Scheduling Tips for Retail Managers

small business owner using a smart phone and a tablet to schedule important store events.

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One of the most important tasks of the retail manager is scheduling employees. Creating the work schedule requires meeting the needs of the store while satisfying the needs of the workers.

The difficulty in scheduling employees will vary with the size of the store, the average sales volume, and the total number of employees. These are all factors that influence the store's payroll budget and the coverage needed.

Payroll Dollars as Percent of Sales

Retailers in chain store environments are usually given labor budgets by their regional or district managers or corporate office. These payroll dollars will generally vary from week to week as sales fluctuate. The retail manager will have no control over the labor budget.

Independent retailers may use retail industry standards to estimate the total amount of payroll dollars to spend. This amount is usually determined during the business planning process. Both types of retailers should be calculating payroll dollars as a percent of sales.

If a retail store has an annual sales volume of $250,000 and the firm's business plan recommends labor costs not exceed 9% of sales, then the amount of payroll dollars is approximately $432 each week. As sales increase, so will the need to increase the total dollars spent on payroll, not the percent.

Peak Sales Periods

For stores using a point of sale (POS) system which compiles sales reports by the hour, it's easy to spot the busiest times of the business day. Ultimately you would add extra staffing during these peak sales periods. If your store uses a manual cash register that does not provide a reporting system, look over the journal tape to gauge when your store does the most sales.

Many retail stores are busiest just when the doors open, during the lunch hour, around 3 pm when school ends, and then again around 5 pm as people leave work. Besides these standard times of day when retailers are faced with the most customer traffic, other times which may warrant an increase in the number of scheduled employees are:

  • Special sales or other events
  • Holidays
  • First of the month
  • Weekends

Other Scheduling Factors

Once the retail manager has established what the store needs and how much staffing it can afford, they may notice other issues that arise and affect the scheduling. These are human factors.

Personal issues among staff such as the lack of reliable transportation, illnesses, and childcare problems can occur. As new employees are hired and added to the schedule, the ability and responsibility of each worker also become a test of the scheduling process.

In a perfect world, we would have an unlimited amount of money, flexible workers who needed no supervision, and enough hours in the day to complete every task. However, the retail world is not perfect and writing the schedule can be time-consuming and even frustrating.

Once the retail manager understands the factors involved in scheduling employees, they can become skilled at balancing the store's staffing issues. Scheduling becomes easier over time. When sitting down to work on the schedule, some items to have on hand are:

  • Monthly calendar
  • Past schedules
  • Notes from employees asking for time off
  • Peak sales reports
  • Pencil and calculator or scheduling software

Start by calculating the store's payroll dollars. Then determine any special events or peak periods that may require extra staffing. Examine your own tasks that need to be completed and any other business priorities. Now that we know what needs to be done, how many people it will take, and how much money can be spent, we can begin writing the schedule.

Let's say we have one salaried employee making $225 per week and three part-time hourly associates who make $5.75 per hour. Working with our labor budget of $432 as listed above, we can determine that we have $207 to spend on our hourly staff. It gives each part-timer approximately 12 hours each week, and we can now schedule accordingly. For the sake of simplicity, these figures do not include payroll taxes or benefits.

Other Scheduling Tips

Be on the lookout for employees clocking in early, not taking scheduled breaks, or staying over their assigned times. Just a few extra minutes here and there can really destroy a budget.

Don't sacrifice customer service to stay within the allotted payroll dollars. Use salaried employees more than hourly workers if there is worry of exceeding the labor budget. Weekly schedules should be posted around the same time each week and as far in advance as possible.