The calendar turns to another year this week, and many of us will make New Year's resolutions. Maybe we'll try to be more organized, maybe we'll aim to drop a few pounds — everyone has a little something they'd like to change. But change is hard.
As tough as it can be, I'd like to challenge every retailer to look at their currency management practices and make a single resolution for 2016: Stop doing things just because that's the way they've always been done.
Over and over, my colleagues and I talk with retailers and hear, "Well, that's the way we've always done it, and it seems to work just fine." We get it. Currency management is not where you make money. But it is where you have an opportunity both to save money and to make the most of a customer's shopping experience.
At the store
Your store currency management practices and policies seem to work fine, but do they? Are your employees doing any of these tasks?
- Manually counting — or worse — facing currency. There was a time when it mattered to banks if the bills were all faced the same way, but these days they run your bills through a high-powered bill counter that can detect the denomination in the blink of an eye. And manual counting? That’s an error-prone, time-consuming process that no retailer should be doing. There are lots of tools and solutions for reconciling funds that will make this process faster and more accurate.
- Using armored car services more than two or three times a week. Retailers often seek to better secure their funds by having armored car visits five or six days a week, but most of the time it’s unnecessary. If you have high-cash, high-loss stores, cash recyclers might be a good tool to employ, but for most stores, holding cash for an extra day between armored car visits won’t increase your risk significantly. Make sure your stores are following your guidelines for cash deposits and orders to minimize cash on hand and avoid cross-shipping.
- Counting or filling a self-checkout unit, whether it needs to be or not. If a self-checkout’s bill acceptor fills up or its dispenser runs out, it creates a frustrating experience for the customer who’s using it and makes it unavailable to other customers until it can be addressed by your staff. Many retailers will balance each unit every day to prevent full acceptors and keep dispensers filled to capacity to avoid shortages. But balancing every day is laborious and keeping dispensers fully stocked strands your cash in stores. Look for a solution that alerts you to full acceptors or low dispensers so you can handle those issues quickly without spending so much time balancing and stocking the units unnecessarily.
And what about you? Are there changes you could make to your daily routine to be more effective? Take a look at your typical work week. Are you wasting valuable time with any of these?
- Sorting through reports from stores, looking for red flags. Aggregating data from stores, waiting on late reports, and chasing down missing information are challenges many retailers face. Tracking trends can be difficult when the information arrives at different times or is incomplete.
- Tracking cash on hand, searching for stores that have too much. Cash on hand is usually tracked weekly, monthly or annually, which doesn’t allow corporate treasury groups to have a clear picture of cash holdings and how to optimize them.
- Calling stores, trying to find out why they were short a few weeks ago. Corporate loss prevention teams often struggle with delayed reports. By the time corporate realizes exceptions are occurring, they’re difficult to investigate because days or weeks have passed, and store employees can’t recall what happened. Real-time information on store performance and activity keeps corporate users on top of what’s happening in stores and allows for quicker action to spot and stop errors or fraud.
- Dealing with paper. If you get reports from stores by mail or fax, where do you store all of that paper and how do you manage it? These days, there's no reason you can't go paperless with electronic reports. If your company has a green initiative, eliminating inefficient paper reports is a great place to start. And don't forget about the cost of the actual paper. It might not seem like much at first glance, but many retailers are shocked when they find out how much they can save on the cost of paper (plus mailing or shipping fees) by implementing electronic reporting.
If any of these are ringing a bell for you, it's probably time to take a step back and look at what you're doing and why you're doing it. So many times we see people doing things they did 10 or even 20 years ago because their procedures were "just fine." Only they weren't. They were huge resource-wasters that took time and energy away from important tasks like managing the floor, merchandising or helping shoppers.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in November 2015 and has been updated.