Store Operations Leaders from apparel, fashion, and consumer electronics retailers joined us for our third virtual coffee hour earlier this week.  During this month’s session, the conversation centered on  

  • Stores making the most out of reduced staff and traffic  
  • Continuing personalized phone or chat customer interactions 
  • Utilizing technology to communicate with store leaders and share best practices  
  • Steps the retailers are taking to keep customers and employees safe 

With reduced staff and traffic, stores are making the most out of the cards they are dealt 

90-95% of the stores within each retailer’s fleet were now open, albeit at reduced staffing levels due to local regulations as well as reductions in mall hours. The expectation is that staffing levels will increase strategically as the year goes on with regulations relaxing and mall hours extending. Major ramp ups in staffing are not expected until Q4 

As can be imagined, traffic is down but there have been some surprises (one retailer reported that a limited set of traditional low traffic stores were seeing large increases in traffic versus comp, mainly due to unofficial reseller purchases) With less shoppersassociates have been able to provide guests with more one-on-one attention. Overall, these more personalized interactions are helping some stores drive higher conversion rates and basket size, which has blunted the negative impacts of lower traffic.   

Stores have also adapted to reduced traffic by performing more merchandizing activities during business hours. This is an essential labor cost efficiency. Interestingly, instead of being turned off by operational activity, shoppers appear to enjoy seeing busy associates and sometimes take advantage of the opportunity to see that latest items that are coming on to the sales floor 

Popular services from store closures continue to be an avenue for stores to create VIP experiences for shoppers 

During the store closure period, many of the retailers utilized phone, chat, and FaceTime or WhatsApp to help shoppers purchase products from their stores. With nervousness around returning to stores, not to mention the convenience factor, shoppers are still enjoying these services. For many customers, it feels like they are getting VIP serviceThe services have helped stores increase customer loyalty and basket size.  

Technology has helped store and field leaders stay connected and share best practices 

The leaders on the call are also utilizing technology to stay connected with their store leaders and are driving change within their organizations. With plane travel completely off the table, the leaders are using tools like Teams and Google Hangouts to conduct virtual store visits or quick checks to ensure each store is being compliant on safety protocols. In addition to the visits, the leaders are using webinars and chat to share best practices amongst their store leaders. The results have been encouraging, helping to spread the adoption of these practices where in the past there had been a good deal of resistance, especially from senior managementThe leaders on the call all expect that this will be how field leadership will operate going forward, COVID or no COVID. 

Keeping associates and customers safe  

Listening to employee concerns, the retailers on the call were proactive in implementing safety measures, such as masks and gloves, as part of their re-opening plans. All of the leaders on the call were requiring masks for employees and shoppers, even providing disposable masks to shoppers as they enter the store. Associates have appreciated the measures, and many have realized that they could still do their job comfortably in a mask.  

In addition to requiring masks, many markets outside the US are requiring temperature checks before shoppers can enter a store. In some Asian markets, shoppers need to scan a QR code to help with social tracing efforts.  

Store leaders rising to the challenge 

With necessity being the mother of all inventions, store leaders are certainly rising to the challenge of running brick-and-mortar fleets in an extremely fractured retail landscapeThe results are creating safer shopping environments, better connected teams, and the opportunity to create more personalized interactions than ever before.  

Over the past months we have hosted several networking sessions and webinars for retailers to think through how to prepare for the new retail environment. You can watch the recordings and read the recap blogs from each of these sessions on our Retailer Perspective page.