9 Retail Scheduling Best Practices

Building a retail schedule that meets all of your staffing needs while keeping workers happy can be tough. If you create your schedule manually, it can take hours each week, and you may still make errors that leave you shorthanded. Adopting a few retail scheduling best practices can eliminate these hassles and ensure adequate shift coverage. 

Ready to be an even better retail manager and leave your shift planning headaches behind for good? You’re in luck. We’ve compiled a list of our favorite retail scheduling best practices that you can implement right away. This list covers everything from using templates to implementing automatic scheduling software like When I Work.

When I Work is the best retail scheduling software on the market. Try it for free and discover a better way to plan your shifts. 

Here are the main things you need to know about retail scheduling best practices:

  • Retail scheduling involves assigning employee shifts for a retail store
  • Planning ahead can help you stick to your labor budget and minimize overtime
  • Retail scheduling best practices will promote better customer satisfaction 
  • Allowing staff to swap shifts can promote teamwork and good morale
  • Automated scheduling software will prevent errors, save time, and reduce labor costs 

Table of contents

What is retail scheduling?

Retail scheduling is the process of building out your store’s shifts. You’ll need to identify staffing requirements for each day and shift (e.g., morning and afternoon). Next, you’ll need to plug workers into all slots while ensuring they aren’t over or under on weekly hours. You’ll also need to account for availability changes, like time-off requests.

Why is it important to follow retail scheduling best practices?

Without a good plan, scheduling your employees can quickly become a nightmare. On the other hand, adopting the latest scheduling best practices will differentiate you in the competitive retail industry. It will also help you accomplish the following:

Have coverage for peak business hours

One of the biggest perks to adopting retail scheduling best practices is that they’ll help you maintain adequate coverage for peak business hours. No one knows your business better than you. You know when it’s busy and when fewer team members are needed.

With the right approach, you can structure your schedule based on these trends. This means having fewer staff members during slow periods, like weekday mornings. You can also increase staffing for fluctuations like seasonal sales. 

Improve customer experience

Poor scheduling practices can lead to longer wait times for customers. Long lines can have a negative impact on revenue. Therefore, you want to keep waits to a minimum by ensuring you’ve got enough people working each shift. 

If you become a master scheduler, you can ensure you’ve got enough people there to work each shift. Your team will have manageable workloads. In turn, they can better serve customers. 

Foster employee satisfaction

Retail scheduling best practices are great for your workers. No one wants to work shorthanded. Through proper scheduling, you can ensure a fair workload distribution. Additionally, you can balance employee hours to ensure everyone’s availability is respected. 

Making a few improvements to your scheduling practices will keep everyone happier. Satisfied employees may also be more productive and tend to call out less. 

Empower your retail employees

Scheduling best practices aren’t just about making your life easier. Some of these strategies will also make life better for workers. 

For instance, allowing your staff to swap shifts can promote teamwork. It may also reduce the amount of schedule edits you need to make. 

9 effective retail scheduling best practices 

Here are the specific retail scheduling best practices that make the top of the list. 

1. Determine coverage needs based on peak business hours and sales periods

Before you can start shift planning, you need to know your company’s coverage needs. Create a list of the days your store is open each week. Then, divide each day into shifts (like morning, mid-day, and evening). Determine how many workers you need for each shift.

Keep in mind that you may need more workers on certain shifts and days. For instance, suppose that Monday is your slowest day, and Saturday is your busiest. In this case, you might need four fewer workers on Monday afternoon. 

2. Know your labor budget

Next, take a deep dive into your labor budget. Look beyond dollars and cents. Break down your budget into total labor hours. 

Understanding your budget will help you determine how to distribute your workforce. You can avoid overscheduling (and busting your budget). Additionally, you’ll be able to bring in extra help where needed without incurring overtime costs. 

3. Honor employees’ scheduling preferences and availability as much as possible

The best retail managers respect their employees and make them feel valued. One way to do this involves honoring workers’ scheduling preferences. While there are times when this isn’t possible, you should respect team member preferences as much as you can. 

For example, suppose that one team member can only work morning shifts due to childcare issues. Scheduling them for only early shifts can prevent friction and keep that worker happy. In return, they may be less likely to call out or quit. 

On the other hand, if you consistently ignore workers’ needs, they will be less loyal. They may be more prone to missing shifts, or they might even quit. 

4. Use scheduling templates for repeatability

Don’t build your schedule from scratch each week. That approach will cost you countless hours and distract you from your other responsibilities. 

The good news is that saving time is easier than you might expect. All you need is a scheduling template. Templates allow you to plug in workers for each week of shifts. Simply create your own template in a spreadsheet program, and that’s it!

Want to skip the hassle of building your own template? Download our free Excel scheduling template.

5. Plan and release the schedule in advance

No one likes surprises—especially shift workers. That’s why you need to release your schedule at least a couple of weeks in advance. The earlier the better. Why?

Releasing the schedule early gives team members time to adjust their personal lives. They can secure childcare, change appointments, and plan to be at work on time. If necessary, they can even swap shifts. 

Conversely, releasing shift schedules at the last minute can leave workers in a bind. They may have to call out sick or show up late. Either way, the entire team suffers. 

6. Allow your staff to swap shifts when they need to

Some retail managers are sticklers about shift swapping. Don’t be one of them. 

Letting team members swap shifts can help prevent callouts and promote collaboration. Additionally, it makes employees feel empowered, as they’ll have some control over when they work. 

It’s important to establish some ground rules for trading shifts. For instance, make it clear that employees must trade places with someone in the same role (e.g., shift lead). You may want to specify that trades be conducted in the same pay period and for shifts of similar or identical lengths. This way, you can avoid racking up overtime expenses. 

7. Prioritize staffing based on employees’ strengths and experience

You shouldn’t compose an entire shift of inexperienced team members. Likewise, it doesn’t make sense to put all of your strongest employees on the same shift. Try to strike a balance. Pair more experienced employees with newer workers. This way, the less experienced team members can lean on senior staff for support and guidance.

Look beyond time on the job. Consider what each person is good at and likes to do. If you can put someone in a role they enjoy, they’ll be more productive. They can also alleviate the burden on their coworkers. 

8. Have open lines of team communication

You must maintain transparent lines of communication with your staff. Establish a standardized means of communicating, like email, text, or a messaging app. You want everyone to know where to turn if they need to share information or get in contact with a supervisor.

Additionally, encourage your staff to provide constructive feedback. Sharing their insights can help make the retail business a better place to work. 

9. Try retail scheduling software to save time and money 

Automatic scheduling software takes the hassle out of planning each shift. The top solutions also include reporting tools to save time and money. Platforms like When I Work make it easy to ensure adequate staffing and maximize team morale. 

With When I Work, you can plan shifts weeks in advance. The platform also includes a secure messaging app, a time clock, and lots of other tools to make your life easier. 

Retail scheduling done right with When I Work 

When I Work is employee scheduling software that makes planning out your shifts quick and easy. Simply create an account, input employee data, and customize your digital template. Then, plug people into each slot. That’s it.

Once you build your base template, you can effortlessly apply preferences to future schedules. When I Work has tons of other tools to make work easier. From its built-in time clock to its team messaging app, When I Work gives you everything you need to be more efficient. It also includes full-service payroll software.

Ready to try When I Work? Sign up for a free trial today! 

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