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Retail Managers: Tips to Fine-Tune Your Schedule

Retail managers are known for wearing numerous hats: overseeing the store’s books, ordering supplies, scheduling and, of course, managing employees. Putting together employee schedules is a task most time-consuming, yet is also the backbone of a store’s success. If not enough workers are scheduled, the manager could end up with dissatisfied or lost customers. On the other hand, if too many employees are scheduled, the shop risks losing money.

According to, many retail outlets are busiest at these four times of the day:

  • when the doors open
  • during the lunch hour
  • around 3 p.m. when schools dismiss students
  • and around 5 p.m. as people leave work

In order for a manager to run a tight ship, he or she must be an efficient scheduler. Unfortunately, tools such as Microsoft Excel or old-fashioned pencil and paper aren’t the most reliable or functional templates, especially when managers have to consider so many factors, from human nature to foreseeing a month or more. The question is less about asking who can work when, but what results reasonably can be expected.

Here are six helpful reminders to keep in mind:

  1. Start by calculating the store’s payroll dollars. After that, determine any special events or peak periods that may require additional staffing.
  2. Look back over the previous year’s stats for heavy traffic days. These figures are good indicators of how much business your store will do this year, and will help you decide how many people you should schedule for a particular shift.
  3. Weekly schedules should be posted around the same time each week, and as far in advance as possible. This will ensure that employees have plenty of time to see their schedule, and increase their chances of giving advanced notice if they are unable to work, allowing others the opportunity to pick up and/or swap shifts.
  4. Create and implement a time-off policy, and enforce it. Every member of your staff should be aware of the process for submitting a time-off request.
  5. Utilize on-call employees to help fill gaps in shifts. If Saturdays vary from extremely busy to just average, have one or two workers on call to help out if needed.
  6. Be on the lookout for employees clocking in early, not taking scheduled breaks or staying over their assigned times. Just a few minutes here and there can add up, potentially destroying a budget.

When you strike a perfect balance in scheduling staff, you will notice many positive benefits. Morale and productivity will increase. When employees are working the shifts that utilize their specific skill sets, customer satisfaction will rise, and misunderstandings about time off will be held at a minimum. In general, work will be easier and your store’s success should climb.