Here is a very basic map of Australia:
Right the way over on the lonely left hand side of the country sits Perth, the capital of Western Australia, where I live.
The population of Perth is approximately 2.25 million. The population of Canberra, the capital city of Australia, has 352,200 inhabitants. Sydney, with a population of 4.50 million, is bigger than Melbourne at 3.9 million even though Melb tries to retain its title of Australian shopping capital. Sydney is 3,301 km from Perth.
Wellington, New Zealand is 2,229 km from Sydney, across the Tasman Sea. Bali, the cheapest and closest holiday destination for Australian tourists, is 4,623 km away.
Not quite NZ but not Bali, and yet somehow, when it comes to retail companies with multiple locations across Australia, Perth is treated like the black sheep of the family. Those kilometers open up a social and emotional chasm which results in Perth stores getting things late, last and in some cases not at all.
Perth's population and smaller tourist clientele equal much smaller sales potential than their eastern colleagues. To those who have lived and worked in the east all their life, these lower numbers are associated with lazy or unskilled staff rather than a geographically-induced difference in lifestyle. Head office staff (or 'corporate' as they're known in other circles) treat Perth - intentionally or not - as a mixed bag, a risk or even a necessary
evil! I understand that often it does not make financial sense to pour resources into a shop that isn't doing so well, but as I have so often lamented to co-workers: how are we supposed to sell stock we don't have, to customers who aren't there? In what way can we keep up to date and homogenise the store's look with display/merchandising props we don't have, for weeks after other stores get them? Short of running up and down the street attacking people with merchandise and fliers and screaming, "We're down there!" how do we get more people in our shops?
An annual visit, or over-the-phone conferences may make Sydney-siders feel as if they're doing their bit to help Perth stores feel more included in the retail family, but frankly, it isn't good enough. It won't give them a solid idea of what Perth stores deal with every day. Those in the food service industry, no matter where they are or what they're selling, will always have busy periods. Depending on your location, your target market, your product, and your advertising exposure, some stores only pick up around Christmas time! The Perth shopping spirit is a very lethargic and selective one. Those in power in head office need to understand and appreciate this, rather than blaming a lacklustre income on staff.
That being said, training should by no means be neglected just because a store is smaller and slower. If you want to uphold your standards, you need to give each and every employee the best preparation possible. And while you're at it, please stress customer service. Today, I bought a book which I'd had no intention of buying because the man in the counter was genuinely friendly, not only to me but to each and every customer who walked into the shop while I was there. Conversely, last week I swore off a certain retail outlet because I had been in there twice, and each time the staff did not smile or even make eye contact with me - when taking my money at the till! Training will either correct these bad habits, or hint which staff should have their hours cut down.
*gets off soap-box*
For the non-Aussies, there is a running joke that Tasmania isn't really a part of Australia, and the poor little islet is very often forgotten in political, social, economical... er, it's forgotten a lot. The title is meant to infer that, while Perth is far away and has a rather different culture to the rest of Australia, at least it's still not Tassie. Wink, wink.