The role of store operations in maximising staff productivity and in ensuring a consistent service offer is crucial

Case study

Find out how Kurt Salmon Associates has helped leading retailers reduce labour costs by 7.5% and improve customer service and loyalty by 20%. Read about the tools and techniques — and the results — that can be achieved by reducing the variability of performance between “the best” and the “rest” of the stores in your portfolio.

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Kurt Salmon Associates

Glossy new point-of-sale graphics don’t come cheap, but if 5% of stores fail to receive them and 10% haven’t had time to put them up, it’s money down the drain. Retailers struggle on a daily basis to ensure their supermarkets, bookshops and DIY sheds look great and deliver the service customers expect.

Often shortfalls in the communication process between store support teams at head office and the shopfloor are to blame. And the recession has led to cost constraints exacerbating the problem - particularly with staffing levels.

Kurt Salmon Associates senior manager Sue Butler warns against head offices using company intranets to overload store managers and their teams with tasks. “There just isn’t an infinite labour pool in stores to deal with all the requests coming through on email,” she says.

“Head offices need to carefully think through how much pressure they’re loading onto stores. The danger is that too much time is spent reading reports and filling in forms, while valuable time spent with customers or doing basic housekeeping and compliance, is being lost.”

Focus on productivity

Tesco self-serve checkout

Self-service checkouts free up Tesco staff

So, keeping it simple is the key to consistency, say the experts. Retail giants such as Tesco and Best Buy have head office teams dedicated to designing

operational models that maximise staff productivity and deliver smooth-running stores. This might involve designing mobile display units that can be wheeled out for ready-merchandised fresh produce, or allocating tasks for quiet periods.

Butler sees increasing numbers of retailers turning to shelf-ready packaging and ‘shippers’ - promotional displays already set up. Self-service checkouts free up store staff too.

Reporting back when tasks are completed can improve head office control. “Event management tools are being used by large US chains,” says Butler. “Across an estate of 1,000 stores or more, store managers must click to confirm with head office when a promotion has been set up, or training completed. It gives clear visibility of where things are and aren’t getting done.”

Inconsistency in availability is a real consumer bugbear. Kurt Salmon Associates senior consultant Kevin Dearing says: “If EPoS systems can provide visibility in stores, so that sales assistants can see if a neighbouring branch has an item a customer requires, or, even better, it can be ordered from the distribution centre for next-day delivery, a major issue can be overcome.”

Store operations systems can also help cut workload, prioritise tasks and co-ordinate execution of sales drives and promotions across retail estates. Retail Manager Solutions managing director Karen Dyke says: “Retailers are trying harder to control the amount stores are being asked to do, realising that intranets often end up as data dustbins. Stores like to know ‘what we need to do today’, and they need the functionality to feed back to head office when problems arise.”

Mothercare says it has achieved a 99.5% store compliance rate with Retail Manager, and Carpetright has improved productivity with the system. Carpetright group human resources director Claire Balmforth says: “We saw an opportunity in the business - especially in key areas like HR and retail operations - to further enhance communications, improve efficiency, optimise staff time in-store and reduce costs.”


Mothercare has achieved a 99.5% store compliance rate

Mystery shopper programmes and customer surveys have long been used to monitor store service levels, but in the digital age problems are very publicly exposed. Butler says: “If shoppers aren’t happy with how they’ve been treated or can’t find the product they want, they are just as likely to complain on a customer forum online as write a stiff letter.

“Now’s the time to work even harder at presenting flawless, well-stocked stores and a consistent service offer, as getting it right will be reflected in the bottom line and in customer satisfaction.”