There's good article in The New Yorker this week about how Uniqlo and other companies have become more financially successful by investing in staff in numbers, training and compensation, and how other companies have failed or faltered by doing the opposite.
I've shopped at Uniqlo before and it's about as close to an Apple Store experience as you're going to find from a non-luxury clothing retailer. And although their not mentioned, clearly Apple is another company which has taken this to heart.
One who hasn't is Home Depot. I was in one of their stores last week, and this quote from the article is a perfect description of the experience:
When Bob Nardelli took over Home Depot, in 2000, he reduced the number of salespeople on the floor and turned many full-time jobs into part-time ones. In the process, he turned Home Depot stores into cavernous wastelands, with customers wandering around dejectedly trying to find an aproned employee, only to discover that he had no useful advice to offer.
I think that anytime a company can invest in improving their customers experience, it's going to pay off whether it's by having support staff, or hiring more retail employees. It's sad that the model of making things as hard for customers as they can be to try and cut costs has become something, we're so accustomed to. Even worse is that it doesn't even seem to work.