Running even a small retail store can be challenging and will only get more complicated as the business grows. Thankfully, we now have tools and strategies to help manage everything from monitoring inventory to looking after retail staff. To get you started, we asked experts for valuable tips on running an efficient retail store operation.
Here are 21 proven retail operation tips from the pros:
1. Provide a Smooth Omnichannel Experience
Holly Wade, Rain Retail Blog Editor, Rain Retail Software
Step outside of your role as a retailer and put on the shoes of a customer. Why do you enjoy shopping at certain places and not at others? You enjoy the ones that consistently have the type and quality of products and service you want. As a retailer, you can provide customers with the products and service they want by keeping online inventory in sync with your in-store inventory. Customers want to find an item online and know that they can come into your store to see that exact item in person so they can learn more about it and purchase it. Provide visibility and a smooth experience between your website and your shop by keeping your online and in-store inventory synced.
2. Start a Customer Loyalty Program
Raul Galera, Partner Manager, CandyBar
Running a customer loyalty program is a very easy way to increase customer retention. Think about loyalty programs as a way to increase the value of each customer, and extend your customer service beyond the purchase. Rewarding your customers with stamps, points, or discounts for every purchase gives them a reason to come back again, to earn more and claim their rewards. Plus, they might even bring their friends to their favorite store. Increasing your customer retention means that your customers will come back for you – and keep coming back multiple times, each time becoming more and more engaged with your brand.
3. Add Novelty Items to Attract Customers to Your Store
Paul Richter, Marketing Agent, PawnGuru
Some items are loss leaders and are there to entice other buyers to come into the store. These are very powerful tools for supporting a well-trained sales team, which can convert casual interest into a sale. Pawn shops are unique in that they have to build a great retail space for both lending and buying. Buyers come into pawn shops often for the novelty of seeing interesting items, but the bread and butter of running a business is selling common items. This is a unique challenge, but illustrative of the best practices for a lot of retail spaces: Buyers will come in from all over to see weird or unique items, but the business is maintained on ordinary products. Making sure the sales team is good at turning these browsers in shoppers is essential.
4. Build Positive Business Credit
Sean Messier, Credit Industry Analyst, Credit Card Insider
In the early days of any business, personal and business finances will often overlap to some degree. You may, for example, have to provide a personal guarantee to receive initial funding or to apply for business credit cards. Try to draw a clear line between the two as quickly as possible for the long-term benefit of your business. More specifically, work to build business credit as soon as you can. Strong business credit can make it much easier to secure larger loans at lower interest rates, and it may increase the likelihood that you’ll be able to rent desirable, retail-friendly properties. Great credit can even contribute to your reputation, helping you forge stronger relationships with suppliers.
Maggie Aland, Marketing & Review Editor, Fit Small Business
One of the most common, and costly, oversights in a retail store operation is the mishandling of inventory and payments. In both cases, errors directly affect the company’s bottom line, but the daily volume of transactions makes accuracy of manual inventory and sales monitoring close to impossible. Lightspeed is a point-of-sale (POS) system that lets you offer more convenient payment options to your customers. It also allows for mobile store counts, so your employees can count your merchandise without having to bring them to the scanner. This automation makes sales and inventory tracking easier and less prone to loss by human error. Click here for a free trial.
6. Feature Your Best-selling Items Prominently
Jack Rednour-Bruckman, CEO, Bruckman Consulting Group, LLC
It’s known that in journalism, you are not supposed to bury the lead. In retail, you should never bury the best seller! Feature your best-selling items prominently and have ancillary and accessory items nearby so you can increase your average order value by adding something to your cart (virtual or in-store). For example, when you are buying shampoo, you shouldn’t have to look hard for conditioner. If your product is found cheaper on Amazon or other outlets, make sure shoppers know the quality or unique difference in shopping with you. Why should they care about giving you money? Make them care.
7. Choose Your Payment Processor Wisely
Alexander Shum, Managing Director, CardPay
An understated fact is that finding the right payment processor can help retail businesses cut unnecessary costs and position themselves for success. Before a business commits to any payment processor, it is crucial that they have a clear understanding of who their processor is (and any third parties that are involved), and how their fees are structured. They should look for processors with fewer third parties, as this will result in lower fees. Positioning themselves as a low-risk company will help them negotiate lower rates from their payments processor and can be achieved by maintaining positive transaction scores. It’s also important to responsibly (and immediately) report fraud or suspicious activity on their merchant account.
8. Grow Your Email List
Taylor Mack, Social Media & Marketing Strategist, Small Biz Refined
Be sure to have a welcome email (or multiple-email sequence) go out automatically when someone first joins your list. Tell the story of your brand. Give behind-the-scenes details. This allows your potential customers to get to know your brand intimately, and they’ll be much more likely to purchase from you. Then offer a tempting free opt-in. Promote it in multiple pages on your website, and while interacting with customers. This freebie could be a discount code, but consider offering something more enticing or unique to stand out.
9. Prepare Your Sales Forecast Regularly
Gemma Roberts, Accountant & Business Blogger, The Work Life Blend
Your sales forecast is a working document that should always be updated and rolled forward. The more historic data you have, the better you will become at accurately predicting your future sales. An accurate, detailed, rolling sales forecast is absolutely key in successful retail businesses and will increase your profits. You will have sufficient stock to meet demand (therefore rarely missing out on a sale), but not too much that you have to write it off or that you have all your cash tied up. You will start to see which promotions work well and which advertising channels are driving massive uplifts. You can then reflect that in your forecasts going forward.
Jillian Ilao, Review Editor, Fit Small Business
Regardless of your store’s size, retail shops cannot operate without hiring employees. Their different functions and responsibilities will also most likely mean different schedules. This is where manual scheduling and time tracking can become a tedious and repetitive task that’s prone to errors. Homebase is an easy-to-use scheduling software with a drag-and-drop feature that lets you build employee schedules in minutes. It also has browser and mobile access so you’re able to update staff schedules while on the go. It offers time-tracking features that help tremendously in preparing accurate attendance records for payroll. Get your free trial here.
11. Outsource Your Same-day Delivery Needs
Shaun Savage CEO, Founder, GoShare
As local retailers seek to compete with ecommerce and big-box giants, they will need to find solutions to offer their customers affordable, same-day delivery. If you can’t offer them this convenience, they will go to a competitor that can. In order to keep pace and manage overhead, retail managers should look to outsource their same-day delivery needs to on-demand contractors available through trusted sites and apps. These virtual fleet networks can be called upon on demand, with delivery professionals arriving within the hour. Delivery fees are often lower than traditional rates, while still providing a superior experience.
12. Link Your Retail POS to Your Online Sales
Charlotte Ang, CEO, Legend Age
Make use of technology software out there to link your offline sales and online sales together. These software may cost money but they will save you a lot of time. The most time-consuming part as a small business owner is to count and tally sales from both online and offline platforms. With such automation technology around, these manual procedures should be automated so that you can focus on the bigger things like growing the business.
13. Focus on Customer Experience
Gabriel Shaoolian, Founder & Executive Director, DesignRush
My advice for retailers looking to boost sales and drive business growth is to focus on the customer experience – not just in stores, but in the digital space as well. Brands need to create a comprehensive strategy that identifies key vulnerabilities in their digital platforms, website, and more and create a more cohesive system that takes users on a journey. The ecommerce experience is essential when it comes to consumers; brands therefore need to take an omnichannel marketing and development approach to ensure that users are always taking a step forward when it comes to their online interactions, whether they’re browsing your website on their computer, downloading an app, receiving an email, or perusing your in-store shelves.
14. Plan & Run Successful Marketing Campaigns
Katie Schmidt, Owner & Founder, Passion Lilie
You want to give shoppers a reason to visit your store, whether it’s online or a brick-and-mortar location. Sales, promotions, special events, and seasonal collections have all helped me keep customers interested in coming back. Just like your website, keep your retail location storefront window visually appealing so you can draw customers inside. Keep a close eye on what your competition is doing and how it’s working for them. But don’t just stop at your website and store location for marketing your promotions. Social media is massive in this space, so make sure you’re updating your profiles to let your customers know about the latest sales and events they need to attend.
There are a number of inventory management techniques, and choosing one technique over the other will depend on the type of products you sell. These techniques ensure your stock keeps moving, minimize spoilage or damaged goods, and help you save on storage cost. There are eight strategies mentioned in this article that will help you take control of your inventory and maximize return on your investment.
The holidays are peak points in a retailer’s calendar. They usher in more than the usual foot traffic from visitors who are most certainly intent on buying instead of just browsing around. This is why retailers need to be prepared for seasonal sales. What kind of marketing and advertising strategy do you want to put in place before, during, and after the holidays? How do you decorate your store? Which merchandise will most likely bring customers into your shop? You will also need enough staff to provide customer assistance during this busy season. All these and more should be determined to make sure you get the most sales out of the holidays.
To run smoothly and efficiently, stores should define their daily, weekly, and monthly processes in written standard operating procedures. These procedures can be paired with checklists to ensure they are being carried out properly by the correct people at the correct time. Virtually every operations function detailed in this article should have a written procedure compiled into an operations manual to ensure uniformity and consistency.
Hiring the right employees for your retail store can make a huge difference in your business success. This includes being able to trust your staff after providing them with the necessary training. Having the right energy inside your store can also reflect on customer service and make shoppers feel welcome. To attract and retain the best retail staff, you will need to invest in becoming the ideal employer. Offer better hours and compensation to show that you value their contribution to the business.
A well-organized stockroom makes a huge difference when it comes to managing inventory. Your stockroom should, in a way, reflect the display strategy you apply in your shop. Merchandise that sells fast should be more prominent and easy to reach, large or bulk items should be found closer to the floor. Keep it clean. Invest in climate control and good lighting.
You don’t need to invest a huge amount on adding security to your store. Although advanced security measures are always a good investment to protect your business, there are a number of anti-theft measures that are equally useful. Locked hooks and curved mirrors can as easily deter shoplifters as surveillance cameras. Having your shop well-lighted and advertising your in-store security will also do well for small business owners working on a budget.
Shoplifting can happen in any store regardless of size. That’s why big or small, you need to train your staff on your shoplifting policy. This will include how to identify and how to approach a suspected shoplifter. Training them on the proper procedures will protect everyone involved, including the apprehended individual. Being proactive in your security measures, which includes proper security training for your staff, will make a significant impact in keeping your premises safe for everyone.
There are many factors that go into a retail store operation, which can easily overwhelm even the most organized manager. However, being able to successfully run and grow a busy retail store is also equally rewarding. Follow our expert tips to help you stay on top of your daily retail business tasks.
Which one of these retail operation tips from the experts did you like best? Let us know in the comments.