A genuine commitment to communication is key to retail success, the World Retail Congress heard this afternoon.

“You just can't communicate enough,” said Wal-Mart director Jack Shewmaker. “We found the more we told our people the more their performance level increased.”

“The key word is respect,” he said. “People know if you respect them or not, and if you’re just passing through and have no regard for their circumstances, their ideas, they’ll know.”

His view that retailers need to create a culture where people feel valued was echoed by BS Nagesh, managing director of Indian retailer Shoppers Stop. “What’s important is how you create a culture, a DNA of a company that can last a long time,” he said.

He described the retailer’s Baby Kangaroo programme, so called because senior staff take a more junior colleague and keep them close as they help develop them. He said 50 per cent of Shoppers Stop’s store and category managers had worked their way up through this programme.

Fellow speaker Alfred Josefsen, CEO of Danish grocer IRMA said that getting your brand right can help you attract a better quality of staff. “We have people waiting to come into our company,” he said. “It is very important to build a strong brand so that people who want to work in the supermarket business know your company is a good place to work.”

In a separate speech on the subject of retail leadership, Tierney Remick, global managing director of consumer markets for Korn/Ferry International, outlined the increasingly complex demands being placed on retail leaders.

However, she warned that the industry is not producing the leaders with the required all-round skills. “Retail executives are not being trained in a way to create the greatest success going forward.”

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