Retail Scheduling 101 - ShopperTrak

Retail Scheduling 101


When developing your store schedule, it’s easy to get lost in managing both payroll spend and associate hours. One key point I’ve stressed in previous posts, and throughout my professional career, is to mind the balance between associates and shoppers. This means you should avoid cutting payroll as a way to save money. While cutting hours may seem like a quick fix, it can turn customers away and negatively affect the shopping experience and associate morale. Staffing needs to be at a sufficient level in order to offer your customers best-in-class service.

Recognizing that scheduling is a critical (and sometimes burdensome) task, I’ve developed the following list — let’s call it “Retail Scheduling 101” — of best practices to refer to when creating a schedule.

1. Determine the goal of your schedule

Depending on your retail sector and your brand’s promise of customer service, you’ll likely want to focus on the flow of goods, cashiering, or service levels in your stores. Recognizing how these factors influence a store’s day-to-day operation, you should first identify the overall goal of your schedule, and then allow that goal to help shape the schedule arrangement.

For example, if you’re a specialty retailer with a small store team that is accountable for providing high-touch customer interactions – product demonstrations, working in the fitting rooms, or making item recommendations – then you will need to emphasize floor coverage in your allocation. Stocking, shipments and recovery time should follow. If you have the luxury of different roles within your store, it simplifies how to allocate hours, but you will still need to determine the appropriate timing for such activities, so as not to disrupt customer interaction.

2. Start with traffic forecast

Too often, retailers back into traffic assumptions which results in inaccurate traffic forecasts that cause service level gaps in scheduling. With that in mind, leverage “in count” data when developing a schedule. It’s important to draw the distinction that “in counts” illustrate your opportunity, while “out counts” evaluate resulting performance. As such, knowing the number of shoppers who enter your store (“in counts”) should help dictate scheduling needs.

3. Address associate availability

It’s one thing to create a workable schedule, it’s quite another to ensure that it is appropriately worked. By addressing associate availability prior to scheduling, you make certain that a suitable mix of associates are on the floor together (e.g., veteran associates are on shifts with newer employees, as opposed to leaving all new associates to work the floor). This safeguards customer service while avoiding last minute schedule changes. It also maximizes each associate’s skills and takes associate work/life balance into consideration.

4. Relate hours to associate behaviors

As a standard for allocating associate hours, you should set each individual’s goals, how they will achieve those goals, and any additional tasks that they must perform during their scheduled shift. Goals can take the form of your brand’s selling KPIs (e.g., sales or transactions per hour, units per transaction, etc.), or even how many shipment boxes need to be processed each hour for a non-selling associate. This ensures that associates are clear about their responsibilities during shifts, that they remain on task, and that sales objectives are always on each associate’s mind.

5. Think beyond the days

In this age of door busters and one-day sales, it’s easy for managers to become hyper-focused on an individual day. Additionally, traffic volatility within each day makes it hard to consistently maintain appropriate service levels within the day. Rather than narrowing in on a specific day or set of dates, it’s vital to remain focused on winning both the week and longer term periods, such as the 13-week quarter. This ensures long-term success on the store and, even, brand level.

Want to learn more about associate scheduling? Check out Brian’s additional posts here.

Brian Field Read more posts by Brian Field

Brian Field is the senior director of advisory services for ShopperTrak, where he oversees the application of ShopperTrak's proprietary solutions to retailer-specific issues across different functional areas in order to drive top and bottom line store performance. Prior to joining ShopperTrak, Brian served in roles of increasing responsibility at Chico’s FAS Inc., including as the director of corporate store operations and finance. Brian has spent nearly four decades in the industry, and his experience includes: store sales and management, training, merchandising, strategic planning and analysis for brands as diverse as David’s Bridal, Circuit City and Macy's.

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