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Retail Scheduling: Best Practices, Tips & Issues

What is Retail Scheduling?

Retail Scheduling is creating a weekly schedule, aka “Rota”, that assigns shifts to all employees working at a brick and mortar retail store. It is a task that is performed by the store manager at small stores, or a senior supervisor at big-box retail stores.

Retail scheduling is a very critical task in retail operations. Not only because it is essential for operating the store properly, but also because it affects the lives of all the employees working at the store significantly. That’s why it should be handled with care.

In this article we will share the best practices that we have learned after many years of creating retail schedules, as well as the considerations to be taken into account.

Retail Scheduling Best Practices

The ultimate goal is to create a balanced schedule that is aligned with the business needs, and at the same time accommodates retail staff needs as much as possible.

Having said that, let’s dive into retail scheduling best practices.

1. Align with Traffic & Sales

The schedule should be created to provide maximum cover on the floor when it is really needed. This means, more retail employees during high traffic and peak sales hours and days, and less employees when the traffic is low.

Many POS softwares will show you your sales by hour and your installed traffic counters to measure conversion rates will give you the traffic by hour as well.

Keep track of this data for a while and establish a pattern, and then start aligning your scheduling with your sales and traffic trends.

2. Minimize Overtime

A good retail schedule is one that utilizes the available manpower perfectly, so that there would be no need for overtime.

While creating your schedule and accommodating staff requests, make sure you are not giving unnecessary overtime, that will not be of any additional benefit to the business.

Having said that, we know it is inevitable to require overtime at some occasions or under certain circumstance (example sudden absence of one employee). Which emphasizes the need for proper scheduling that saves the overtime for when it is really needed.

Which takes us to the next point..

3. Utilize Temporary Staff When Needed

Overtime or temp staff can be very important during peak times.

In fact, from our experience, trying to save some money by not scheduling extra staff during these hours can actually lose the business money in the form of lost sales. This lost revenue could be much more than what it saves from not utilizing the extra staff.

So don’t be afraid to give your team the extra help when they need it the most.

If you have made sure to minimize overtime during normal times, you will have more than enough budget to use during peak times.

4. Fair Scheduling

One of the most difficult tasks for a manager while creating the retail schedule is to make sure everyone is getting a fair treatment. This is especially true when you are managing a large team.

In fact, we can tell you from now, that it is impossible to give everyone a fair schedule in the same week. That’s why we recommend in the next section (see: Tips) to maintain one workbook with all weeks in one file. This will allow you to see previous weeks before setting this week’s schedule and help you be more fair.

5. Accomodate Requests

Employees have their own needs and it would be perfect to create a schedule that accommodates the needs of everyone.

However; this is impossible in real life.

Try your best to accommodate your employees’s request every time you create a new schedule. The best way to do this is to announce in advance that this is the deadline to submit requests and allow everyone to submit theirs.

The key to applying this, though, is to be clear in advance that requests will be taken into considerations but there is no guarantee to accommodate all of them. Then make sure, again, to be fair in fulfilling those requests, so that you don’t end up accommodating the requests for some people all the time and ignoring others all the time.

Requests should be treated as an exception and not the norm.

6. Publish in Advance

Try to finalize and publish the schedule well in advance, so that your employees can plan their lives around it. And once published, please stick to it!

The last thing any of us wants is to have their schedule changed the night before.

Which takes us to the next point…

7. Strict Change Rules

Once published, the schedule should not be changed unless there is a real need for that. By a need we mean an emergency or unexpected event, and not “because we realized there is a delivery tomorrow”.

The right way to create a schedule in the first place is to make sure your deliveries and regular events are already taken into account. That’s proper planning.

When your schedules are stable and there are no sudden changes all the time, this will improve the quality of life of your team and will in return show in their performance. In fact, a research by HBR has found stable scheduling to increase sales and productivity.

8. Analyze & Adjust

After you have mastered the perfect schedule for your business, make sure to revisit the data after a while. Shifts in trends happen all the time, and you want to be inline with it with your manpower planning.

Tips for Creating a Retail Scheduling Template

Here we will give some tips for creating a retail scheduling template like the example below, that will make it easier for you to plan fairly and more efficiently.

Single Workbook with Tabs for Weeks

Retail Scheduling Template

Instead of creating a new file every week, or replacing the roster with the new one and deleting the old one in the process, we recommend having one excel workbook with a new tab added every week. So in total 52 tabs by the end of the year.

This is because we want you to be able to revisit previous weeks, before creating the current week.

As mentioned before, it is impossible to give everyone fair schedule in the same week. So by keeping track of all previous weeks in the same file, you will be able to see who got preferable shift last week and who didn’t. Then reverse it for the current week.

This will also be useful while solving employee disputes related to rota (and there will be many), so you can always pull out the old schedules to see if the complain is valid and if not, show the employee the trend.

Standard Shift Hours

We recommend having standard shift hours, and optimally the minimum amount needed of shifts.

Typically a retail store would need 3 shifts:

  • Morning Shift
  • Between Shift
  • Night (Late) Shift

The reason for standardizing the shifts is to make it easier for planning and communication with staff, and also so your team can car pool together or with other retail employees from adjacent stores.

When you create weird shift timings, you make everyone’s lives more difficult for no apparent reason.

Color Coding

Retail Scheduling Shift Code

After you have created your shifts, give every shift a color code. This will make it easier for you while looking at the overall schedule to see if everyone is getting fair amount of morning shifts vs. late shifts or between shifts in one week.

It will also show you the coverage of the store for all shift timings in one day, so you can shift the hours towards high peak time if needed.

By Department

If you are managing a store with different departments, we recommend splitting the rota down by department. This will allow you to ensure there is enough coverage for each department in every shift.

Store Management Course

Retail Scheduling Regulations

Depending on where you operate, there could be certain rules related to retail scheduling. Make sure you familiarize yourself with them and adjust your scheduling accordingly.

Particularly we are talking about predictive scheduling laws that require you to inform employees well in advance about their schedule.

Retail Scheduling Software

Typically retail employees are scheduled using an excel sheet, that is then printed and posted in the back office of the store, and often also shared on Whatsapp.

Today; there are several retail scheduling software options that allow you to do the same and connect the whole process to your payroll service.

Retail Management Courses

More Resources

Thank you for reading this article on Retail Scheduling. We recommend the below free resources as well:

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