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Back to Basics: How Retail Stores Tackle the Fifth Quarter

Are you ready for the fifth quarter...of retail?

With our headquarters in Minneapolis, Minnesota, we couldn’t help opening with a little football reference. Quite timely given the season and the fact that our hometown franchise Vikings are just one game away from becoming the first home team to host a Super Bowl following one of the greatest plays in NFL postseason history.

After Q4, when the dust settles and retailers look beyond the holiday push, there’s still a variety of important things that need to happen. These include streamlining operations, reorganizing the store and reconfiguring staff, help reset the store for the coming months.

Let’s take a look at three major steps that retailers tackle to prepare their store for the new year and upcoming spring and summer seasons.

Hitting the Reset Button 🎮

One of the most visual elements of the Christmas shopping season has been the flood of shoppers pouring into stores on Black Friday in search of the next huge deal.

This past year, retailers scored a huge touchdown of their own when consumers boosted holiday sales to help retailers experience one of the most successful holiday shopping seasons since 2011.

After the dust (holly and tinsel) has settled, it’s time for the next chapter of the retail story.

Store employees have to help clean up and move on. Think of this process as a doctor’s visit. Some retailers call this a wellness check and Target calls it a ‘bounceback’ -- it’s essentially like hitting reset on a video game, updating your iPhone, or rolling out a product update in an app.

During this phase, each work center is responsible for getting their areas back to normal operating procedures. For the front of store, merchandise is restocked, refaced, and marketing elements and sections are refreshed and revamped.

On social media, many Target associates openly share their bounceback progress, like this shelf of properly faced, “pushed” merchandise.

In the back of the store, associates do similar reshelving and restocking to get merchandise for the coming weeks onto the storage racks. As Michael Assetto, a Target leader says, “A detailed salesfloor starts with a detailed backroom!”

Customers wandering around a retail store rarely think about what happens behind the scenes in the back of the store, but the logistics here help set the stage for their success. If the backroom is well-stocked and refreshed, it automatically puts the sales team on the floor in a position to be successful and help focus on helping the customers and drive engagement. As Jennifer Yaksich says: Refresh backroom. Reliable routines. Drive sales with a full floor. You do those three things, and the sales should follow.

Operational Strength

Because of a significant decrease in payroll, resources are limited during the bounce-back period. While guest traffic decreases, the number of items coming back into the store for post-holiday returns surges. Store associates have to touch a higher number of these to process returns while also resetting the store.

Here are a few other operational milestones that are ongoing during the reset phase:

  • Retraining staff and getting employees up to speed on policy changes and new rules or regulations.
  • Retraining staff is also a time of resetting routines and putting in place best practices.
  • Operational hurdles include resetting areas of the store and cleaning up.
  • Clerical work involved in letting the seasonal team go or promoting associates.

If some of these practices are effectively put into place, you get associates like Erika Pickford, who was able to simultaneously reconfigure organizing a new zone and walking a guest to an item they asked about. Now that’s highly-personalized customer service.

How to do Less with More? 🚀

It can sometimes be challenging to focus on resetting when there’s so much going on in Q4. The next three months in retail are super hard. Guest traffic is down. Sales are a bit lower -- this doesn't mean a store is missing sales, but you’re not selling quite as much stuff. And, stores are focused on becoming more lean, scaled, and efficient.

“I’m sorry I don’t have any hours for you,” is a common response heard around retailers heading into January.

The challenge is traditionally they just cut, cut, cut, and cut some more. Inevitably you will always have to cut.

In getting ready for the new fiscal year, many retailers start to focus on doing less with more by cutting hourly staff down to the minimum working hours needed. Hours are spread as evenly as possible, but that’s not necessarily the most effective way to staff store locations while keeping team members happy. After all, everyone wants a paycheck.

So, how do you get creative and solve for some of these staffing and organizational challenges? Where Branch Messenger excels is helping you manage the workforce to your advantage. How do you take supply-side of labor in those tough times and be able to staff up and staff down accordingly, and in a way that is engaging and beneficial to your team?

There are a few ways to do that on our app:

Extended Breaks. Ability to allow you to provide staff with long breaks or layovers.

Notifications. Notify people ahead of time. If someone shows up for work you have to pay them for a minimum amount of time. By using our in-app notifications, you can let your staff know not to come in.

Communication Feed. Keep team members engaged in the app to view the critical information they may not get because they weren’t at work as frequently during leaner staffing. By driving engagement through the activity feed even though they’re not physically there, store associates are still engaged with what’s happening in the workplace and can even be up to speed on critical news or updates.

Staffing Nearby Locations. Perhaps, a store nearby is having a hard time staffing -- you have more opportunities to pick up shifts elsewhere. There’s opportunity.

Engagement. The calm after the storm doesn’t mean there are not important updates to share. Keeping part-time staff engaged is a critical piece to helping them feel invested in your daily goals, and using the Activity Feed is a great way to keep them updated, and also allowing them to communicate with other staff.

Taylor Pipes

Taylor Pipes

I write stories about people that interact with technology that solves human problems. I love exploring and finding compelling stories at the intersection of technology and the future of work.

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