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Myer may consider themselves to be positioned as an upmarket department store, but the customers they are trying so hard to appeal to are starting to disagree. Myer staff would only need to spend a few minutes on the floor of one of their suburban locations to sense the sentiment, but the problem is precisely that — there are no Myer staff on the floors of their stores!

As I browsed around the Ringwood store today in search of a suitable pair of Country Road pants, I was passed several times by a bewildered couple, of retirement age, who were clearly disillusioned that they could not locate any staff to assist them. One lady who looked for all the world like a staff member, advised them that she couldn’t assist them as she works for Sportscraft and needed to watch over the (deserted) Sportscraft section of the store, and when she couldn’t see anybody else to point the customers toward she insightfully added “Gee, Myer’s useless!”.

After almost ten minutes a Country Road representative appeared at the cash register in that zone of the menswear, by which time a queue of several customers had formed. Unfortunately for Myer, the older couple had already thrown their hands up in the air and walked out of the store.

The current business model which Myer has adopted has resulted in very few Myer staff being available to serve customers, and a completely inadequate number of vendor staff instead perform the roles that were historically undertaken by Myer’s own team. Essentially, Myer has opted out of the responsibility for employing shop assistants, and instead allots a space to each brand and insists that they provide their own staff to service that area. Consequently, each employee has a duty first to their brand and very little interest in servicing other areas of the store, even if they’re adjacent and unattended.

Myer may see this as ‘mitigating risk’ and ensuring that each brand is motivated and rewarded according to their performance. Both of which may be true. But this doesn’t take into account whatsoever the needs of the customer.

As a customer, I feel (as do many others) short-changed.

Essentially, Myer have turned their own stores into ghost-towns, and service is a bygone concept. Now, I’m left to fend for myself.

The silver-lining to this cloud for me is that it provides a great case-study for my clients of what NOT to do. There are many lessons to be learned from Myer’s example about the damage that will occur to your brand and your market positioning if you take such a short-sighted approach to your business.

Ultimately, Myer may still succeed in delivering a return to shareholders… but if they continue with the business model they’ve currently adopted, their success will only come through repositioning to attract a less service-oriented customer base.

Is Myer still your store?