Retail business owners often feel there isn’t enough time in the day. From organizing inventory to keeping an eye on employees, it’s easy to find yourself struggling to balance all the duties and tasks required to keep your store on the right track.
For those who equate operating a retail business with a perpetual headache, the problem may not be your business itself; instead, your approach to effective time management may be the culprit.
A few simple changes can be the difference between non-stop stress and a pleasant shift, helping you to increase productivity, minimize time-consuming tasks, and improve efficiency in the workplace. With these 29 time management tips for retailers, you can make running your store easier than ever.
Setting a Foundation
1. Learn to Prioritize
Multitasking is a valuable skill, but not every situation calls for doing five things at once. Prioritization isn’t easy, but as a business owner, you should operate with only a few non-negotiable priorities in mind: your customers, your property, your employees, and your finances. Everything else, no matter the challenges that arise during the day-to-day course of business, needs to be secondary.
2. Embrace Delegation
As an entrepreneur, it’s only natural to want to do everything yourself. However, this can be a dangerous mindset, especially for a growing business. Instead of relying on no one but yourself, learn to delegate to your team. Your employees were clearly valuable enough to hire, so you should be able to trust them with important or necessary duties when you are otherwise occupied.
3. Understand Urgency
It can be hard to ignore the overwhelming need to attend to issues as soon as they arise, but not all problems require immediate attention. Before jumping into action, take time to ask yourself two questions: “is this important?” and “is this urgent?”. If the answer to both questions isn’t yes, wait until a more convenient time to remedy the challenge at hand.
4. Fall in Love with Lists
Not everyone finds lists intuitive or natural, but learning to love lists can make your job a lot easier. Most people are not lucky enough to possess eidetic memories, so trusting yourself to remember every last detail of your to-do list is quite unreasonable. Rather than letting things fall by the wayside because something slips your mind, make yourself lists to stay as organized as possible.
5. Know What You Have on Hand
How can you know what you’re selling if you aren’t watching your inventory? Proper inventory control is critical to your operation. A few days of missed examination is all it takes to find yourself out of essentials, hurting your sales and driving customers to your competition.
With a Point of Sale (POS) solution like ShopKeep, you can stay organized and keep your thumb on the pulse of what’s selling and what’s not. Instead of forcing you to spend hours each week tracking by hand, the right software allows you to take stock of what’s left in the back room in a matter of seconds.
6. Analyze Reports Regularly
The right point of sale solution can shave hours off of your inventory management process and provide valuable reports on inventory and so much more. The kinds of records available from a modern POS can help you understand inventory, but that isn’t all. The reports can also help you explore everything from bestsellers to inventory turnover, providing all the details necessary to best plan for the future without wasting time and money on mistakes.
7. Choose the Right Tools
Not all POS solutions are made equal. You may think you’re getting a deal on an affordable system, but don’t forget about the value of your time. A system that rings in purchases and does little else might be cheap, but the hours upon hours you’ll spend every week tackling inventory, payroll, and other administrative tasks will add up. If an investment in a quality point of sale system saves you eight hours a week on inventory and admin, that’s the equivalent of eight hours of your salary that could be invested elsewhere.
Accounting and Reporting
8. Track Everything
There’s no such thing as an insignificant number, especially when it comes to accounting. When creating journal entries in your books, it’s important to make sure no stone goes unturned, both for the accuracy of your books and the availability of transactions in the future.
After all, it’s hard to track things like sales averages and SKU growth one period to the next if you’re missing critical details. And forgetting a few transactions now can mean hours of time digging through receipts later.
9. Consider Outsourcing
Unless you took a lot of accounting classes in college, it’s likely the concept of keeping books will be at best, a little bit tedious and confusing. For most retailers, finding time to enter purchase orders, sales transactions, returns, and paychecks suck hours and hours out of the week – the average small business employee spends 30 to 40 hours a year on expense reports alone – but it doesn’t have to. With an on-staff accountant, a freelancer, or an outsourced firm, you can free up time in your schedule while letting the pros do what they do best.
10. Keep It Integrated
Why enter transactions by hand when you don’t have to? With POS system that integrates with your accounting software, like ShopKeep and QuickBooks, you can streamline the accounting process. You can sync your sales transactions from the register with your QuickBooks account. Entries automatically update daily, giving you a consistent look at your books – saving hours each week.
Recruiting and Training
11. Create a Plan
Hiring isn’t the kind of process you should take lightly. The wrong employees can cost you both in terms of time and money, so hiring properly should be a top priority. Before posting a job ad, think carefully about the qualities you want, appropriate interview questions, work hour requirements, and everyday tasks. Most importantly, be just as descriptive in the job ad to be sure you attract only interested individuals.
12. Hold Out for the Right Employees
Think a mediocre employee is better than no employee? That’s not necessarily true. A bad employee can waste your time, cause double the amount of work, and even turn off customers. This will create big problems that will take tons of time to remedy. Rather than hiring wrong, hold out for those who will benefit your business. If you’re really in a pinch, hire someone on a contract basis for a limited time while you continue your search for the right employee.
13. Approach Training Like a Science
“Watch and learn” isn’t a great motto for on-the-job training. If you want employees who know what they’re doing, it’s up to you to create training practices that will set new hires up for success. From online modules to practical quizzes and activities, the more comprehensive your training program can be, the better your employees will know their jobs – turning your store into a well-oiled machine.
14. Focus on Continuing Education
There’s nothing wrong with a refresher course. Rather than assuming employees will always remember what you taught in training, make education an ongoing process. When problems arise, turn them into a lesson for all your employees.
Everything from POS functions to stocking and pricing can be included in your program, ensuring your team is adequately prepared for even the most challenging situations in the future.
Budgeting and Finance
15. Budget for Everything
You may not think that the money you spend on things like paper cups and receipt paper matters, but that’s not true. In business, everything matters. When determining how much inventory to order, use historical records and future projections to determine how much stock to purchase. When every detail is included, you’ll avoid spending weeks digging through your ledger, trying in vain to figure out what’s ruining your cash flow.
16. Run Appropriate Reports
Your POS system collects a ton of information, but how you use it makes all the difference. Knowing it’s there isn’t enough; you need to constantly run reports and stay on top of the course of business. Nothing helps you catch a problem, determine trends, and streamline your business for bigger profits like regular financial analysis.
17. Learn Financial Ratios
Do you know your store’s quick ratio? How about price-earnings ratios? Debt-equity ratio? While a deep look at your financial statements is important, understanding basic financial ratios can save time by allowing you to draw conclusions with a simple glance at your financial statements.
18. Act Quickly
When shoppers have problems, you only have a short amount of time to act before you lose a customer forever. In fact, 89 percent of consumers have stopped doing business with a company after experiencing poor customer service. No matter the issue you’re facing, it’s important to act as quickly as possible to avoid making a time-consuming mountain out of what could be an easily remedied molehill.
19. Make Things Right
Some customer complaints are superfluous, but others are certainly valid. No matter the situation, it’s best to try to make things right to the best of your ability. From replacing merchandise to offering discounts for poor customer service, remedying issues can keep things from spiraling out of control and demanding even more of your time.
20. Listen to Feedback
Some customer feedback isn’t worth a moment of your time, but some will be. When your customers propose ideas, listen. Take a moment to consider the proposition and, if feasible, consider implementing ideas and feedback where possible. Doing so may nip customer service issues in the bud before they even occur.
And from one small business owner to another, we can tell you that customer feedback is something we take very seriously, and you should too. Implementing suggestions from our merchants is largely part of why ShopKeep has a five-star rating and why we continue to be so successful.
Pricing and Stock Control
21. Do Your Research
Before slapping price tags on your merchandise, do your due diligence. Prices vary based on everything from geography to customer demand and trends. The wrong conclusion can impact your profit, your reputation, and even your budget. Be sure about your decisions before getting out the label printer; repricing your merchandise is a big commitment.
22. Make Things Clear
Pricing shouldn’t be a mystery. When you want to urge customers to shop, you don’t want to confuse them with missing tags and incorrect labels. Make sure your customers know what they’re paying when they make it to the cash register or you’ll spend your time on the floor with a pricing scanner, answering the same question over and over.
23. Match Your Image
Pricing depends on a number of factors, but your image makes a difference. Pricing like an upscale store when you’re attempting to sell to families isn’t going to please anyone, forcing you to waste time explaining yourself to customers and making adjustments rather than making sales.
Marketing and Promotions
24. Automate as Much as Possible
Why do it yourself when a program can do it for you? Marketing automation tools are immensely popular and huge time savers. You can manage your social media posts (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest) all from one platform and have analytics about which posts perform the best and worst.
With an email automation tool like MailChimp, you can take the pressure off of distributing marketing material while saving yourself tons of time.
25. Make a Schedule
Don’t waste time brainstorming when a deadline is looming. Instead, make a plan far in advance of when you’ll need it. Your content schedule can be seasonal, like Christmas posts, or product-driven, like sales on best sellers, but when you know what lies ahead, it’s much easier to minimize the time marketing can demand.
26. Let Your POS Do the Work
A POS system is good for more than just processing payments. With a retail POS, it’s possible to track customer data, run loyalty programs, and even sell gift cards. With the reporting available from your back office, it’s possible to target those most likely to buy from you – and keep them coming back.
Upkeep and Presentation
27. Don’t Cut Corners
The appearance of your store counts, so don’t let lazy cleaning mar your image. When you stay dedicated to regular cleanings, like daily vacuuming or mopping, frequent dusting, and consistent disinfecting, you’ll keep yourself from sinking time into intensive deep cleaning later – or risk offending customers.
28. Invest in the Best
Cleaning and organizational supplies aren’t a place to cut corners. Instead of buying a vacuum that pushes dirt around or skimping on durable hangers, see your store’s upkeep as an investment. High-quality products can make cleaning and organizing faster while minimizing the time spent on repairs and replacements, giving you more time to focus on the nuts and bolts of your business.
29. Tackle Tasks During the Day
When you’re passing through the aisles of your store during the day, don’t ignore those messy shelves or poorly folded sweaters. Let these walkthroughs be a time to tidy up, giving you a chance to straighten inventory, clean up messes, and ensure things are neat and orderly. This can take the burden off at closing time, allowing you to get home – or to your office to get started on paperwork – just a little bit earlier.
If you feel like there’s just not enough time in the day to tackle your day-to-day tasks, you’re not alone. However, everyone can make an effort to improve their time management skills. Whether you’re brand new to retail or simply want to overtake the competition, these 29 time management tips for retailers can set you up for success.