As I read the US news each day, and see more and more retailers filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and being liquidated or downsizing their store numbers. I continue to see article upon article about how online shopping is the cause. What I don’t see in any article is support for those staff, teams, managers, employees, who are going through this experience. Unless you’ve lived through this process, you cannot truly comprehend what it’s like to be an employee for a retailer who is closing their doors. For this one reason, I wanted to share my experience for all those out there who are going through or face this in their futures.
I went through this experience in the largest liquidation ever under-taken in Australia, it wasn’t the first nor will it be the last in the world, however it was the biggest our nation had seen. Retail teams are going through a physically, mentally, emotionally draining and challenging journey ahead.
I will not deny that throughout the 16 week, process of our closure, and 8+ months prior with the uncertainty of the business, that there was a rollercoaster ride ahead for all employees. We would all go through the emotional rollercoaster of fear, anger, grief, disappointment, resentment, anxiety, excitement, anticipation and so much more. The key to getting through the experience, was to stick together, rely on each other, support each other and maintain the tight family network that our stores were. We lost some of our store family throughout the process, and who could begrudge them moving on to take on new opportunities. Going through this experience to the last day, wasn’t going to be the right move for all, with their personal circumstances and it certainly is not for the faint at heart.
When liquidators arrived in our stores, it was the reality of the closure truly kicking in. It was only within a matter of days of the announcement that these liquidators would appear in stores, the majority had been flown in from overseas and the minority local Australian’s. They had bought our inventory and they now owned it. We were instructed to work side by side with the liquidators and to run our teams, and execute anything and everything we were instructed to do by these people. I have to admit that when we heard people were being brought in from overseas to close us down, I was sceptical that these so-called experts in liquidations would understand the Australian Market, and how would they manage to move the stock and work 7 days a week 10-12 hours a day to close our doors. I truly had my doubts.
Well I was wrong, and I couldn’t have been more wrong with the assumptions I made in my head. These liquidators were some of the most amazing people to have ever worked alongside. Their knowledge and experience and the way they embraced and build relationships with the managers and teams was a force to be reckoned with. They understand how to relate to what we were going through, they had all either worked in the industry of liquidating most of their careers, or had been through the process as an employee or manager throughout their retail careers. They were not people to fear or hold resentment towards, it wasn’t their doing that we were closing, they were there to take us on the journey of closing the businesses. They weren’t just in our stores to sell our stock, make discount changes, and tell us how to merchandise stock. What these people will teach you, you need to experience first hand, I will take what I learnt into my personal and professional life for years to come.
The consumer reaction, of support and empathy with the situation, I found a somewhat weird experience. Customers offering their condolences on our closure, some handing over their business cards and telling us to get in touch for job opportunities raised a lot of questions. Why didn’t they shop with us before? If you had have supported us the way you are now we wouldn’t be in this situation!
Don’t get me wrong not all consumers will be in your stores and offering you their words of support or empathy. You will come across your fair share of challenging consumers, who will test your patients, will try to push your buttons, and will do everything they can do to push you over the edge. Just remember don’t lose it on the shops floor! Your stronger than that, this process wont beat you and neither will this minority of undesirable consumers 😊
Once I put the fear aside of what to do post the closure of the business. Working through the closure, assisting the team through this journey, and working with setting them up for their next steps in their personal lives and careers, working side by side with these liquidators, is a journey that I became very grateful for, and has become one of the most rewarding experiences personally and professionally.
I would encourage each and every one of the retail teams going through this same experience, or who face this in their futures, not to fear going through it, embrace it, learn from it, hold your heads up high, and take pride in everything you learn and everything you achieve, physically, mentally and emotionally.
Remember always take five when you need it to look after you on this journey! Laugh with your colleagues, embrace them and their tears as there may be some along the way. Most of all when it’s over look back and be proud you came out on the other side and everything you achieved!