Standard operating procedure, or SOP, is a document that directs the daily activities of your retail store to ensure that business activities are conducted in a consistent, predictable way and nothing is left to chance. You can design your business’ SOP with input from company officers and employees -- the individuals who will use the document to solve problems and get direction on how to handle routines or problems -- or you can have the document in place before the grand opening of your store. The most effective SOP gives specific directions.


The SOP guidelines for your store should include a detailed characterization of how to maintain your shop's environment. This might include a description of how to maintain a clean outlet through regular dusting and mopping up of spills and directions for keeping the surroundings uncluttered by consistently removing empty boxes and taking them to the back room to immediately be broken down for recycling. Your SOP can direct that the store temperature remain at a comfortable level and could also address window displays, communicating how they should appear and when they should be refreshed or changed.


The operational portion of your SOP may be one of the most important sections in the document because it details how specific core functions, such as monetary transactions, will be handled. For example, the SOP might spell out how to handle returns or refunds, reiterating your store policy. Other cash-handling duties could be defined, such as how to balance and close out the cash registers each night. The operations section could include how to handle shoplifting and to optimize loss prevention. It might define safety measures and how to enforce them and delineate security measures, such as how and when to set store alarms.


An important section of your SOP should be devoted to customer service. For example, you should explain in detail the importance of customer service to your business and provide clear examples for your associates that outline expected service behavior. For example, you might stress that employees should be available at all times to cheerfully assist customers, even if it means interrupting a task they're engaged in. Your SOP might dictate the types and frequency of customer service training that all employees are required to attend, beginning with the training of new employees and progressing to ongoing development programs for senior staff members.


Your retail SOP should contain guidelines for merchandising, incorporating instructions for how you expect your products to be displayed. For example, you might illustrate a specific method to ensure that clothing fits properly on mannequins, as well as how to maintain the appearance and cleanliness of garments used in displays. The merchandising section can include the elements of signage used in the store and how such signs should be made and displayed -- what colors are preferred, what graphics are appropriate and how the signs should be arranged. You could also present a section on how to rotate and face products on the shelves.