Foolish Thoughts #21: Lessons Learned from Lord and Taylor
Recently, I read that The Hudson Bay Company was selling the Lord and Taylor department store chain to Le Tote. This got me thinking about myself over 35 years ago.
During the summer of 1982, I took a job with Lord and Taylor at their 5th Ave. store. Although the store was founded originally, only a few blocks from where I lived in the Two Bridges section of Manhattan, culturally, it was a world apart. Working there was an eye opener, in some ways.
· People do notice the job you do. I was originally hired to do inventory for four weeks. However, because I always showed up on time, did not goof-off, and completed whatever assignment was given to me, I was asked to stay on for the entire summer. Eventually, I was even asked to join their management program.
· In training, don’t insult people. During orientation, the trainer stated that she had visited the location of the first L & T store. She described that it was a dump, and how could anyone live in that area. Yes, I probably should have said something, but I needed the job. Another lesson learned.
· Don’t overbuy, expecting that you can sell it all. In one department, I counted over 1000 designer key chains – all the same style.
· You can sell almost anything, if you wish. I was assigned to the men’s department for two weeks, as they were not ready to do inventory. I sold two pairs of silk pajamas within my first week, and none had been sold within the previous six months. I learned I could sell, but hated it.
· Be calm and patient. One day, I was assigned to sell Gant dress shirts. One customer debated for almost 30 minutes, on which of one of three shirts he would select. As per policy, I had to stay with him throughout the transaction.
· Bring a job aid. I was horrible at math. One morning, the Asst. Buyer yelled at me because I added the previous day’s sale wrong. After that, I always had a calculator.
· Everything comes back in style. The men’s storeroom had a couple of dozen paisley print shirts gathering dust. The assistant buyer told me that they will never come back into style and we needed to get rid of them. Wouldn’t you know it, they made a bit of a comeback a few years later. My father was right, when he said: “Just wait 30 or 40 years, everything comes back into style.”