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To supplement the school work and make it vital, actual selling experience was considered necessary to the success of the experiment, but up to this time the only places where such experience might be gained were the food shop and the handwork shop of the Women's Educational and Industrial Union. Although this opportunity was greatly appreciated, it did not furnish satisfactory preparation for the larger business world the girls were to enter. The atmosphere and demands were those of the small specialty shop, rather than the department store; the customers were, in general, of one type; the sales were either paid or charged; the merchandise was limited. In addition, because the shops were small, only a few girls, at a time could work in them. It was felt that the school could not attract the right type of girl until it could give actual store experience, with wages, during the period of training, so that girls who wanted the training could afford to take it. It was also felt that the school should be able to guarantee positions to its graduates. To this end, the cooperation of the large stores was essential. The first store to volunteer this help was William Filene's Sons Co., which offered to take the class on Mondays at a small wage. This firm also expressed willingness to consider graduates of the school for positions. With this more definite plan, the third class opened in July, 1906, with seven pupils.
Now that the aims of the school were better understood, the following stores became interested in the plan: Jordan Marsh Co., William Filene's Sons Co., Gilchrist Co., Shepard Norwell Co., James A. Houston Co., and R. H. White Co. The superintendents of these stores were invited to become members of an advisory committee, which should meet once a month at dinner with Mrs. Kehew, the president of the Women's Educational and Industrial Union, and Mrs. Prince, the director of the school. At these meetings problems of effective and practical organization were discussed, criticism of the work of the school was solicited, and the superintendents were urged to visit the school and suggest ways in which its value might be increased. These conferences were highly influential in shaping the policy of the school organization, and to the helpful interest of this committee the project owes much of its success.
It was agreed that the cooperating firms should send to the school promising applicants who, because of inexperience, could not be engaged for store work, but who would be given positions after satisfactory completion of the course. These girls, after being approved by the director, were admitted to the school. The stores which accepted them promised selling experience on Mondays at $1 a day, and the girls were guaranteed permanent positions if their work proved satisfactory after one month's probation.
The fourth class in salesmanship, the first in active cooperation with the stores, opened in October, 1906, with 16 pupils. The members of
this class were old enough to take selling positions, but it was by no means easy to find desirable pupils who were able and willing to take the training, notwithstanding the fact that positions were guaranteed. Many could not afford the time or the loss of regular wages, and some, not understanding the plan, were opposed to anything connected with schools and classes.
It was soon clear that more practical work in the stores was needed for the best results. Accordingly, after consultation with the advisory committee, the schedule was so changed that the pupils attended the school from 8.30 to 11 and from 4.30 to 5.30 each day, spending the intervening hours in the stores. For this half-time work they received $3 a week. These concessions of more practice and higher wages were encouraging, for they meant that the confidence of the managers of the stores had been gained. From the start it was recognized that what was asked from the stores must be for value received, the entire proposition resting for its appeal to business men on a business basis.
From nearly one hundred applicants for the next class, beginning in February, 1907, twenty-one, the limit of the classroom, were chosen. Some of the girls left positions to take advantage of the opportunity for training. Soon after this certain changes were made in the school session. It was found impracticable and unprofitable to require the pupils to return to school for the final hour of the working day. In place of this appointment, a half hour was added to the morning session, which thus covered three hours, 8.30 to 11.30. On account of special sales often offered by the Boston department stores on Monday, that day is frequently the busiest of the week. As the saleswomen who were being trained became increasingly valuable, their services were desired all day Monday, and when the advisory committee asked that the pupils attend school five, instead of six, mornings each week the request was readily granted. It was a gratifying recognition of the practical value of the training. The next and last important concesssion was the action taken in the autumn of 1907, when the firms agreed to allow the candidates full wages while they were taking the course. This step was conclusive evidence that the school had found its place in the business world. Appreciation of the work was further shown by financial contributions made by some of the cooperating stores to the social-educational activities of the union. No significant changes in policy or organization have occurred in the succeeding years and the school is maintained to-day on the satisfactory cooperative basis which was the result of three years of experiment and study.
The School of Salesmanship of the Women's Educational and Industrial Union is now recognized as a valued training center for sales people of the following seven ? Boston stores: Jordan Marsh Co.,
Since this report was written L. P. Hollander Co. has been added to the group of cooperating stores.
William Filene's Sons Co., Gilchrist Co., C. F. Hovey Co., E. T. Slattery Co., R. H. White Co., and Shepard Norwell Co. Three different classes are formed during the year, each class attending the school for a term of 12 weeks. The session, as previously stated, is from 8.30 to 11.30 five mornings a week, which means that 15 hours a week, or 180 hours a term, are allowed the girls by their firms, for training. Pupils are selected from the selling force of the cooperating stores and always receive full payment of wages while they are taking the course. They are chosen by the store superintendents, whose selections must be approved by the director of the school. When the school was in the pioneer stage, the girls selected were sometimes those who would not be missed," but now that not only superintendents, but buyers and floor managers as well, acknowledge that the course of training is advantageous to the business, many of the most promising saleswomen are sent. This is as it should be, for the more able girls are quick to apply to the store work the principles taught at school, and their influence in training their associates strengthens and dignifies the department. In other words, a better investment is made when a promising girl is selected than when one of mediocre ability is chosen.
At the beginning of the course, each pupil is asked to fill out an application blank which contains various questions designed to give an idea of her habits and tastes and to furnish needed statistics. (See Appendix, p. 75, for form.) In dealing with a class of this kind, individual work is essential. This need has been met during the last few years by means of the members of the teachers' training class, an account of which will be found in another chapter. Each member of the teachers' class is responsible for one or more saleswomen, toward whom she acts in the capacity of teacher and adviser, and the information given in the application blank helps the teacher to discover the individual needs of her pupils.
That this pioneer school has succeeded so well is due to many factors, chief among them being the cooperation of the stores. This has been gained largely by an endeavor to deal fairly with both employers and employees and by the compelling argument of the increased efficiency of trained sales people. Another factor has been the growth in esprit de corps within the stores themselves, a sentiment which has been fostered by the training of sales people to intelligent service rather than to arbitrary obedience to rules. Yet another is the earnest desire of progressive business men to promote in every way the health, happiness, intelligence, and consequent power of their employees.
Under these favorable conditions, the school of salesmanship is working out its purpose, a purpose which, determined early in the history of the school, permeates all its teaching. It is fourfold:
First, to make advancement in the profession of selling depend on efficiency and not on years of service. In some stores the veteran of the counter, no matter how unwilling and unintelligent, is advanced on the supposition that her years behind the counter, often despite the evidence of her record of sales, have made her worthy of promotion. This custom takes away any incentive to increased effort on the part of the ambitious young saleswoman.
Second, to increase the pupil's power and judgment—that is, to awaken her intellect, to equip her with ideals of service, to help her acquire the qualities she needs, and to teach her to use her mind and ideals in the work that is hers to do.
Third, to discover whether or not a girl is fitted for the vocation of selling. If she is not, as some are not, because of mental or physical handicaps, the school attempts to find for her some other occupation which will be better suited to her powers, and so make her work something more than drudgery, at the same time removing from the ranks of selling one who is incapable of furthering the interests of the business.
Fourth, to give the girls worthy standards of all kinds. This is the broadest and most important of the aims of the school, for it deals with the girls as individuals, not as mere workers. Many of them leave the stores for one reason or another, and, for them, the school provides a training quite as valuable as if they were still selling, a training which they receive from no other source. Improved standards of living, better habits of thought, higher interpretations, and ideals—these develop the power of the industrial worker because they take root in character and bear fruit in all human relationships.
The course of study has grown with the school and the teaching method has developed at the same time in line with the problems which must be met in order to achieve the high purpose toward which the work is directed. Personal experience in selling gained by the director of the school and her associates, observation of many untrained workers, and conferences with superintendents as to qualifications for success in salesmanship have made known the subjects most needed in the teaching of salesmanship. During the first years of the school's existence it was the custom to ask the members of each graduating class what subjects had proved most helpful to them; what additions to the course they might recommend; what in their opinion might well be omitted. The answers, given in writing, were an invaluable guide, for the genuineness of the statements could not be doubted. Careful records are kept of the progress of the graduates and the loyalty of former pupils prompts many suggestions as to the greater usefulness of the school. All of these influences have helped to shape the course of study.
THE COURSE OF STUDY.
The subjects included in the course of study are those which careful analysis of the selling problem has revealed as most needed by sales people in their daily work. The underlying purpose in the selection of subjects to be taught was outlined in the beginning, under four heads, as follows:
First, to instill a regard for system and to cultivate habits of attention to detail.
Second, to instruct in subjects which increase knowledge of the stock to be sold.
Third, to teach the essentials of the science of selling, and to develop in the individual power for self-training.
Fourth, to teach right thinking toward selling as a profession, to stimulate a sense of responsibility, and to influence toward high ideals of thought and action.
The term is too short for inclusion of all the subjects that might seem desirable; those that are considered essential are the following: Subject.
To teach the technique of selling and to develop a pro
fessional attitude toward the work. Textiles......
- To give information about the stock and to develop an General merchandise. appreciation of its qualities. Hygiene and physical edu- To promote good health and develop an attractive personcation.
To develop accuracy. Store system.
To give familiarity with the rules and forms of the store. English.
To develop forceful speech. Color..
To train color sense, to set standards of good taste, to Design.
I develop a sense of beauty. Although the immediate aim in all the work is the occupational need, the ultimate aim, as the outlined purpose suggests, is personal development of the pupils and resulting growth in character. girl learns to be a better seller of merchandise, she learns also to be a more intelligent buyer, and the training which she receives in courteous service makes her a more gracious and influential member of society. Such subjects as textiles, color, and design are as valuable to a girl in her personal life as in her industrial relation; and