Nothing beats the hustle and bustle of a retail environment. With so many tasks to stay on top of (customer service, stock control, supplier management) it can sometimes be difficult to complete everything in a timely and efficient manner.
This is why having killer time management skills is critical to retail success. As someone who owns, runs, or works at a retail store, you need to ensure that you spend your time wisely and you’re able to do more of the things that contribute to the bottom line.
Below are some handy pointers to help you do just that.
Use to-do lists
It may sound simple, but you’d be surprised at just how effective to-do lists can be in time management and productivity. They’re incredibly easy to create and can do wonders when it comes to keeping you in line and making sure that no task falls through the cracks.
To help make your to-do lists more effective, here are a few tips you can use when creating them:
Write your to-do lists the day before
Always write down your tasks in advance. This will prevent you having to waste your precious morning time figuring out what needs to be done that day. Additionally, writing down your to-do list the day or night before conditions your mind for the next day, so you’ll wake up with more focus and purpose.
Order and prioritize the tasks on your list
Organize and prioritize your to-do list by making sure that your most important tasks are at the top or are numbered/marked accordingly. You want to quickly and easily see which items need your immediate attention so you can accomplish them right away.
Not sure if you can accomplish the not-so-important tasks? Then you need to either delegate them or postpone them to a later date.
Know your store’s peak and down times, then schedule tasks accordingly
What are your busiest store hours? When do shoppers flock to your location and at what time does the traffic die down? These are just some of the questions you should you ask to get familiar with your store’s peak and down times.
Figure these things out quickly using foot traffic programs such as people counters to see when shoppers are walking into your shop. Don’t have such in-store analytics tools in place? See if your POS system can give insights into sales during different times of the day.
Vend, for example, lets you run sales reports by the hour so you can see when you’re making the most sales.
Having a handle on your store’s peak hours will help you manage your tasks more efficiently. Let’s say your busiest hours are from 12 to 2 PM; if this is the case, then it’s better to be on the sales floor assisting shoppers, rather than holed up in your office answering emails.
Also, note that figuring out your store’s peak times doesn’t just apply to the time of day. You should also look at how busy you are at different periods of the year so you can schedule large tasks (like physical inventory counts) accordingly.
Do tasks in batches
You spend a bit of time and brainpower each time you switch gears between different tasks, so it’s best to perform similar or related jobs in the same block of time instead of spreading them out throughout the day.
For instance, if you update your social accounts on a daily basis, then it’s best to “batch” all your social media-centric tasks (e.g. scheduling tweets, updating your blog) into one time block, rather than spacing them out through the day.
You’ll complete tasks faster and conserve energy while you’re at it.
Automate and streamline operations with the right tools
A retail business has many moving parts, and it can sometimes be difficult to juggle all those components. The key to staying on top of everything? Use tools that can automate and streamline your business.
If you find yourself doing the same things over and over again, then find ways to automate those repetitive tasks. This will not only save time but as we said in our retail ebook, it would also help in reducing operating expenses.
For example, if you spend a lot of time manually coordinating staff schedules, making sense of attendance sheets and tracking employees, you can opt for an automated workforce management solution to take care of all that grunt work for you.
Deputy, a cloud-based employee management app, is an example of such a solution. It enables employees to easily pick up shifts, switch schedules, and request time off using the app itself, and retailers can monitor everything from one central location, saving them tons of time and effort.
Also, remember that apps work best when they’re tightly integrated with other applications. Go through the tasks that you regularly perform, and then see if it makes sense to introduce and integrate other applications into your process.
For example, if you spend a lot of time transferring register closures and account sales from your POS to your accounting, get the two systems to “talk” to each by either adopting retail solutions that can easily be linked (ex: Vend + Xero). You can also consider using cloud app integration services such as Stitch or Zapier.
Or if you’re dealing with long checkout times, consider integrated payments. Point of sale integrated payments allow sales to flow directly from your point of sale system to your card reader. With integrated payments, you won’t have to manually key the transaction information into the card reader. This makes it easier and faster to ring up sales and removes double entry, as well as the likelihood of human error.
Consider the case of Grain & Vine, a boutique wine retailer in Brooklyn, New York. According to owner Michael Nagdimunov, when they first opened the store, they went the “non-integrated route” with payments.
“We had a stand-alone terminal where we would process the payments, and that took longer because we had to record the same transaction in our POS. So in a sense, we were doing it twice.”
But since moving to a payment processor that integrated with their POS, Nagdimunov said they’ve been able to reduce the need for double-entry and increased the speed of checkout by over 50%
The above situations are just a few examples of how you can streamline certain processes in your business. Keep finding more of these tasks and identify solutions that can take them off your hands.
Time is money, after all, and if you can spend less time doing menial tasks, you can reduce your operating expenses, widen your margins, and free up resources better spent on growing your business.
Invest in proper staff training
If you’re constantly spending time putting out fires or answering questions from your employees, then you may want to reexamine your staff training program. See to it that you’re using methods that optimize learning and information retention.
You should also make training materials and information accessible to your staff, so they can come back to them whenever they need a refresher, instead of asking you (or worse—not asking and doing a task incorrectly.)
Keep your store organized
Keeping your store well-organized will save you a ton of time (and headaches) in the long run.
Think about it. How much time do you waste trying to locate misplaced items or directing people to the right shelf or area in your store? If you answered “a lot,” then you should take a good look at your shop and stockroom and figure out how to make things easier to find.
Label all the boxes and shelves and see to it that merchandise and supplies are in their proper place. Also look into ways that you can improve how products are positioned in your back room. For instance, it may make more sense to position fast-moving items near the door, so associates can get to them quickly.
Doing so won’t just spruce up your location and make it more pleasant, but it’ll help people locate things on their own. That means you can spend less time showing people where everything is and devote more energy doing the heavy lifting in your busienss.
Got your own time management tips to share? Let us know in the comments.
About Francesca Nicasio
Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.