When I was a district coordinator in a major retail chain, I was — as all retail leaders are — slammed. All the time. If I wasn’t forecasting sales or monitoring operational results, I was managing vendors and department heads. My favorite part of the job was being in stores and seeing how things were going day to day, but it felt like I was only there if there was a problem to solve. And, of course, I only heard about these problems when I’d spot them in the daily and weekly data deluges that flooded my email.
Too much information
When you’re at the district, regional or corporate level, you have to keep track of what’s happening in your stores by way of the reports they send you. But the volume of data, in addition to all your other responsibilities, can be overwhelming and actually keeps you disconnected from what's happening in your stores. I wanted to spend time looking at the big picture and doing long-range planning for my stores and the associates, but there just wasn’t time.
Creating connections between stores and corporate is a challenge that affects retailers of all types and sizes. A study by Square Root of retail management revealed that almost half of store managers and more than half of district managers surveyed are using outdated tools like spreadsheet software and even pen and paper to do their jobs. Getting better tools to communicate was the top concern of store managers surveyed in the study. In fact, managers responding to the survey said better tools and software were "the number one thing that would positively impact store performance."
Your time is worth money — so how are you spending it?
Too often retailers are focused on efficiency and productivity at stores, without looking at how to help corporate employees move away from tasks and focus on projects that improve the business. There are likely dozens of things you’d like to be tackling each day if you were better connected with your stores, including:
- Spend time investigating exceptions, rather than being the data aggregator.
- Set enterprise expectations around key metrics, like cash on hand and productivity, and measure the results enterprise wide.
- Identify substandard performance and retrain associates as necessary, or spot and reward exceptionally good performance.
- Manage and reduce head count by putting employees where they matter most.
- Study and review negative trends at an enterprise level rather than triage for individual store issues or exceptions.
- Develop, review or revise current procedures/policies based on trends.
- Attend conferences to research new products or market trends.
- Implement or manage pilots of new technologies.
- Develop associate training by creating new manuals or training videos, implementing regional group training meetings, or creating new recognition/awards to boost morale and foster excellence.
- Increase visits to underperforming stores to improve associate activity and provide hands-on training.
- Focus on longer-term budget planning.
How to fix it
Most of these have something in common: They’re big picture, long-range projects that will help you move ahead of your competition and stand out in the industry. But they also have something else in common: They require you to get out of the day-to-day business of putting out fires, which you can’t do if you don’t slow down the flow of data and find a way to make it meaningful and actionable.
Take a few minutes today to think about how much time you spend collecting, aggregating and analyzing information from your stores. Then think about all the bigger items on your to-do list that you’d like to tackle instead. Resolve to find ways to create connections with your stores that make a difference to your bottom line.