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Myer hires more casual staff to keep shoppers happy

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Myer has taken on more casual workers so it can better match staff numbers with shopper demand in an overhaul it says has improved customer service.

The department store took on 3000 short-term staff for the Christmas and Boxing Day stocktake period. It has retained many of those casual workers to drive a renewed focus on the in-store experience.

"We knew we'd keep a lot of them on, but at the time we didn't know the exact amount, and because of the success we were having, we kept three-quarters," the executive general manager stores, Tony Sutton, said.

Mr Sutton said Myer analysed sales data in every department in each store to identify peaks and troughs in trade.

He said staff hours were cut in quiet periods and shifted to weekends, nights and the lunchtime rush in city stores, and customers were better served as a result.

"Monday morning is a quiet time, but if you come here on a Saturday, you'll probably see two or three times the amount of staff," Mr Sutton said. "Whereas previously we might have had more [staff] here on a Monday than we needed, which made it hard to put them in on a Saturday.


"Now, we've got that flexibility."

The overhaul started with voluntary redundancies being offered in July 2015.

The ratio of permanent full-time and part-time staff was as high as 90 per cent at some Myer stores before the redundancies, which was viewed as too rigid.

Myer wouldn't reveal redundancy numbers, but said its "expectations were met".

Retail analysts warned at the time that Myer risked falling into a "dangerous spiral" of poor sales and more cutbacks if redundancies led to a decline in customer service.

However, Mr Sutton said the staffing overhaul improved business, in conjunction with customer service innovations.

"Based on customer feedback and net promoter score, it's paying dividends for us," he said.

Shoppers are greeted by a concierge at the front door of Myer's flagship Melbourne store in the Bourke Street Mall while "ambassadors" – identified by persimmon orange scarves, ties and pocket squares – wait at the top of escalators to help them.

Myer Melbourne's general manager, Loucinda McCorry, said shoppers sometimes felt overwhelmed walking through the enormous outlet and the "ambassadors" quickly became one of its most popular services.

There are plans to introduce more in the Melbourne store and others shops.

All multilingual staff have their languages noted on name tags and shopping assistants have a new default position: on the floor interacting with customers – not behind counters – under the "smiles on tiles" program.

And floor staff have tablet computers, from which they can make an online order directed to a customer's home if an item isn't in stock.

About a quarter of the online orders during the Christmas period were from in-store tablets.

Myer is five months into a $600 million, five-year turnaround plan announced by chief executive Richard Umbers, who will mark one year in the job next month.

A major part of the strategy was moving away from private label products and focusing on "wanted brands".

Mr Sutton said this was done with the rollout of concessions from fashion brands Ty-Lr, Mon Purse, Mimco, Topshop and Topman.

The first sure sign that the strategy works will be revealed on March 17, when Myer releases its first-half results.

Myer shares rose 4.6 per cent on Monday to $1.02, but were well down on the $1.90 recorded last year.