Retail store management is difficult at the best of times, and the rise of predictive scheduling laws has only made it more complicated. Now, many states like California and Oregon require employers to give employees advance notice about their shifts. So, if last-minute changes are necessary due to unexpected lulls or closures, retail workers may still be entitled to a portion of their anticipated wages.
Large retail chains can absorb this extra expense, but it’s a different story for small businesses with tight profit margins. They have to get scheduling absolutely right to avoid overspending on labor.
That’s why small retail businesses need to use all the tools at their disposal and invest in robust scheduling software. This article compares the best ones based on their key features, pricing, and use cases to find an option that can manage staffing levels effectively.
Key features to look for in retail scheduling software
Before we get into our in-depth comparison, let’s consider which features a good staff scheduling app should have. That way, you can make a well-informed choice about which one’s best for your team.
- A range of tools to streamline scheduling: Writing timetables is probably one of the most time-consuming tasks on your to-do list. Good apps have auto-population capabilities and reusable templates to let you create instant, foolproof schedules. The best options also include self-scheduling tools so staff can arrange swaps or covers and claim open shifts with minimal managerial involvement.
- Labor and sales forecasting features: Predictive software analyzes historical labor and sales data to see when you can expect quiet and busy periods. That makes it easier to find the optimal number of employees for each shift and avoid either under or overstaffing.
- Leave and availability management: The best solutions spare you the task of collecting individual availability and time off by asking employees to make requests via the app. Some software also lets you blackout dates on the calendar for especially busy times of the year, like Boxing Day and Black Friday sales when you need your entire team available.
- Alert and reminder notifications: Staff shortages mean people end up with extra work on their plate, making it harder to deliver excellent customer service. So, good scheduling platforms should remind everyone about their upcoming shifts to prevent late arrivals and no shows. You can also opt to receive alerts about potential compliance issues like team members approaching overtime and missing breaks.
- A mobile app with the same capabilities as the desktop version: Modern retail managers are always on the go, whether they’re visiting suppliers or keeping track of inventory. So, they need apps that let them stay on top of administrative tasks no matter where they are.
- An interconnected suite of tools: Aside from scheduling, you likely need time tracking, accounting, and chat features to run your small business smoothly. You should also prioritize platforms that have hiring and onboarding tools to assist with hiring sprees for seasonal workers.
- A variety of integrations: Depending on the specifics of your retail business, you may require industry-specific software on top of a scheduling app. Owing to that, the best scheduling platforms let you integrate with other popular retail solutions so you can sync data across multiple systems seamlessly.
- A free plan and/or affordable paid plans: It’s not easy making it as a small business — and you certainly don’t want to break the bank on a scheduling app. So, be sure to choose an option that works with your current budget (even better if there’s a free version available) and has affordable paid plans you can grow into in the future.
Our top pick for retail scheduling software in 2023 (+ the rest compared)
When it comes to retail scheduling software, Homebase is the clear winner because of its versatile range of tools, affordable pricing, and compliance features. Our platform has a variety of scheduling functions that allow managers to create quick, reliable timetables at a moment’s notice. Most of these capabilities are available in the free or lower-cost plans, so they’re also budget-friendly. And unlike many competitors, Homebase provides compliance features and professional HR services to help business owners avoid violating state and federal predictive scheduling laws.
But Homebase might not be for everyone. For instance, you may prefer Connecteam if you run a larger retail store with complex staffing needs. Or you might like the sound of QuickBooks Time’s location tracker if you run a florist or gift shop that offers delivery services.
- Homebase: Best all-in-one solution
- Connecteam: Best for settings and filters
- Deputy: Best for task management
- Sling: Best for employee directories
- ZoomShift: Best for leave management
- QuickBooks Time: Best for mobile teams
- Humanity: Best for minor employees
Comparison chart: Top 7 retail scheduling software solutions in 2023
|Prices range from free to $99.95 per business location per month.
There’s a 20% discount for an annual commitment.
|Prices range from free to $99 per month.
There are also custom paid plans available.
|Prices range from $3.50 to $4.90 per user per month.
There are also custom pricing plans available.
|Prices range from free to $4 per user per month.
|Prices range from $2.50 to $5 per user per month.
There are also custom paid plans available.
|Prices range from $20 plus $8 per user per month to $40 plus $10 per user per month.
|Pricing isn’t readily available.
A breakdown of the 7 best retail scheduling software solutions
1. Homebase: Best all-in-one solution
Scheduling laws are complex, so you need a range of tools to stay compliant with them. Luckily, Homebase has got you covered. Our all-in-one solution has everything you need to plan ahead and stay up-to-date with changing regulations.
First, use Homebase’s forecasting tools to predict how many team members you’ll need working each day. You won’t need to worry about checking who’s available because the platform will automatically display your team’s preferred shifts. Then, put all that data to work by auto-populating employee timetables and creating an error-free schedule.
That way, you’ll be more likely to have the exact amount of staff you need each day and won’t end up paying for unnecessary hours.
But that’s not all. Homebase alerts you when employees are approaching overtime so you can adjust their pay rate accordingly or reassign their shifts. Our scheduling tool also lets you block out dates for especially busy periods so you don’t accidentally promise several people time off when you need your entire team available. And Homebase will make sure you’re up to date with any changes to local and federal laws that may affect your retail store.
- Auto-population tools to fill in schedules based on availability, roles, and labor demand
- Easily accessible template library
- Self-scheduling tools that allow staff to trade, request cover, and accept open shifts
- Shift notes to leave important updates, checklists, or friendly messages for employees
- Labor forecasting and analysis
- All-in-one solution with interconnected time tracking, payroll, and communication tools
- Hiring and onboarding management
- A variety of compliance features
- Access to expert HR guidance
- The option for early cash out
Pros and cons
One of Homebase’s biggest advantages is its versatile range of features, and they come at a lower cost than many competitors. In fact, our basic scheduling tools are included in our free plan.
However, it’s worth noting that Homebase focuses primarily on small businesses, so operations with 200+ employees or those with multiple global locations may find it doesn’t serve their needs.
There’s a choice of four Homebase plans:
- Basic, which is completely free for up to 20 users at one business location. This includes basic scheduling, time tracking, and employee management tools.
- Essentials at $24.95 per location per month. Everything in Basic, plus team communication, performance tracking, and advanced time tracking and scheduling.
- Plus at $59.95 per location per month. Everything in Essentials, plus hiring tools, retention and performance tracking, time off controls, and departments and permissions.
- All-in-one at $99.95 per location per month. Everything in Plus, plus HR and compliance, new hire onboarding, labor cost controls, and business insights.
Homebase customers can also save 20% when they commit to an annual plan.
2. Connecteam: Best for settings and filters
Certain factors make retail scheduling complicated. For instance, if you run multiple business locations, putting together a smooth timetable will require extra coordination. Or, if you offer a range of products and services, you have to consider each employee’s expertise when you allocate shifts.
If you’ve struggled with these kinds of scenarios, you may want to consider Connecteam. The platform’s advanced settings and filters let you add extra categories to shifts, like location and skills required.
- Granular settings that allow users to add sub-jobs to shifts
- A time clock that can record the time people spend on certain tasks
- Exportable timesheets
- Task management tools
Pros and cons
Connecteam offers a range of features that retail stores can benefit from besides scheduling. For instance, bookshops could use the event management tools to plan book signings, classes, and launches for popular new releases.
However, Connecteam requires a lot of updates to access all of its features and doesn’t include essential tools like payroll.
All of Connecteam’s scheduling features are included in its Operations hub, which has five plans:
- Small Business for up to ten users, which contains all of Connecteam’s features.
- Basic at $29 per month for the first 30 users and $0.60 for each user over that limit. Includes basic scheduling, self-scheduling, and task management tools.
- Advanced at $49 per month for the first 30 users and $1.80 for each user over that limit. Everything in Basic, plus the ability to repeat actions and use templates.
- Expert at $99 per month for the first 30 users and $3.60 for each user over that limit. Everything in Advanced, plus schedule limitations for employees and an extra layer of sub-jobs.
- Enterprise, which has custom pricing. Everything in Advanced, plus unlimited sub-jobs and a personal account manager.
3. Deputy: Best for task management
As well as scheduling hours, many retail businesses also assign tasks. That includes both one-off assignments like creating displays and daily responsibilities like opening the storefront and cleaning. That’s why it’s so useful that Deputy lets users delegate shifts as well as single and recurring tasks — to make sure businesses are always adequately staffed and everything gets done.
- Task management for single and recurring activities
- Labor forecasting features
- The possibility of adding on Deputy’s time tracking system
Pros and cons
Similar to Homebase, Deputy has predictive capabilities, so you can easily forecast labor demand and ensure you always have enough staff on shift. But the platform isn’t as versatile as some solutions — for example, you can only access payroll and recruitment tools via integrations.
Deputy has two plans for scheduling, and there’s also the option to add time tracking tools for an extra cost:
- Scheduling at $3.50 per user per month. Includes a range of schedule, leave, and availability management tools.
- Enterprise with custom pricing. Everything in Scheduling and Time & Attendance, plus forecasting and reporting tools.
4. Sling: Best for employee directories
It’s easy to lose track of employees when you’re managing multiple stores. You might accidentally assign a team member to the wrong business location or forget to put any supervisors on a shift. Sling helps you keep an overview of who’s on your payroll with its comprehensive employee directory. That means you can view and categorize employees based on their location, department, and position.
- Employee directory with individual staff profiles
- Shift management, so you can segment days into mornings, afternoons, and evenings
- Text alerts for team members without smartphones
Pros and cons
Like Homebase, Sling has a robust free plan with basic scheduling and time off management tools. But once you need to upgrade, its system of charging per employee means your costs may stack up.
Aside from the free plan, Sling offers two paid plans:
- Premium at $2 per user per month. Includes self-scheduling and reporting tools.
- Business at $4 per user per month. Everything in Premium, plus auto-scheduling and categorization tools.
5. ZoomShift: Best for leave management
Often, retail stores have different types of employees, including managers, veteran team members, and seasonal workers. So, it’s possible that your entire team will accrue paid time off (PTO) differently. ZoomShift lets you easily differentiate between pay rates, so it’s easier to keep track of everyone’s PTO. That means you’ll find it easier to account for vacation days, especially during popular times like summer and winter holidays.
- Leave management with the ability to classify staff by their PTO accrual rate
- Built-in communication, time, and attendance features
- Self-scheduling tools to let trade and cover shifts
Pros and cons
ZoomShift’s simple, intuitive design makes it ideal for busy managers. However, a major weak point is the platform’s limited range of features and integrations. In addition, it doesn’t have payroll or recruitment tools and connects with fewer apps than many competitors.
ZoomShift offers three paid plans:
- Starter at $2.50 per user per month. Includes scheduling, leave management, and reminder features.
- Premium at $5 per user per month. Everything in Starter, plus overtime and schedule conflict alerts.
- Enterprise with custom pricing. Everything in Premium, plus priority customer support.
6. QuickBooks Time: Best for mobile teams
Home delivery isn’t just for restaurants and big retail chains anymore. Nowadays, even small independent shops offer speedy delivery to customers in their local area. If that’s you, QuickBooks Time may be an interesting option. The platform lets you pinpoint employees on the map so you can see which members of your delivery team are closest to store locations and customers. That way, you can dispatch staff more efficiently throughout the workday.
- Location tracking to get an overview of which team members are working and where
- A project activity feed to help plan and track events like new product launches
- Reporting tools to compare budgeted labor costs against estimates
Pros and cons
QuickBooks Time connects with the rest of the Intuit suite of products, as well as an array of integrations. But it’s worth noting that these tools are add-ons, so the platform isn’t an all-one-in solution like Homebase. Plus, QuickBooks Time is already more expensive than many of the alternatives on this list, so it’s not the most budget-friendly option.
There are two QuickBooks Time plans:
- Premium at $20 per month plus $8 per user. Includes schedule, project, and leave management.
- Elite at $40 per month plus $10 per user. Everything in Premium, plus the project activity feed and reporting tools.
7. Humanity: Best for minor employees
Teenagers can make excellent additions to retail store teams. They’re eager to learn, and their school breaks often coincide with busy times of the year. But the complex laws that surround hiring minors may deter many managers from bringing them on board.
If you have a high number of student applicants and feel like you’re missing out on a lucrative source of labor, Humanity might be a good option for you. For instance, the compliance tools let you create rules for your schedules based on state guidelines, so you won’t give minors too many hours. Not only that, you can check shifts don’t clash with school opening times on Humanity’s calendar.
- Self-scheduling tools to let team members trade and request covers amongst themselves
- Labor demand forecasting based on sales or customer traffic
- Compliance tools to ensure schedules meet local and federal regulations
Pros and cons
Humanity customers say the platform is “simple” and “easy to use,” which is vital when you’re rushed off your feet with customers and can’t think straight. However, they also report “trouble saving” schedules to templates.
Humanity has custom pricing, so the rates aren’t advertised.
How retail scheduling apps can help you fill every shift
Sometimes, it may feel like you have to be psychic to run a successful retail business. You’ve got to predict everything from customer traffic to staffing needs to write effective schedules.
But at least nowadays, you have a crystal ball — retail scheduling apps like Homebase. Our platform can tell you how many employees you’ll need at a quick glance, as well as who’s available. Homebase can also warn you about issues like staff approaching overtime and changes in labor laws that may affect your store.
All this means you can spend less time stressing over schedules and more time concentrating on big-picture ventures like introducing new products or expanding your business. Then, you’ll see how all the hard work you’ve invested in your store pays off.
**The information above is based on our research on retail scheduling software. All user feedback referenced in the text has been sourced from independent software review platforms, such as G2 and Capterra, in April 2023.