invested and want to please you.

6. Empower with fun roles above the job description. Consider having an employee make trend inspiration boards of magazine cutouts of styles that are similar to the items in your store. Maybe another could be in charge of changing up the window display every shift. You’d be surprised how many of the same people walk by your store every day to go to work, a window always changing is important. Do you have fit sessions, where they get to try on all the new arrivals to see how it fits so they are able to sell better to a customer? Would be great to tweet new arrivals too. Maybe one could be in charge of taking a walk in your area on a regular basis to visit the other stores to see how they’re merchandising, etc. It’s good to see what’s going on in your neighbourhood. There’s nothing wrong with healthy competition.

7. Weekly sales contests. Who sold the most items? Who got the most customer compliments? Make it fun. Reward them with a store gift card, cool nail polish, Starbucks gift card, etc.


Find out what your employee’s strengths and interests are and implement those to improve your business!

Special thanks to all my mentors in my career in retail.

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