Two retail workers doing a store walkthrough

How to Identify Store-Level Inefficiencies in Retail

Use these techniques to weed out time-wasting tasks in-store

  • By Matthew Ritchie

COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of eliminating store-level inefficiencies and streamlining operations for many retailers who are dealing with having to accomplish more with less.

There are new rules and safety regulations that need to be put into place and enforced, different fulfilment models that need to be devised and carried out, and higher conversion targets to meet given that foot traffic has slowed during the pandemic.

Yet, there are lower budgets (either due to lower sales or funds being reallocated for COVID-19 initiatives), less time (due to curfews or reduced store hours in certain areas), and fewer employees (due to cost-saving layoffs or resignations due to health concerns or increased levels of stress).

So, it’s more crucial than ever to ensure that stores are running as efficiently as possible.

But before you can overhaul store operations, you first need to find out what the issues are and how they’re affecting business. From there, you’ll be better equipped to come up with concrete solutions.

Retailers need to gather information by speaking to their employees, crunching some numbers, and doing some fact-finding of their own to assess what problems are merely presumptions and which ones need you and your team’s attention.

Here are some ways to do it.

How to Identify Store-Level Inefficiencies

1. Dig Into Data

World-renowned management consultant Peter Drucker may have written 39 books in his career, but perhaps his greatest gift to the business world is a simple quote: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

Although reductive to some (and arguably misattributed—W. Edwards Deming is also believed to have originally coined the phrase), the saying speaks for itself.

Still, people often don’t follow such advice, choosing to avoid the complicated and resource-intensive undertaking of tracking data over time before making any adjustments. 

But results from the past are often key indicators of future performance, and retailers who fail to develop benchmarks, track progress, and make improvements are destined to experience similar problems at the store-level year-after-year.

So, dig into what data is available to spot any inefficiencies or problem areas—be it frequent stock outs or overstocks, changes to foot traffic or basket size, supply chain issues, or slow task completion rates—that could be impacting overall performance and your team’s ability to get things done in-store.

 

2. Open the Lines of Communication

The simplest thing to do is speak with your store and field teams to figure out what is and isn’t working.

Ask them if there are any processes, tools, procedures, layouts, or other issues slowing things down and preventing stores from reaching their full potential. Perhaps outdated tech in the backroom makes accessing information difficult, or store teams find it hard to get in touch with someone to clarify directives. Maybe some processes seem straightforward on paper but take more time to accomplish than anticipated and could be automated. You won’t know for sure unless you ask.

Try sending employee surveys or contacting district, regional, and store managers directly to get their feedback.

 

3. See What Staff Are Saying Online

Even if employee surveys are anonymous or retailers think they have a good relationship with staff and supervisors, your frontline may not be fully forthcoming about what needs improving.

That’s where a bit of online snooping comes in.

Check out and monitor chatter on LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Facebook, Reddit, and other online sites, message boards, or forums to see what staff really think about how your stores handle business. 

Spoiler alert: not all of what you read will be positive (social media and message boards seem to have a knack for bringing people together to blow minor grievances out of proportion). But you may find some relevant and valuable information about what staff like and dislike about their jobs, what they’d like to see changed, how managers could improve things, and where managers or the organization, in general, is falling short.

 

Check out our recent e-book How to Improve Retail Operations to learn more techniques for identifying store-level inefficiencies.

To learn more about how Foko Retail can help your team streamline communications and task management, book a demo

 

About the Author

Matthew Ritchie is a content marketing specialist and former arts and culture journalist. He lives in Ottawa, ON. When not researching and writing about the retail industry, he can be found hiking the trails of nearby Gatineau Park or alphabetizing his record collection.