When shoppers find exactly what they’re looking for in a store, they leave happy. And when they leave happy, the store management is happy because the chances are those customers will come back again, or better yet, give a good recommendation to one of their friends.
It takes a lot of work and planning to get to this point, of course. The store has to have the right look and be open and inviting, and merchandise has to be displayed appealingly. The inventory also has to be managed well. This means having enough of an item in stock to be able to replace it quickly in the store when it’s sold – because it looks better if everything is well-stocked – and having enough of it in storage to be able to do this. This means ordering more, knowing when to do this, and doing it early enough to cover lead times – the length of time it’ll take a supplier to turn purchase orders around. The umbrella term for all these activities is retail management. In this blog, we’re going to break down the areas that make up retail management and look at them in detail.
Understanding the importance of retail management
The word retailer comes from the Old French retaillour or retailleor, and it translates as someone who sells items in small quantities. This interpretation pretty much stands today: store owners stock goods in limited amounts, and their customers usually buy items in ones and twos.
You may be wondering why we’re going into etymology. Well, it’s to give an understanding of the scope of the businesses we’re talking about. And when you get your mind around that, we can delve into the challenges and decisions that are specific to retail stores.
The central challenge of a retailer is to give their customers a good experience, to let them know they’re welcome, understood, and appreciated. It’s how you get them to come back. This experience runs from creating a look that reflects the interests of the shoppers to streamlining the checkout. For instance, a book store will have subtle color tones, be crammed with books, have quiet areas to check out reading material, and could be playing easy-listening classical music in the background. A shop selling clothing to young people, on the other hand, mayl use bright colors to decorate their interior, should have the right mood lighting, and may be playing Top-Ten music hits very loudly.
Differences aside, there are aspects that all retail establishments have in common. First among these is internal organization. When a customer walks into a store, they should very quickly be able to work out where everything is. In our bookstore example, the works will be categorized by genre, each one having its own section; and within that each book will be placed on a shelf alphabetically. In the clothing store, it’s garment type – jeans will be on one rack, coats on another – and to make everything even easier to find, each rack will have its clothing grouped by size.
The second thing all stores have in common is salespeople. There’s an art in choosing the right sales people, but more on that later.
The third characteristic shared by retail is the checkout. paying. Nowadays, there are several options for this: cash, card, or online via an app on a cell. It should be a smooth, simple process.
Taken together, all these facets add up to what’s called retail management, and when it’s done well, it’s good retail management.
The process of retail management
If you own or manage a retail store, you’re responsible for everything that goes into the running of it, from getting the right inventory to giving customers a good experience to handling employees. We’re going to break your job description down into its component areas and take a close look at each one.
Like any endeavor, the first step in any retail enterprise is to plan it out. This covers everything from interior design and layout to choosing what goods to get from suppliers.
We’ve already covered design, so let’s get down to layout. As described in our examples, depending on the kind of items you’re selling, a potential customer has to feel comfortable in your space. If you’re selling tech, that means spacing out your devices and lighting them brightly to invite those entering your store to “play” with each one; if you have a thrift shop, you’ll want your items to be thrown together in batches to appeal to your customers’ bargain-hunting instincts. It’s all part of driving foot traffic to your establishment.
Irrespective of the kind of items you’re selling, you have to give careful consideration to where you place your checkout. You’ll want your shoppers to be able to see it easily, but you won’t want it to block the free flow of customers. For these reasons, it’s probably not a good idea to place it near the entrance. Similarly, if you run a clothing store, you shouldn’t put it near the changing rooms – that would not only block access, it could look like a brazen grab for a sale and put customers off.
Keeping the interior of the store clean and tidy is also important. It’s part of making your walk-ins feel they’re welcome.
Another major consideration when working out layout is shoplifting. Arranging items so that your employees can see as many of the areas as possible is a good way of preventing this. If shoplifting becomes a serious problem, however, surveillance cameras should be installed.
#2 Choosing suppliers
When you’ve worked out your layout, you need to get your products in. You’ll probably know what kind of store you’re opening when you sign a lease for the space, so buying comes down to finding suppliers and setting up accounts with them. Then it’s a matter of working out your markups, guesstimating returns, and researching your competition. Purchasing inventory is such a crucial part of store management.
When you’re looking around for suppliers, you should be checking out the following:
- Their selling price – best to go with someone who offers the lowest price,
- Whether they can deliver to your store,
- Length of time it will take them to deliver items to you – their lead time – this has to be taken into account when reordering,
- Their after-sales service,
- Their return policy,
- Terms of their invoices – specifically length of time they give you to pay, and
- How much credit they’ll give you.
It’s a good idea to find several suppliers to work with. This way, if one doesn’t have what you want or can’t deliver, you have a fallback.
Then it’s a matter of working out your markups, guesstimating returns, and researching your competition.
#3 Receiving, storing, and displaying
First thing when a shipment comes in from a supplier is to check the goods against your purchase order and their invoice to make sure you’ve received everything you’re being charged for, and you should inspect each item for quality. If anything is damaged or incorrect, you send it back.
Next comes storage. If you have a small shop, this could be a back room; but if your business is larger, say something like a box store, you’re going to need a bigger space, a much bigger space, something that’s more like a warehouse.
When it comes to displaying items in your store, several matters should be taken into account. Things that are more likely to catch a customer’s eye should be right up front, near the entrance.If some of the things you sell are heavy, they should be on shelves that are near the floor, not on high levels; items that are similar should be grouped together; and small items that could be last-minute purchases, like socks or small packets of candy, should be next to the checkout.
The placement of any discounts you’re running is also important when trying to encourage sales. These should always be clearly labeled, preferable on their area of the shelving as well as individually on the product. Essentially, you’re building goodwill with your customers, and if an item they pick up—thinking it’s discounted—turns out not to be, they’re going to be upset. For some types of things, like clothing, however, it’s a good idea to have a dedicated area for all discounted items.
Of course, as a retailer selling in ones and twos, you’re probably going to be stocking a lot of different items in different colors and sizes. This makes keeping track of everything a challenge. Technology can come to the rescue here, technology like Cin7’s inventory management software. Cin7 tracks inventory in real-time, letting you know exactly what you have and how much of it you hold. It can also automate your purchase orders, registering when your stock is low enough to warrant reorder and taking care of it.
#4 Hiring and managing employees
This is important because a salesperson can make or break your retail business. Number one when checking out prospective hires is that they should like people. They have to have bright personalities and show a degree of patience. In short, they should enjoy interacting with customers, be happy to help them find what they want and be willing and able to answer any questions. Plus, they should be able to calmly listen to complaints and be willing to resolve issues. It also helps if they have knowledge of your business category. Thus, if you have a hardware store, you’ll want salespeople who know a lot about home improvement; if you have a beauty store, you’ll want salespeople who love and are up-to-date on things like make-up trends.
Your sales staff should also be adept at using your checkout, otherwise known as your point of sale system. Depending on the size of your store, you may have an employee dedicated to taking customer payments, so it’s important they be well-versed in whatever system you use.
And for you as a retail manager, once you’ve selected the right people to work for you, it’s your responsibility to keep a subtle eye on them to make sure they’re not taking advantage, and to resolve conflicts and grievances they may have. If your staff is content in the workplace, it’s reflected in the way your business performs.
#5 Service and sales
As indicated in the section directly above, your sales staff should be able to give your customers a gentle nudge when they’re undecided about whether to buy or not. That, essentially, is what a good sales person is defined by.
To make your customer experience complete, a smooth checkout is the cherry on the cake. While a point of sale (POS) can be defined as an old-time cash register, today much more sophisticated, online-based systems are the norm. In addition to adding up the cost of items, if several are purchased, these modern-day systems can scan barcodes and process different payment types, from cash to credit cards and cell-phone apps. They can also store your customer’s information – useful if there are returns or you want to send them marketing materials – and keep track of your inventory.
Cin7’s POS can do all this and more.
Optimize your retail operations with Cin7
To sum up, when a retail store is run well, customers have a good experience and walk out happy with the item they want, and your staff are content and put in that extra effort for you.
Then there’s control of your inventory, getting the right stock in and ensuring you have enough of it at all times to satisfy demand. That’s where Cin7 can be helpful. Cin7’s cloud-based software gives you a bird’s eye view of all your inventory, and can produce data to keep you on top of what items are selling best. Cin7 can also create loyalty programs and, as discussed, streamline your checkout.
If you want to learn more about Cin7 and how it can bring improvements to your retail business, call one of our experts today and book a demo.