Time-poor is a phrase often used to describe your customers, but the same can be applied to you, too. A recent Association of Convenience Stores survey revealed that 83% of retailers have increased their own working hours after being forced to cut staffing in response to a rising minimum wage. This means store owners need to manage their schedules efficiently, ensuring that every precious minute is put to good use. Over the following pages, leading retailers reveal how they make the most of their time, and highlight daily tasks that can ease the workload.
There’s no getting away from the housekeeping jobs that will need to be done over the course of a year, but planning for them month by month can make the tasks seem less onerous – it also means you’re less likely to put them off. Throughout the year, your business will inevitably go through busy and quieter periods, so it makes sense to fit in the jobs that are likely to cause disruption to shoppers when you have a little downtime.
That’s exactly what Hunnyhill Group Spar retailer John Perrett does. He knows that January is a good time to revisit his confectionery range. “In the early part of January we don’t tend to order a lot of confectionery as kids are still eating their Christmas selection boxes and adults are on a diet, so it’s a good time to look at the fixture and see what’s selling and what isn’t. Then, come the end of the month, you have a fresh fixture for people to look at when they are ready to start shopping the category again.”
Alkesh Gadher of Best-One Isleworth in London finds that summer is a good time to give his store a deep clean. “We have a lot of universities nearby so we’re always going to be busier in term time than in summer, so there’s less point in doing the big clean when we’re really busy,” he says. “Once the universities finish up we’ll take a display every day, strip out the produce, clean the shelves and move on to the next one. We plan it in every year and it gets the store looking in top form for the next term.”
Alkesh believes that doing it when the disruption to shoppers is minimal also ensures the job will be done thoroughly. “It’s a process that most stores will do over the course of a year, but it’s important to recognise when the right time to do it is,” Alkesh says. “If we tried to squeeze it in during term time, or over the Christmas period, then it would be a rushed job and not done properly. You need to ensure that tasks like these are done properly, so your timing has to be right.”
As well as planning for jobs over the course of the year, planning your week or even your day has its benefits, too. According to Adam Hogwood, manager of Morrison’s Budgens in Broadstairs, Kent, it’s important retailers pace themselves to make sure they don’t overlook anything important.
“Retail can be quite relentless,” he explains. “Plus, it’s human nature to try to get as many things done as quickly as possible, but if you try to do too much yourself, you end up getting less done and even that might not be to a decent enough standard. It’s much better to take a step back and look at it logically,” he says. “We have to stop thinking like shoppers who want to get the job done quickly, but rather act in a way that will achieve the maximum result.”
To help him do this, Adam allocates time to specific jobs. “Previously, we had purposefully vague planning to allow for flexibility, with a checklist of items that had to be done on that shift and then any time left over after that was for additional jobs that might need to be done around the store,” he says. “Now I structure my day so that I get more done across the day, but there is scope for doing other work in the middle of that. This way, you can make time for the jobs that might get overlooked.”
Technology can also help. Sid Ali, who owns three Nisa stores in Aberdeenshire, uses Google Calendar to manage his and his staff’s time. “I’ve set up a calendar for each store that staff can access and we can all see what needs to be done that day,” says Sid. “Quite often, I only think of work that has to be done at the store when I’m at home at night, so rather than waiting until the next day to do it I can upload it to the calendar from my phone and all the staff will be notified when it needs to be done.”
Sid loosely plans out the jobs that need to be done over the next two weeks, taking into account the number of staff he’ll have on at a specific shift. He believes that more retailers should be making use of the tools available to help time management. “If everything is kept in your head then staff are waiting for you to tell them what to do and nothing gets done,” says Sid. “If you plan things out and communicate the jobs to the team, they’re more likely to get done without causing you much hassle.”
Make sure you make time for your team
Time required: 30 minutes to an hour
Nurturing your team to ensure they have the skills to do jobs accurately and efficiently can be a wise use of your time, and it’s a key focus for Adam Hogwood. “As part of my schedule I try to spend an hour a day working with a member of the team to train them in a new skill,” he explains. “Of course, it doesn’t always work out that I get a full hour, but most days I do.”
Even though this hour may be time spent away from the shop floor or the office, Adam believes it’s worthwhile. “It gives me an opportunity to bond with the staff and train them up in a new skill, which helps the entire team in the long run,” he says.
“If there’s only one person who can do all the work then they’ll be stretched pretty thin so it pays to have people who can step up if needed, freeing up time for you to do other jobs.”
Gregory Cochrane, manager of Binnian’s Fresh Foods in Kilkeel, Northern Ireland, agrees it’s important to make time for staff. “Staffing is very important to me and to the Henderson’s Group so we try to make time for our employees whenever possible,” he says. “We operate a Stop/Start/Continue programme which involves continual evaluations with every employee to chart their progress. I like to sit down with employees on a regular basis to go over key tasks that had been set out for them, areas that they had done well in, or possibly have to improve.
“That half-an-hour you spend with them, discussing how they’re getting on and what their plans are, can be invaluable,” says Gregory. “There have been staff members for whom I wondered whether retail was really for them, but it was only when I spoke to them about their role that I realised how invested they were, and some of them have blossomed since. It has helped unlock some real potential, just by giving them some time to talk about their job.”
He adds that while it may not seem the most financially rewarding aspect of the job, it can have long-term benefits. “It would be very easy to just give employees a list of jobs to do and let them get on with it, but retail has changed and both staff and managers need to engage with each other more,” adds Gregory. “Employees want to be invested in the business and retailers need staff who care if they want their store to be successful.”
Get ready to rumble
Time required: 15-30 minutes
Londis retailer Steve Bassett allocates 15 minutes every day to do a “rumble” at his Abbotsbury Road store in Dorset. In that time every member of the team stops whatever they are doing and tidies a section of the store each. This is done just before or after a particularly busy period of the day for maximum impact.
David Knight uses a similar technique for ensuring his Budgens store in Hassocks, West Sussex, looks its best after the lunchtime rush. “There’s a massive focus on productivity at our store. We’re always looking at what we can do when the shop is quieter – for example, changing the water in the cut flowers,” says David.
“We do a 2pm rumble, which is something I picked up when I worked for Tesco. Between 2pm and 2.30pm every member of the staff has to face up the store’s shelving and make it presentable and fit for purpose.”
Time required: 5-10 mins
When Jai Singh of Singh’s Premier Sheffield has five minutes to spare, he promotes his store on social media. “It takes five minutes or less to publish a promotion on Facebook,” he says. “One of the most successful was on Hooch. I bought eight cases and put a photo on Facebook, saying that we had it at £1.59 a bottle. It got 150 views and customers were interacting with each other, reminiscing about when they first drank it and asking me to put some aside. We sold all eight cases in a week.”
Adam Hogwood says that it’s important to set aside a little time each day for social media. “It can be difficult to plan for, but it’s worth doing,” he says. “It’s a great networking tool, and social media has helped us sell a lot of stock. It also gives the store a personality, which the customers like. Retailers should get into the habit of being ready to Tweet or Facebook something that’s happening in the store.”
Time required: 1-2 hours
No matter how busy you are, you can’t neglect re-merchandising. “Instead of it becoming a huge job, spending an hour or so a day re-merchandising one area of the store makes it much more manageable,” points out John Perrett, who owns the Hunnyhill Group chain of Spar stores on the Isle of Wight.
“Occasionally, products get discontinued and you don’t notice the gap, or another product just gets double-faced to fill it when the space could actually be used more wisely. You don’t want to be ordering in 100 lines all at once, so if you just concentrate on a section of the store at a time then it becomes a more practical task and means that you can keep each area fresh and up to date with trends.
“Using our sales data, Appleby Westward plans the macro space for each of our stores based on the product sales mix, and then we use Spar planograms to remerchandise. This regular remerchandising and review of ranges is perhaps the most important thing we do, as having a refreshed and new range to offer our customers keeps their interest.”
And while sales don’t always rocket as a result, John believes they would be likely to drop if no action was taken. “It is fair to report that while in some stores this approach has only led to modest improvements in topline sales of 4-5%, some of the stores are trading at 20% up on last year,” he says.
Nisa retailer Sid Ali also devotes part of his day to category management. “If I have a couple of hours free, I’ll have a look at some of the areas that I haven’t done in a while,” he says. “Just recently I examined the breakfast cereal category data. If we’re selling less than one unit of a line in a fortnight, then it’s time to de-list it and give that space to another product. It’s also a good opportunity to review prices of strong-selling items as you need to protect margins.
“This type of job needs to be done in order to keep the range strong, but it’s something that you need to get your head down for rather than attempting to squeeze in among other jobs.”