When Things Don’t Go According to Plan

Jeff Duce
Senior Manager, Product Management

As I reflect on my past managerial roles in retail, I think about the things that helped me operate successful stores. My greatest gift was spending several decades leading employees at those retail locations while becoming proficient in labor execution and management. My training during those years was invaluable, but I learned much more through real-life experience. One thing I found is when company growth and employee turnover exceed a retailer’s training capabilities, issues quickly arise.

For instance, I’ve seen store keys handed to inexperienced retail leaders at locations amassing more than $500,000 in weekly revenue. I’ve watched assistant managers take hold of the reigns at a grocery facility with only non-grocery experience. Sometimes, store managers have no choice in selecting their second-in-command. At this point, the hope is that the store will manage itself and the assistant manager will somehow just get it. For most store managers, this causes a significant amount of internal trepidation. But are these the only options?

It begins with considering what can happen when things don’t go according to plan.

Let’s ponder an example. It’s your day off and your new assistant is running your store. What could go wrong?  It turns out, a lot can go awry. First, the weather is shifting, and you have an unplanned rush of customers trying to shop before the storm hits. On top of that, Mary quit in produce, Billy called in sick, and John was a no show. Product replenishment is behind in three key departments and your new assistant has been so busy with the rush that he or she hasn’t had time to review pending tasks or check email for critical needs. What was supposed to be an easy-going morning for your assistant manager turned into a flurry of questions and chaos.

What could help ensure your untrained assistant has the tools necessary to run the store successfully?

Retailers today are avoiding wishful thinking, like self-running stores and magically-trained managers, by using mobile devices and real-time reforecasting solutions. Imagine a smartphone or tablet with a live feed to your store network in store management’s possession. You and your assistant can take the device(s) home to monitor how the store is doing, even on non-working days. Envision the devices use configurable alerts showcasing what’s important to you in succinct and graphical fashion. The solution gives you information that helps you stay informed on what’s going on in near-real-time at your store, reducing the anxiety that comes with “what if” questions. Wouldn’t it be great to have feeds outlining unfinished corporate responsibilities, incomplete department tasks, late store employees, sales-impact updates and most importantly, smart suggestions to fix in-store issues?

A real-time reforecasting solution could even analyze pending weather systems, review historical trends, predict potential impacts, and make sales-adjustment recommendations. The solution might suggest staffing adjustments or make propositions for moving associates from one department to the next as needs arise. It will utilize problem-solving logic to help manage the variables impacting your store each day. What better tool to help guide your inexperienced manager toward good and even great performance? Again, because this solution would be configurable, you could narrow the available information down to the key things you want to know.

This solution would have brought me some peace of mind when I wasn’t at my store. Knowing my staff had a tool available to aid them in monitoring sales, schedules, staffing, tasks, alerts and weather updates would have saved me from worrying about my manager’s ability to operate the store properly. The good news is this advancing technology is just around the corner; having this information via a real-time reforecasting solution is not out-of-grasp. The benefits to such a tool are endless and might just save you a few unwelcomed gray hairs in your retail management experience.