Before Scheduling Your Retail Staff, Consider These 4 Factors

by Brian Field on 09-01-15

As back-to-school shopping comes to a close, retailers should anticipate a shift in traffic trends. Often times, this includes a reduction in staff hours.

Before doing so however, remember that Labor Day falls a week later this year than it did in 2014 — week 32 of the NRF calendar versus week 31 – offering an opportunity for retailers to extend the shopping season and truly maximize their sales. As retailers look to Labor Day and even into the holiday season, they should consider the following before choosing to reallocate labor:

Substantial differences in current vs. historical traffic trends

Grand openings, significant weather events, and other temporary occurrences can cause considerable shifts in shopper visits, for better or worse. Yet, these events are unlikely to repeat. While it’s important for a retailer to recognize recent trends in traffic, it’s vital that they do not grant credence to short-term blips. An understanding of historical shifts in traffic, specifically year-over-year trends, should be the basis for scheduling staff throughout the year, especially during holidays.

The level of service you want to provide

Simply said, retailers must allocate the right number of hours to provide the highest level of service the store can afford. Think of it as a balancing act between payroll and sales. Remember that the level and type of service will differ depending on the retail category. For example, while a customer who shops at a retail specializing in service may want one-on-one assistance from a product expert throughout a store visit, a customer interesting in self-service instead will look to move quickly through checkout, regardless of the number of other shoppers within the store. That said, effective staffing and allocation are key in both scenarios in order to convert.

Sales and promotional events post-back-to-school

While on-call scheduling and last minute cutting of labor hours may make retailers more nimble and help save on payroll during slower days, these scheduling practices are generally not sustainable and lead to unpredictable and volatile work schedules. To avoid these issues in the later part of the year, retailers need to plan ahead for significant retail sales dates (e.g., Columbus Day, Halloween, and Veteran’s Day in the U.S.), as well as their stores’ specific sales such as Friends and Family events, and schedule staff accordingly. Retailers must examine historical trends during these periods to optimize staffing levels and to ensure associate availability for those dates — this will also avoid upsetting associates with last minute schedule changes.

Ramp up for the holidays

Before posting any holiday job openings, retailers need to earmark time for extra efforts that will surround seasonal hiring. This can include: the significant amount of time managers will spend recruiting and interviewing candidates instead of working on the floor, preparing trainers and noting their investment in working with new hires, and determining the optimum times to schedule new hires for regular shifts. These basic considerations are the building blocks of successful onboarding, as they provide new hires with a solid foundation and ensure consistent customer service during peak periods.

Remember these four factors when scheduling retail staff to ensure an excellent shopper experience, happy and prepared associates, and maximized sales.

Read more posts by Brian Field

Brian Field is the Senior Director of Retail Consulting Practice 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.