Japan’s worsening labour shortages are leading retailers to market themselves to potential recruits, in a tactic that might need to take root in other sectors.

The country’s retail sector is especially badly hit by the dearth of new workers, caused by the country’s rapidly ageing population, still-low immigration, and a birth rate that’s been on a downward trend for decades.

Now convenience store operator FamilyMart plans to expand a programme it trialled earlier in the year of offering recruits and existing staff a string of fringe benefits, Nikkei Asian Review reports. These include discounts on home electronics and child-care centres.

The company partnered with the home products manufacturer Iris Ohyama to offer discounts of up to 60% on electrical goods. The scheme has proved popular with employers and employees alike.

FamilyMart will expand the benefits scheme later this month to more than 200,000 workers in 17,000 stores across the country. It will also expand the list of discounts that are offered four times a year to cover food, daily necessities, travel and other products and services.

FamilyMart is not the only store to try the approach. 7-Eleven Japan is relaunching its incentive scheme to tempt new workers and keep those it has. This summer, the store operator opened its third day-care centre for employees’ children.

Lawson, another retail chain, offers its employees discounts on CDs, DVDs and books handled by companies in its group.

One of the unintended consequences of these perk packages – or at least unexpected consequences – is that companies are establishing stronger brands in the process.

As Simon Barrow and Tim Ambler wrote in Market Leader, sales and marketing expend a lot of effort building a company's value in the outside world of consumers and suppliers.

“But the origins of brand equity are inside: how the management treats its employees, the experiences employees have and how this world gets translated into positive customer experiences.”

The authors cite the example of Ryanair, which, after years of being rude to passengers, changed tack and saw profits rise dramatically.

“Of course, the staff only changed their behaviour because they wanted to. Forcing any change on an unhappy workforce is counterproductive,” Barrow and Ambler wrote.

In short, happier staff create a stronger, better brand.

Sourced from the Nikkei Asian Review, WARC