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Smart Retail: Turning Best Customers Into Best Employees

Take a moment to think about your very best customers. 

What makes them special? Chances are, it has nothing to do with dollars spent, but rather their sense of enthusiasm for the brand. Do they share their excitement for your products with your floor staff? Perhaps they’ve converted friends and family into brand loyalists simply through word-of-mouth recommendations.  

Now imagine if your best customer was the person manning your POS or greeting guests at the door. 

As it turns out, a handful of innovative retailers are beginning to implement new hiring strategies that shift their focus from Indeed to the people already inside their stores. 

One such retailer is Draper James: Founded in 2015 by actor/producer Reese Witherspoon, Draper James is a boutique women’s apparel retailer that radiates Southern charm. From the cups of sweet tea offered to shoppers upon entrance to the baby blue color palette reminiscent of a blooming springtime hydrangea, Draper James knows exactly who its customer is. 


<em>Photo courtesy of Draper James<em>


Derek Jones, retail vertical lead at Deputy, told RETHINK Retail that Draper James has built its strong and engaged workforce by creating unique in-store engagement experiences that impel loyal customers into becoming a part of the brand’s story. 

Deputy is a workforce management software provider that better equips retailers for the day-to-day task and timesheet management of their store staff. It also syncs sales and foot traffic data to forecast demand trends over weeks, days or even by the hour, which provides a better understanding of how many employees will be needed in a store at any given time.  

Deputy’s tools help free up the store manager’s time while store associates benefit from the software’s communication features. 

“One of our core product philosophies is to focus on the employee and to make sure they show up at their very best,” Jones revealed.  

From Apple to ACE Hardware, Deputy has worked with scores of emerging retailers from nearly every category, including Draper James.  

“I think the cool thing about Draper James is they asked themselves ‘how do friends interact,” Jones said. “And then they decided, ‘yeah, we kind of want to interact with our customers like that.’”  

Jones went on to explain that Draper James’ customer-centric ethos serves as a major component of the retailer’s in-store experience, which, he says, is one of the most effective means of communicating who you are as a business and what you stand for. In Draper James’ case, it’s this experience that attracts loyal customers as well as loyal employees.  

“If you haven’t been to one of our stores, you definitely need to check one out,” John Horten, Draper James’ vice president of operations, told RETHINK Retail during a recent interview. “They’re designed to feel like you were walking into Reese’s living room. So, they’re warm, they’re inviting. And of course, full of beautiful products.”  


<em>Photo courtesy of Draper James<em>


Of course, who wouldn’t want to work in Reese Witherspoon’s living room? With just ambiance alone, Draper James knows exactly how to attract enthusiastic employees.  Deputy, on the other hand, knows exactly how to retain them.

“Through our software, employees can input a lot of information into our system like the days of weeks that they prefer to work,” Jones revealed. “We have a communication feature so when employees clock in they can see the tasks that are outlined for them in the team during the day.” 

 Smart retailers know that a store is only as strong as its front line. By empowering employees with the tools that will make their jobs easier, they can get back to doing the things they love—connecting with their customers. And, if they’re lucky, those customers might just become tomorrow’s new hires.