How to Plan Retail Store Operations
Store owners and their managers are fond of saying, "retail is detail." This approach is at the heart of planning the day-to-day operations of a successful retail store operation. It involves focusing on all operational aspects of running the store, and designing contingencies to address natural disasters and other unforeseen events. Careful attention to many details -- with an eye toward the store's long-term outlook -- results in a successful, and growing, retail operation.
Ensure that inventory levels are adequate for consumer demand based on past trends and external factors, such as weather and seasonal considerations. Develop a network of distributors that take into account a store's merchandising and logistical considerations. For example, a store with limited storage space should seek wholesalers committed to "on-time delivery," whereby merchandise is shipped as needed. This is of particular concern for retailers selling perishable items. Similarly, shipments should be scheduled for off-hours to ensure a minimal amount of disruption to the store's operation.
Create a work schedule that maximizes productivity while holding down labor costs. Take into account the number of a employees needed at any given time, particularly peak hours. Make an effort to accommodate each employee's outside demands as a means of reducing employee turnover. Post the schedule in advance to give staff members time to adjust. Accept employment applications on an on-going basis, and maintain a file of qualified applicants who can be called in as needed.
Protect the store's two chief physical assets: inventory and cash-on-hand. Each requires a proactive approach on a daily basis. To curtail shrinkage, have in pace security measures, such as cameras and wide-view mirrors. As a matter of policy, call the police and, if possible, press charges in response to all incidences of shoplifting, even if the suspect has fled. Conduct background checks on potential employees. Keep as little cash in the store as possible. Plan to have cash transported to a bank on a daily basis using an armored car service.
Adjust price points and marketing strategies based on profitability and external factors. As a key element of planning, regularly take note of prices advertised by competitors, and make an effort to offset their competitive edge. Keep an open dialog with vendors, and seek incentives to carry or expand their line, including point-of-purchase material and co-op advertising. Add items that will establish a point of difference and will draw shoppers. Maintain an inviting uncluttered environment at all times.
Plan for the unexpected. Whether it is an armed robbery, earthquake or a missing child, a store's operational plan should take into consideration anything that can happen in a retail environment. All staff should be instructed on how to deal with an emergency. Post contact information for plumbers, window repair companies and anyone else whose services might be immediately needed.
Offer incentives that encourage shoppers to share contact information and alert them to sales likely to draw them back.
Maintain a culture based on friendly and knowledgeable customer service.
Maximize operating hours to accommodate consumers and offset fixed expenses, such as rent and utilities.
Copying the format of a competitor will deprive a new store of a compelling point of difference.
Do not be discouraged by sluggish sales. Adjust the store's marketing and merchandising and think long term.