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Time management for retail managers

Time is money.

As a retailer, this short phrase will not exactly be big news to you. Run the store in a time-efficient manner and the money will flow; waste time and you’re left watching that money fly out the window and off to your nearest competitor.

Time may well be the most valuable resource we all have but the problem is it also has a nasty habit of slipping away. In a retailing environment, time management can be tricky as an owner/manager’s focus can literally shift by the minute – pulled in different directions by quick-fire issues relating to customer queries, staff schedules or stock checks.

It’s not difficult to see why retail business owners often find themselves working so close to the coalface, but have you ever stopped to ask if this is really the best use of your time? What about important managerial tasks like carrying out sales reviews or performance management exercises across your business? Do these jobs get slotted in at the end of a long day, at home on the laptop? Or do you just never have the time for such things?

Think about that link between time and money again. In business, we regularly make decisions about money but rarely stop to make decisions about time. Time management in retail is so important, so here are five strategies we think can help you to correct that imbalance and make the best use of your time.

1. Understand your goals

Before you can start organising your time, you have to be absolutely clear about what your business goals are. This could include long-term goals like becoming a market leader; quality-driven goals like being reputed for giving the best customer service; or short-term goals like introducing a new product into your range.

Once you know what you’re aiming for, it will be easier to look at the ‘To Do’ list (see #3 below) and prioritise accordingly – effectively by looking at each task and asking whether it contributes towards achieving one of your goals.

Maintaining focus on big goals can be difficult though, so the next step is to break this down into smaller chunks of work that psychologically become more achievable.

If expanding or reinventing your product line is a priority, for instance, that might mean creating a series of more specific, smaller tasks that relate to market research, sales reviews, staff training, marketing and promotions.

2. Know your peaks and lows

Every retailing business has peaks and lows. Some are seasonal (e.g. the rush of Christmas versus the lows of January); others are weekly (weekend versus mid-week traffic); and others like the ‘lunch rush’ can be daily.

While there can be occasional idiosyncrasies, your store will undoubtedly follow a fairly predictable pattern of highs and lows, and this is something which can be easily identified through insights from your smart POS system (e.g. by running sales per hour reports).

Knowing the pattern allows you to better manage both yours and your teams’ time – focusing on shop-floor/ customer-related tasks during high footfall periods and using slower times to tackle inventory counts, store refreshing, research, training etc.

3. Get organised

There’s no getting around it – working in retailing sometimes feels like being in the midst a whirlwind. You can literally be ‘on the go’ all day, yet feel like you’ve done nothing by closing up time. Over the course of a year, you may find yourself jumping from one seasonal promotion to another – Christmas, Valentines, Mother’s Day, Easter, Father’s Day, Summer holidays, Halloween, Black Friday, then Christmas again. It’s a race to keep up!

Survival and success in this fast-paced retail world rely on being organised, nailing time management and, while it may seem obvious, preparing a ‘To Do’ list is the practical answer.

Well before each trading year ends, set your merchandising calendar for the next.
At the end of each month, set goals for the next.
Before the end of each day, write the ‘To Do’ list for the next.

Whether you’re using a pen and paper list or one of the many apps now available, make sure you’re really clear about what you want to achieve and break down the big tasks into small components. Instead of writing ‘sort the store-room’, write ‘categorise 20 product lines in the storeroom’ or ‘check all boxes are correctly labelled’. Instead of writing ‘do a sales review’, write ‘Use the POS to find out which product line has performed best this month?’ or ‘Identify which time period on weekdays produces the most sales per hour’.

4. Automate/ streamline operations

The modern world has given us countless tools to automate and streamline what we do, cutting the time it takes to fulfil many tasks and essentially helping us to be more productive with our time.

In business we can use mobile technology to sync calendars and organise meetings; deploy an app to handle the hard work of managing employee schedules; hire a virtual assistant to manage email communications; or save tons of time by using a POS system that’s fully integrated with accounting.

While not everything can be automated (yet), many of the mundane tasks that drain your time can be. Use that time instead to focus on the top priority areas for your business.

5. Delegate

Owners of all kinds of businesses often face a common problem. Their business is their ‘baby’ and they struggle with the idea of trusting others to look after it. Offloading tasks onto staff members is seen as a ‘risk’ and so the owner is stuck in a situation where they feel they have to do everything themselves.

Delegation is a key step for any manager who wants to get more done but, of course, this requires trust. How do you put your trust in your team? The simple answer is to invest in them. With a good training programme that develops your people’s knowledge, skills and capabilities, your trust in them will rise and delegating will become standard practice.

GOODTILL TIP: Identify your star performers by comparing staff scheduling and sales data from your POS, then invest in those who show potential to step up.

What’s the value of your time?

Retail time management is always going to be a hot topic in the retailing sector. There’s a myriad of time management systems you can deploy and probably a million business books dedicated to the subject. The key takeout is often a question: what is the value of your time?

Realising the value of your time leads into knowing and taking decisions about the best ways of using that time. And, those are the decisions which will affect the direction your business takes now and in the future. We don’t have all the answers but hope these five strategies will be of use for your business.

Join the conversation:

Share your answer to one of these three questions over on Twitter @TheGoodTillco

What is an hour worth to you? #1hourvalue
What’s top of your ‘To Do’ list? #no1task
What task is the biggest block to your time? #no1bottleneck