April Sabral started her career as a part-time sales associate, having moved out of home at 16. She worked her way through the ranks with over 25 years in the retail industry. Working for brands such as; Starbucks, Gap, Apple, Holt Renfrew, Paul Smith, culminating as a Vice President of a DAVIDsTEA a national retail chain in North America of 250 stores. In 2019 April joined the world of entrepreneurship and founded the online leadership development portal www.retailu.ca. retailu provides affordable retail focused competency development for district and store management. In 2020 April published her first book called ‘The Positive Effect”. In this book she shares lessons learned, and her three step leadership model that she says is builds aware leaders.
Read on to learn more about April’s incredible career and how she is building and shaping the development of retail leaders all across the country.
You have had such an interesting and impressive career journey.
Tell us a little more about your time in retail and the positions you have held!
Oh boy, this might be a long story…lol
I started in retail at the age of 16, after moving out of home. One of my first retail jobs was at Paul Smith in London where I actually met Paul during a suit fitting in the Covent garden store. Then when Gap was growing back in the last 90’s I joined them as a Merchandiser. My career continued to grow, and I opened the first Starbucks flagship location in London as a store manager, I then moved to Miami to manage the south beach ocean drive location. I feel fortunate to have managed some great locations. I then returned to Banana Republic in Miami and moved to Canada in 2006 as a Store Manager. In 2009 I took on my first ever District Manager job at Laura Canada. I took on the challenge and moved up to Director of 60 stores over a span of 6 years with the company. In between the DM and the Director role at Laura, I worked at apple as a recruiter for about a year. I then moved to Holt Renfrew to open the off-price division which was a new division but closed after a couple of years, which is what led me to DAVIDsTEA as a Director. I was promoted and took on the role as VP of sales and operations and assumed training and development during my time. I have been very fortunate and have many recruiters to thank for finding me and helping me on my retail journey.
What has been your favorite role you held and why?
My favorite role…mm interesting, that’s so hard…lol. I don’t think I can choose one. I loved every role and every team I had the honor of leading. I grew tremendously through every experience and every organization gave me the gift of another skill. However, I will say that my favorite part of every role was working in stores with the field teams and customers. Store visits were my absolute most memorable times, I was known for showing up during the weekend when I was at DAVIDsTEA because it helped me stay connected to what the stores needed. As I moved up into the store support center, this became critical, so that I could be a good partner to the other departments who helped us achieve our goals. I also loved reading customer feedback surveys. I miss working in stores the most now that I am not physically in operations. At DAVIDsTEA we had a #selfiestorevisit, it was a fun way to engage store teams and build teamwork across 250 locations using the internal Facebook page. There is something magical about being in service to others and making it fun.
At Apple, you were in charge of leading large hiring platforms, many with over 1000 candidate applications!
What were some of your recruiting strategies when sourcing talent that made a candidate stand out for you and how do you think someone can make a lasting impression in a candidate pool that is overflowing in the retail space right now?
Great questions, yes, I was responsible for sourcing and setting up the hiring seminars for large group interviews. It was not an easy task that’s for sure. The candidate pool was vast. We used key words to search for resumes as we used a portal, and we read cover letters. One of the things I loved about that role was giving people their dream job. During our training in Cupertino, we were told that there was no APPLE fit per-say…it was more about ability. One of the core competencies we looked for was learning agility, working in tech you had to be extremely agile and learn from first time experiences because there is a ton of them. New product launches and the speed of innovation was a factor. So searching for candidates that learned fast and embraced change was huge. I think cover letters matter, and highlighting your skills and achievements, not just your dates and titles on a resume. It is important to know your what and the why’s. This shares more about who you are than your credentials.
What brought you to create your online retail leadership platform, retailu?
I felt that there was a huge gap in the market when it came to retail leadership development and especially at an affordable price. I know this because we would spend a ton of time searching for the right training and could never find it so we would create them which is highly time consuming. There is a sea of leadership courses and really great ones, but not for retail operators, I felt that it needed to be simple, short and highly actionable for field leaders, who don’t have the time to sit through long video and text heavy programs. I remember during store visits I would find myself coaching on development plans, because I learned early on that if you wanted to change a result, you had to change behavior’s and build the right skills. The impact of a well-developed store manager cannot be underestimated, training selling skills is one thing, but if the manager doesn’t know how to build an effective team or deal with conflict you could be stopping the team from reaching their highest potential. The impact of a good leader has a huge effect on the rest of the team which transfers into the customers experience. Leadership skills can be taught, we have created the tool kit at retailu that my team always wanted!
Who is your target audience for this incredible leadership e-learning platform and what can someone expect signing up to your retailu course programs?
Once logged in there are over 25 competency courses, micro-video lessons with workbooks.
There are three ways of utilizing retailu courses,
Number 1; Self-Directed for the career hungry manager that wants to develop their skills, or if you have a talent accelerated program and are succession planning.
Number 2; Leader-Led, District Managers and Directors can use the retailu programs as professional development for their team. It is designed to create weekly discussions around what they have learned.
Number 3; Building leadership development into your onboarding programs, it is very flexible for a reason.
Retailers can buy it for their teams, but it is also affordable for the individual managers. Part of our mission is to make retailu affordable and accessible. Leadership development should not be a luxury and unattainable, everyone is worthy of learning!
Do you think someone looking to add skills on their resume to be able to attract new positions they may feel like they are losing out on because of not possessing the leadership qualities needed for a specific role they want to apply for, could be picked up from taking one of your retailu courses?
Yes we have many mangers in the community that have joined this year for exactly that reason. I hosted lives calls in the summer and it was great, they were thrilled and said this gave them the confidence and tools to speak about leadership, Most managers are good doers, but not necessarily good at self-promoting. The retailu courses will refresh your skills and keep you current and confident.
I love the title of your book, The Positive Effect! We all need positive in our lives these days and ALWAYS….
What is the overarching message in this book you want readers to walk away with?
Be highly AWARE of the effect you have on others. Neutral is neutral…think about how this impacts your team and customer experience and your community at large.
What can we look forward to with new offerings in 2021 for retailu and beyond?
We are launching a retailu certification program, it will be a cohort program, bringing the train the trainer and coaching certificate into retail. Why? Because even though professional coaching is growing, retail coaching is slightly different, it’s faster and coaches performance in the moment. We want to provide options to retailers that want to develop trainers and coaches in their business, or managers who want to grow their skills. Included in this program will be live teachings hosted by me, online modules teaching the ACT leadership model from the book, and lots of other great practical moments for participants to grow their leadership, facilitation, and coaching skills.
As for what’s next after that? Who knows? I have my CIO membership at www.aprilsabral.com specifically for senior women in leadership roles, and we have a second brand hospitalityu.
And beyond this… a life goal of mine is to innovate the high school education… I am open to what the universe has to bring!
What is one piece of advice you can give the #MethodMasters community for those struggling to find a job or the right career pivot?
Stay positive, the universe is not bias, what ever you focus on is what you get more of. I know it is hard, but the more you can do to stay around positive people, up-level your skills and continue to focus on improving yourself, your dream job will show up. It might not be on your timeline, but we all have something to learn in every moment. So just ask yourself, what can you learn from your current situation. And use LinkedIn, this has connected me with so many great leaders this year. It is a great tool. Don’t be shy, reach out people want to help you.
How can someone sign up for retailu and buy your book?
You can head to www.retailu.ca and sign up direct, if you have a team and want your team to sign up get in touch with us. Contact info is on the site.
And the book is for sale on Amazon, as well as link is on the site. https://amzn.to/2Wghzzw.
We are offering your readers a 30% discount code that can be applied on any course they want, even the annual membership which is the best option as you get access to all courses for a full year!
Just use METHOD at check out! Now is a great time to up-level your skills and get ready for 2021!