Retail Efficiency: Tips for the Creation of Best Practices

best practices retail

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Updated April 19, 2024

Online retailers are jealous. Many retail best practices don't work online.

They can't do what brick-and-mortar retailers can do. They can’t create an emotional connection to an object.An online shopper can’t pick up an item and see how it feels around their wrist or drapes against their skin.

Online retailers can't show serendipity. Their shoppers can't be looking for a crib when suddenly, there's an adorable frog umbrella. They’d be like, What the hell is that?

Right, they can't do that.

That’s why many are opening physical stores, even Amazon.

Despite all the nonsense around the retail apocalypse and the hyperbole that retail is dead, brick-and-mortar stores can still excel in merchandising, selling, and creating an exceptional experience.

More tools than ever exist to collect, analyze, and create forward-thinking actions to compete.

With good retail practices, it doesn’t have to suck running a brick-and-mortar store.

However, from the corporate executives in their ivory towers who obsessively collect bad news to the Main Street independent, everyone calls each other and complains that that is their reality.

Most often, there’s hardly a trace of retail management best practices being followed in their organizations.

I’ve said it for years, and it bears repeating: retailers, from department stores to boutiques to independent retailers, are reaping the harvest of decades of rotten customer service.

Traffic is down - I get it.

It's like it’s all those darn customers’ fault.

As retailers, you need to get over that mindset because what you set your mind on is where you will go. In-store retail sales are expected to rise this year, but not by much.

If you say, I'm going to make it through this, and are up to the challenge, great. But if you want to just bitch and moan about it…

I overheard somebody doing that in a store about their customers. And you know the kicker? It was the owner.

I stood there thinking, "Really?"  I would've been fired if I had ever talked like that about a customer.

After all, the only reason a business exists is to have customers.

When did the fundamentals of retail change?

They didn’t. You need to be brilliant on the basics.

I’ve assembled a dozen best practices for you to measure yourself and your retail management crew against regarding employee training, customer service, and employee performance management. So here they are…

12 retail best practices for your store

You may think the best performers in the retail industry have deeply held secrets on how to manipulate customers into buying more. The reality is they consistently do a fantastic job on the basics. They implement prominent retail best practices that everybody knows, but few seem to practice.

1. Offer competitive pay, incentives, training, and benefits

The best retailers offer employees competitive pay, incentives, training, and benefits.

They don’t share a philosophy of
churn-and-burn employees as the norm. You're wrong if you think you can drive up to work in a brand-new Mercedes while your employees have to take a bus and no one notices.

Retail management best practices demand that you demonstrate restraint and humility -- and support your employees so they can also thrive.

2. Have a well-oiled supply chain

Retail best practices include maintaining a solid supply chain, so you have enough merchandise in stock.

Customers shouldn’t arrive at your store to find you are out of the product they could just as easily have purchased from their smartphone without using their car.

3. Limit discounts and promotions

The best retailers limit price reductions and promotional sales. They keep a tight reign on inventory to maximize turn and margin.

It doesn’t mean you don’t put on sales, but they are not so frequent customers can time their purchases to wait for the deal.

4. District managers know employees' names

The best district managers know the names of all employees in their stores and make sure to talk to them all when they visit a store.

Too many come in on a beeline to the manager, where they meet privately and leave without interaction. At its heart, retail is a people business, not a process business.

The best district managers can have a face-to-face dialogue with their managers instead of just holding conference calls. The worst of them pass along what all stores must do and set unrealistic goals for many.

5. District managers as a buffer

Retail best practices should include having a district manager act as a buffer, standing between corporate and managers, so neither has a chance to get mad at the other.

It is far better to be encouraging dialogue than to let things devolve into us versus them. No one wins in that game, especially your customers.

6. Have enough payroll budget

The best managers have a high enough payroll budget. They can complete all business tasks and train employees to sell the merchandise. You manage your sales by having fewer employees on the schedule and expecting those employees to do more with less.  

But you can’t engage more with less staff, and you lose your employees to completing tasks and not helping customers.  

7. Recognize individual employees

Retail management best practices should recognize individuals so everyone feels valued and appreciated. From the daily morning huddle to the weekly store meetings, the best managers make their employees’ day so their employees will make the customers’ day.

8. Hire teachable employees

The best store managers can hire teachable employees and let go of those who aren't. If they don’t hire the best, they’re left with employees who put it out and hope someone asks to buy it.

9. Have managers on the sales floor

The best store managers are easily found on the sales floor. On the sales floor is where they can most affect sales goals.

10. Hire associates who like people

The best retail sales associates, at their core, really like people. They don’t have to try to coerce them to go help someone. Retail sales training sticks.

11. Teach associates to juggle customers

The best retail sales associates can juggle customers. More importantly, they can do so without compromising the customer experience.

12. Train associates to sell

The best retail salespeople can romance a product a shopper hadn’t considered.

They know selling is nothing more than a transference of feeling, and because they are excited and passionate about it, they can easily spark that in a stranger.

Instill good retail practices at all levels of the store

Look, there’s nothing I have to drive to your store to buy that I can’t buy online from the comfort of my couch.

But when I do show up, my business is yours to miss.

If you’re crying the blues, you don’t have to look far to see why. You can’t blame it all on your shoppers when, many times, it’s your fault.

But you can start over with the next person calling you on the phone or walking through your doors.

Use this list of best practices to create a corporate culture that isn’t technology or bean-counter first but exceptional customer service first.

Do that, and as other retailers fail, you’ll see the opportunity for you to do even better.

If you have 4-5 minutes, I encourage you to take my free Retail Assessment to find places where you can improve.

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