While many retailers think it is hard having millennials as customers, employing them is another matter.

You might have watched Simon Sinek’s view on Millennials in the Workplace – it’s caused quite a stir!

Sinek argues that four characteristics have contributed to what some call the “entitled, narcissistic, self-interested, unfocused and lazy” millennial generation.

There has been much debate about how businesses need to adapt to attract and retain millennial customers and millennial employees.

Here’s my take on Sinek’s four characteristics, and what they mean for retailers:


Over the past decade retail has weathered severe storms. And there is undoubtedly more to come as the realities of oversupply of floor space, the shift to omnichannel, the increase in robotics, reduced employment opportunities, and the emerging dominance of new business models gain traction.

“Strong leadership and mentoring for your millennial workforce will pay dividends on the battlefield”

For millennials that have perhaps been protected from failure by their parents and therefore, denied preparation for the realities of business, it’s time to grow a thicker skin!

New entrants to retail need to embrace its dynamism and look for opportunities to shake things up, and their employers should reward them for it.


Social media is a huge part of the millennial lifestyle, and this can be dangerous when joining a business requiring daily physical interactions.

Relationships are critical in retail – with store colleagues, suppliers, technology providers, and the start-up community.

Technology is an awesome enabler, but people work with, buy from, trust and ultimately rely on people – we need to support the emerging retail generation develop the relationship skills that will help them survive in a competitive environment.

However, retailers should consult with millennials when developing new ‘mobile first’ propositions, for example.

“As a dynamic industry, retail is perfectly placed to attract and retain millennials”


In the always-on world where anything is available at the touch of a button, millennials have become impatient.

A retail career takes years to develop – there is plenty to be said about starting from the shop floor.

Listening to customer service calls or reading feedback provides plenty of important cues for what is and is not working.

Millennials should embrace opportunities to work across different disciplines and learn the ropes – secondments to distribution centres, experience across store operations and time spent on project deliveries are all fantastic learning experiences.


Today’s corporate environments often emphasise short-term financial gains over long-term sustainable growth for both the business and the employee.

So, in an industry that understands the pressure of short-term financial impacts more than any other, how can we support this new generation?

January has already seen the next wave of price wars begin across the grocery sector, with more set to come throughout the year as Brexit-related currency impacts bite. Who will survive?

The brave retailers will be prepared to invest in difficult options to win – overhauling legacy business models and aging technologies.

Strong leadership and mentoring for your millennial workforce will pay dividends on the battlefield.

What does this mean?

As a dynamic industry, retail is perfectly placed to attract and retain millennials.

Fresh thinking is needed. By looking at start-up communities for new ideas, and adopting a “fast-failure” mantra, this digitally-savvy generation can bring real change.

Retailers need to get comfortable trying new things, ripping up existing business models and resisting the urge to rely on “safe” options, like further discounting.

We shouldn’t be afraid to embrace new ideas from outside to shake things up, and provide the millennial generation with new opportunities to succeed – for themselves, and for our businesses.

Sinek’s commentary is compulsive viewing, and retailers should take note of the lessons – the millennials aren’t coming – they’re already here! Now let’s give them the opportunity to see what they can do…