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The art and science of the perfect retail schedule

Opening a blank template for the upcoming store schedule can fill a store manager with dread. The perfect schedule is key to a store’s success. Yet the best tool store managers often use to fill shifts is the copy and paste function in Excel or static scheduling platforms.

Creating a schedule that helps win the store day, every day, is a challenging mix of art and science. The art is putting the right people in the right place at the right time. Maximizing the store’s labor budget is the science. Managing these factors requires time and analysis, resources that are in short supply.

Asking and answering the right questions

Consider the questions a store manager must answer to optimize a schedule:

  • What are my peak selling times?
  • During which times of day have we met, exceeded, or declined in our performance?
  • Which associates are best at maximizing sales per traffic and labor hours?
  • How do my associates perform during peak selling hours?
  • Who is available to work, when?
  • How can I be sure to align with corporate guidelines on the max number of hours for full time and part time associates?

Even if they’re asking the right questions, reaching the answer is complicated. Store data holds the answer but can be useless without the time and know-how to pull out actionable insights from multiple reports. Bound by these constraints, the perfect schedule eludes most store managers.

Add AI, cut constraints

Despite these challenges, the perfect store schedule is achievable with the right tool. That tool is AI.

AI can analyze multiple store data sets rapidly, providing schedule recommendations that you can’t get from viewing static dashboards and reports. Having ready-to-go insights gives managers more time to make an impact with their store teams.

Even with AI, scheduling remains a combination of art and science. AI’s magic is managing the science by deciphering data from all over the store’s ecosystem. With that under control, store managers can focus on the artistic elements, namely their people.

For example, the data may say that John and Harry should work the same shift to maximize sales. But their manager knows this would be a recipe for disaster, as these two do not work well together. The insights may show that Barbara is the best performer on Saturdays. Then it’s up to her manager to decide how to best allocate her weekly hours between Saturday and other high-traffic days.

Results add up

Store schedules created by managers using AI tools do more than win the store day. The benefits reach up the organizational chain. District managers and regional VPs can be more confident in the scheduling decisions store managers make using AI. Using data ensures a more effective and consistent approach to labor usage across a region or district.

Store associates also benefit. A consistent scheduling approach can mean less variability in hours and better productivity on the floor. Freed from time-intensive scheduling, managers have more time to help associates gain skills and hit sales targets. Happy associates and better store performance start positive momentum for an extended string of successful store days and a decrease in associate churn.

Adding AI to the art and science equation of scheduling simplifies a complex retail challenge into a manageable weekly task. If the results don’t speak for themselves, relieved store managers will.

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