The best retail schedule approach for your business

Having a well-planned retail schedule is one of the biggest challenges of any retail business. It’s no easy feat to find just the right balance of employees on the floor each shift. You’re likely managing a mix of full-time and part-time employees with different strengths and experience levels, and watching your bottom line carefully while trying to keep the customer experience consistently high. Understaffing means your customers won’t get enough attention and service, while overstaffing causes you to spend too much on labor costs

 This is why an effective retail schedule is so critical to your store’s success.

 When you start to tackle retail employee scheduling, there are certain things to consider that will make all the difference to your business. How do you know how many retail employees to schedule at certain times? Are you going to use a manual scheduling system, or a digital one? If you go with digital, what’s the best retail scheduling software for your team and your budget? Here’s everything you need to consider.


What is a retail schedule?

 A retail schedule is a weekly schedule—sometimes called a rota—that assigns shifts to all the employees of a brick-and-mortar retail store. A store manager will typically make the retail schedule at small stores, while a senior supervisor will make it at larger stores.

The best way to make a retail schedule: 10 things to consider

 To keep your retail business running smoothly—and keep it as profitable as possible—effective scheduling is absolutely essential. What do the most successful retail business owners have in common? They’re probably keeping these ten things in mind. 

1. Pre-plan for those peak scheduling periods

 Take a look at when your retail business is busiest, and plan carefully for when you’ll need more hands on deck. Look at peak sales periods from previous years, and think about when future sales are coming. Plan your seasonal employees for these peak periods.

 You can even integrate a manager log system to your POS system to better match your staffing hours to busy hours. The system automatically integrates with your point-of-sale system to track your highest selling periods, and lets you input notes about what happened during a shift. When you put a human perspective on the numbers, you’re less likely to waste money on idle workers, workers are less likely to become overwhelmed during a rush, and customer service will stay high.

2. Create a budget for labor and stick to it

 When you’re a retail business owner, your profits can drop dramatically with even small cost increases. One of the biggest reasons for inflated costs? Labor.

 While still making sure your employees and customers are well taken care of, smarter scheduling keeps labor costs in check to protect your bottom line.

 Good scheduling software lets you see with much greater clarity where you’re overspending on labor costs. Scheduling software like Homebase helps you eliminate rounding problems, avoid overtime as much as possible, and be aware of skipped breaks that are adding extra hours or half-hours. With a better picture of what’s going on during shifts, you can stick to your labor budget much more easily.

3. Use a schedule template 

 Once you’ve done all your legwork and planning, use your findings as the basis of a repeatable schedule template. This will save you hours of work each week.

 A timesheet template is a document with a predefined page layout that allows businesses to record employee working hours, breaks, and time off more easily. As a retail business with hourly employees, you’ll find that digital timesheet templates are especially useful. With a digital timesheet template to accurately keep track of hours worked, you can be sure that breaks and overtimes are compliant with city, state, and federal labor laws.

 Once your timesheet template is ready to go, you or your managers just need to assign names to predetermined shifts. With a digital timesheet, there’s no more uncertainty about how much employees should get paid, how many hours they worked, or whether or not they accrued any overtime.

4. Your best workers are your best scheduling assets

 Every shift, make it a priority to always have one of your top-performing employees on the floor, so that no matter when customers come through the door, they’re being served by one of your top people. The easiest strategy? Schedule your team members in the following order:

  • Managers
  • Senior full-time employees
  • Newer full-time employees
  • Senior part-time employees
  • Newer part-time employees

 This lets you put the right mix of people together, always ensuring that you have someone who can lead effectively and make a good impression.

5. Make your retail employee schedule easy to read and access 

 No matter how well planned your schedule is, it’s ineffective if it’s not easy to understand and can’t be easily accessed by your team. Make sure that your employee schedule isn’t confusing to read. You should be able to figure out the day, the hours, and who’s working in just a few seconds. Your team also needs to be able to check it anytime they need to without a hassle.

Rather than relying on manual spreadsheets and posting a physical schedule in your back room, consider an online scheduling app

A good retail scheduling app like Homebase sends the latest shift schedule straight to your employees’ smartphones. When schedules are mobile and visible for all to see, there’s no more need for last-minute calls or texts to see who’s scheduled, and less chance of no-shows happening.

6. Give plenty of notice to your employees

Be sure that your schedule is going out at least two weeks in advance, if not more. Your employees feel happier when they know when they’re working, since it’s easier for them to plan their downtime and properly recharge, along with planning childcare, school, or second jobs.

Last-minute schedules won’t help your business either. When a business decides to practice just in time scheduling and on-call scheduling to save on labor costs, it often ends up losing money because of high turnover rates and reputation damage.

In some states, the shift work laws now include a predictive scheduling law to end these kinds of practices. This makes it mandatory that part-time workers, shift workers, and hourly workers know their schedules (and their pay) in advance.

And of course, sharing your schedule in advance makes it more likely you can avoid problems. The earlier you publish it, the more time you’ll have to find solutions and make changes.

7. Allow your retail employees to swap shifts

When an employee can’t make it to their scheduled shift and needs someone to cover them, it’s a good idea to let them arrange a shift swap with one of their coworkers. Why? Employees like having the flexibility and feeling your sense of trust in them—freedom, autonomy, and flexibility are good for employee morale, productivity, and staff retention. Letting your employees deal with shift trading on their own builds a culture of trust and teamwork, and it’s one less thing to handle on your own. 

While shift swapping has a lot of benefits for your business, it can become a headache without proper planning or management. Shift planning software is a smart way to keep shift swapping from getting messy. Homebase makes shift trading simple and quick with real-time notifications and easy manager approval. Employees can even communicate with the rest of the team in the Homebase app to better plan a shift trade and make the process as smooth as possible. 

8. Have a clear line of communication

Effective scheduling just doesn’t happen without strong communication. If your team members need to talk about their schedule or get a shift swap approved, who do they go to? How do they submit a time-off request? Have a clear, well-understood process for answering these scheduling questions and others that will come up. 

Between retail workers especially, communication among your team members is also crucial, since retail jobs so often have employees who don’t know one another very well, but who depend on each other to get the job done.

Some businesses have a team chat for asking questions on an app like Whatsapp, but that can quickly lead to important information getting buried in a stream of messages. A dedicated team communication tool leads to far fewer problems. It lets you send out all-team or individual messages when issues arise, answer employee questions, and send everyone regular updates to keep them in the loop at all times. 

9. Have a routine for making your retail schedule

When it comes to posting a new retail schedule, consistency is key. If you posted the new schedule on a certain date and at a certain time last week, repeat the very same posting time this week.

Work backwards from there to set deadlines for yourself, giving yourself enough time to create the schedule. It’s also important to make sure your team members know when your scheduling days are, and to communicate what your cutoff time is for accepting people’s shift preferences and vacation requests.

This consistency helps your employees know what to expect, which builds their sense of stability. You’re not just boosting morale by doing this—stable employee scheduling in retail is proven to build productivity and profits. Researchers in a Harvard Business Review study discovered that sales in stores with more stable scheduling increased by 7 percent, and labor productivity increased by 5 percent.

10. Use technology to make your retail employee scheduling easier

Ever relied on Microsoft Excel spreadsheets or other scheduling ideas to create your employee timetable? Then you’ll know how time-consuming and error-prone manual spreadsheets are. Not to mention, making quick changes is nearly impossible.

But with time-saving technology like a robust employee scheduling tool, you’ll stay up-to-date—and accurate—much more easily.

A top retail scheduling app will offer you a wide range of tools that simplify and streamline the scheduling process. When you add scheduling technology to your business, it’s quicker and easier to accommodate schedule changes, adjust for busy periods, keep track of who’s gotten their preferred shifts lately to make sure everyone’s getting a fair treatment—not to mention connect to your payroll service. You can even send out automated push notifications to your employees whenever you make changes. This lets you stop wondering whether your changes have been seen.

With a good employee scheduling tool, you can quickly make the best retail schedule possible, leaving yourself much more valuable time to put into other parts of your business.

What to look for in your retail scheduling software 

To get the most out of your retail scheduling software choice, make sure your scheduling tool includes the following important features:

  • Robust scheduling capabilities. When your scheduling tool lets you shift around employees every week with ease—using customizable, pre-existing templates to save time—it makes the scheduling process way more efficient. Your scheduling tool should help you reduce overtime costs, plus let employees trade shifts and request time off.
  • Payroll integration. Look for scheduling software that creates employee timesheets and automatically integrates them with your payroll software, streamlining your operations.
  • Time tracking. The best scheduling tools are also employee time clocks. They make it easy to accurately track your employees’ hours and record them in digital timesheets, so it’s easy to stay compliant with labor laws.
  • Overtime notifications. Your software should also give you clear oversight as to which workers are working approved overtime, notifying you when a given employee hits overtime.
  • Shift-specific information. To easily give your employees all the information they need to do their jobs, make sure you can add shift-specific checklists, notes and documents right into the schedule. 
  • In-app communication tool. Within your retail scheduling software, your employees should be able to easily communicate with their managers and each other about shift-related matters and scheduling conflicts. A solution with in-app communication keeps these discussions searchable and all in the same place.
  • Geofencing. A geofencing feature in your retail scheduling software can save you time and money, making sure your employees can only clock in and out when they’re physically in the right location at the right time. This helps you prevent time theft and makes pay calculations even more accurate.
  • Notifications. When a schedule-related matter comes up, you or your managers should be able to automatically notify relevant team members with a real-time notification. Your scheduling tool should be able to send out alerts through in-app notifications, text notifications, or email notifications.
  • Ease of use. Of course, your scheduling software should be intuitive for your employees to set up and use. Look for one easy app that builds, shares, and optimizes schedules to keep your team on track.
  • Affordability. Lastly, your retail scheduling software shouldn’t break the bank, and should meet your needs while staying budget friendly. Or better yet, free!

How Homebase makes retail scheduling easier

The best employee scheduling software for your retail business, that delivers on all these features and more? Enter Homebase.

If you’re looking for an easier way to manage retail scheduling that’s time-saving, cost-effective, and doesn’t create more shift conflicts, we’ve got your back.

Our employee scheduling software lets you create weekly schedule templates automatically. You can input your team’s availability and preferences, and automate your schedules. It’s easy to make last-minute changes when someone calls in sick, and you can stay on top of overtime with our labor loss controls.

With Homebase you can keep your team members happier. Avoid shift conflicts by basing your schedule on their roles, availability, and preferences. The up-to-date schedule is in everyone’s pockets in our free mobile app for iOS and Android. Plus, you can adjust it on the fly, anytime, from anywhere.

As for keeping your team in sync? It’s easy with our in-app team communication tool. Homebase has a built-in messenger that lets you message individuals or the whole team to send instructions, share updates, check in with employees, and more.

Once you start scheduling strategically, watch how your schedule works for you—not against you.

Make scheduling, time tracking, and staying on top of employee schedule requests easier with Homebase. Get started today.

Retail scheduling FAQS 

What is a retail schedule?

A retail scheduling is a weekly schedule, sometimes called a rota. It assigns shifts to all the employees of a brick-and-mortar retail store. A store manager typically makes the retail schedule at small stores. At larger stores, a senior supervisor can take on this task.

How is scheduling retail employees different from other businesses?

Scheduling retail employees is often different than in other businesses, since a retail business will often rely on shift work, hourly workers, and seasonal changes. Good retail scheduling carefully manages employee availability and preferences, while adjusting to the ebb and flow of customer demand. 

How do I know how many retail employees to schedule?

When deciding how many retail employees to schedule, create a schedule that provides maximum coverage on the floor when it’s really needed. Keep track of sales data over a period of time to understand your business’s patterns. Then, schedule more employees during high-traffic times, and fewer employees when the traffic is low. In every shift, make sure you’re putting one of your highest-performing employees on the store floor. That way the customer experience stays consistently high.

How do I make retail scheduling easier?

You can make retail scheduling easier with the right retail scheduling tool, combined with an all-team communication tool. Retail employee scheduling software helps you create a balanced schedule that’s aligned with your business needs. At the same time, you can accommodate your employees’ needs as much as possible. An in-app communication tool streamlines team communication, making sure all your team members are in sync and seeing any updates or changes in real time.

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