How To Spring Clean Your Retail Store With This Checklist

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Most of us put up with a lot of disorganization and unclean stores and records.

My first job was as a janitor in a dry-cleaning store. One rainy Thursday, I cleaned the break room like usual and returned to get something when I heard a stern older woman's voice behind me say, "So you're the one."

It was the boss's mom. She was tall and tough as nails. Her hair was long and grey; her voice and energy in the dimly lit room were overwhelming to a 16-year-old kid.

She pointed at the sink and said, "Get over there." She joined me and asked, "You call that CLEAN? Look around the drain."

I could see the brown stains clearly now. Throughout the day, the employees poured their cold coffee into that sink before refilling their ceramic coffee cups. The coffee had left a dark ring around the stainless steel drain. 

You'd think I hadn't cleaned HER sink as she fumed, "It takes elbow grease." She grabbed the Comet cleanser and shook it all over the counter, the sink, and the faucet. "Try again, little man." She stood there and watched until it was clean to her satisfaction.

I never forgot her. After all, I hated her, but I learned early on her definition of clean. It also forced me to look at something I looked at every day with different eyes.

The desk has been piled high for so long we've just given up. The employees haven't been called on putting things back, and they've let things go.

Here's the thing: shoppers notice and think less of you.

They notice the thin row of dust around your walls, the bits of cellophane tape left on counters, the dirty bathroom, and the missing lightbulbs.

It doesn't matter if you are a hair salon, hardware store, apparel store, or jewelry store; you must look at your business's cleanliness and do an overall cleaning.

Sure, but spring cleaning should go beyond simply a bottle of bleach ...

In the absence of magic and with some advice from my Facebook fans...

Here are 40 top cleaning tips for your retail business:

For your Merchandise

  1. Start in the stockroom and clean, organize, and label. Any defectives need to get call tags or thrown out.

  2. Nellie Bloom suggested dumping/donating half-off holiday items, but especially edibles. "Even if it moves, it's not worth advertising that you hang on to perishable products *that* long."

  3. Eric Mack noted that if you debated throwing it out last year, donating it, or doing something else with it, it needs to go this year. "No item should make it to another spring unsold."

  4. Rickie Kunzweiler suggested that if you have not used an item in the last two seasons, it is time to give it away or throw it away!

  5. If you are in doubt, put them in a box, label it March of this year, and put it away. If you don’t open it in the next 12 months, you donate or throw it out without opening it in March of next year.

  6. For my much longer post about clearing out merchandise, read Making Friends With Clearance.

For your Records

7. This is a good time to ensure that your employee files have the correct emergency numbers and addresses and that you have all I-9s.

8. Rebecca Maalouf suggested hiring a temp to pull last year's files, label and box them for storage. Then, have them make new file folders with the same tags for the new year. That way, she can find any old files (rarely needed), and the new ones are not overstuffed.

9. How many outstanding POs do you have? Go through them religiously and cancel if they are still on backorder. There’s nothing worse to your cash flow than a forgotten shipment.

10. Who owes you money? Now’s the time to collect. Make a call and follow up with an email. Do you offer layaway? Go through them all, put them back on the shelf, or call and get them paid off and picked up.

11. Clean out your CRM. If you have a tickle file for customers you haven’t seen in a while, try once more to reach them with a call, email, or text, then archive them so your most important, recent customers are at the top of your mind.

For your Physical Space

12. Julie Ellison Delgrosso suggested making Spring cleaning a fun day. Invite your staff to come in their dress-down cleaning clothes and supply them with colorful cleaning supplies (gloves, buckets, whatever). Make it fun! Give them all their new "cleaning" names using those Hello My Name Is badges (Dusting Donna, Mopping Margaret, etc). Provide lunch. Play loud, fun music that everyone knows the words to sing to. Have a posterboard with everything to get done, and have them sign their names/initials when they have completed that area. Take photos along the way to post on Facebook (with a BIG thank you to them). It's silly stuff, but it gets the job done and makes it fun to be part of it.

13. John Keglovich suggested using Lysol tangerine-mango cleaner diluted in a spray bottle. The citrus scent energizes and "inspires customers to purchase."

14. Kelly Smith suggested buffing and re-polishing the floors.

15. Revolinski Lason wisely suggested cleaning out the air vents in the ceiling.  And especially the nasty shelves by the air vents.

16. Cleaning also goes for your office. You know no one has vacuumed the space behind the modem or printer in years.

17. Dust and clean the areas in your window displays..... dead flies do not sell merchandise.

18. Wash light fixtures and bulbs. Dust lampshades if you have them. If bulbs are out, replace them.

19. Wash doors and knobs.

20. Wash switch plates.

21. Remove staples, tape, and other remnants of decorations past. If window props are faded, replace them.

22. Wash windows both inside and out.

23. Touch up any chipped or missing paint.

24. Check your smoke detector batteries.

25. Clean out and organize counter drawers.

26. Deep-clean employee refrigerator (including fridge coils).

27. Deep-clean your bathroom.

28. Reseal grout around sinks if necessary.

29. Clean or replace any mats or rugs as necessary.

30. If you have clothing fixtures, I used an old trick: I put Pledge spray wax on a rag and then rubbed it on the rounder or four-way; it will make your clothes slide better as people browse.

31. Sean Lassiter cautions that Spring cleaning can be daunting. "Be sure to perfect one area first. Be proud of the difference you made. Use this area as the benchmark as you train or continue methodically around your sales floor."

For your Online Space

32. Clean out your email inbox. Devote no more than 15 minutes per day for a week.

33. Clean your website. Any text that is old, vague, or not useful - delete. 

34. Trim down your social media. Are you a passionate Candy Crush player? Social media games shouldn’t be part of your profile. Cut down on your “likes,” “follows,” and apps to those you get a lot out of.

For your Human Resources

35. Michelle K. Sholund suggested giving employees an evaluation of how they are doing. "Look over everything, one on one, and discuss what things they think they did well, what they would like to do over the next few weeks, and discuss raises if they are up for a raise." If they aren't up to speed, have that conversation as well.

36. Take a minute to reflect on what positions are being filled well, which could be better executed, and which ones are no longer needed. Consider hiring to ramp up for increased demand.

37. Kristen Fortner suggested taking this time to train or retrain all your employees, and if you feel they still aren't making the cut, I let them go. Out with the old dead weight, in with fresh faces and new beginnings.

38. Throw out old manuals and DVDs of training you haven't looked at for over a year. Replace with actionable retail sales training the soft skills like my

For your Mindset

39. Karen Gardner says to read Fast Company, Inc., Psychology Today, and other magazines for the latest app technology geared toward entrepreneurs, emulation inspiration, latest fads, and trends. Many little interpersonal insights can be gleaned by looking into seemingly unrelated industries.

40. Take a Day Off. I’m serious. Go to the Spa and have a 90-minute massage. Treat yourself to a nice lunch with a friend. Go to a movie, play, or musical matinee just because. You want to work on your business because you love it, not hate it.

See also, Balancing Retail Inventory: Making Friends With Clearance

In Sum

If you live in the Northeast, as I do, whether you are a retailer or customer, you understand the feeling of renewal, hope, and possibilities as the days get longer and the trees begin to bud out.

Even if you live in the Southwest, Spring affords everyone a return of hope and enthusiasm.

Let this time of the year renew your spirit, and hope to have the best year possible with your retail business. 9 Proven Strategies