Scheduling shifts for your retail business should be simple, but in reality, it can quickly turn into a logistical nightmare.
Using a spreadsheet or online calendar can get messy, and can rapidly lead to poor communication, staffing shortages or errors, calendar clashes, updates that staff don’t see until it’s too late, and disorganized shifts. This can lead to unhappy employees, frustrated managers, and unexpected overtime costs.
That’s why retail scheduling software is a must-have for your business.
Dedicated digital platforms like Homebase are an all-in-one solution. They enable you to allocate shifts, plan your week using templates, give employees their schedule ahead of time, communicate updates, resolve clashes, limit overtime, and enable staff to manage changes or time off without fuss.
No more disorganization — just happier employees who feel respected and empowered, an environment with better morale and productivity, a well-managed store, streamlined shifts, cost savings, and a calendar that works.
But which scheduling software is right for you? With so many to choose from, it can be easy to feel that picking the perfect platform is just another thing on your to-do list.
That’s why we’ve cut to the chase to:
✔ Explain exactly what retail scheduling software is and why it’s so necessary
✔ Compare our top five retail employee scheduling platforms to help you decide
✔ Look at how poor employee scheduling can hurt your business
✔ List our recommended best practices to go from scheduling struggle to success
Let’s get started.
What is retail scheduling software?
Retail scheduling software refers to digital solutions that enable managers to coordinate schedules for retail staff. Good platforms keep things organized across the entire team and make shift allocation easier and faster.
It can be an effective solution to traditional alternatives such as paper, email, shared calendars, or spreadsheets, which can be easily misread, lost, or damaged. These are also far more difficult to update, share, or coordinate in the event of last-minute changes or updates causing no end of confusion.
Features to look for when choosing your retail scheduling software
The best retail scheduling software platforms enable you to:
- Publish a schedule and notify your team instantly by text, email, or app alert
- Keep the schedule updated everywhere via an on the go on a smartphone app
- Send alerts for changes and confirm staff have seen updates, and avoid overtime
- Use templates to save hours each week on regular scheduling
- Track staff availability, time off, and vacation days to avoid conflicts
- Build your ideal schedule based on sales targets
- See how much staff wages are costing you as shifts are completed
- Post open shifts and enable staff to claim them via the same app
- Comply with labor laws and legal scheduling requirements
For all-in-one apps like Homebase, staff scheduling is only the start.
Other key tools include time clocks, payroll, internal staff communication, staff hiring, and onboarding to improve efficiency while saving time and costs.
It also enables managers to check in regularly and employees to give feedback after each shift. Homebase also handles staff perks and rewards to build trust and productivity.
The 5 best retail employee scheduling software platforms for 2023
Caption: Homebase is specially designed for teams that are paid by the hour.
Homebase is a dedicated management platform specially designed for small businesses with hourly workers. Far more than a simple scheduling app, it also handles payroll, hiring and onboarding, HR, and timesheets, facilitates great team communication, and practices to boost and maintain employee happiness. Homebase helps make your retail business an efficient and happy place to work.
Best for: Small businesses with hourly staff.
- An all-in-one solution.
- Tools for scheduling, payroll, time clock, hiring and onboarding, team communication, HR and compliance, and employee happiness.
- Integration with POS systems, jobs boards, and payroll services.
- Available as a mobile app on the go (iOS and Android).
- Not all features are available on the free plan.
- Starts at a free plan for 1 location and unlimited employees.
- Ranges from $20 to $80 per month per location, depending on the package and the number of features included.
Caption: ConnectTeam offers three ‘hubs’ for different areas of your business.
ConnectTeam is an employee management app that helps to simplify team communication and improve professional skills. It has three “hubs” specialized for different sections of your company, from Operations to Communications to HR.
Best for: Companies whose teams are “deskless,” digital, and remote.
- A mobile app solution that enables scheduling via a visual calendar.
- Sends notifications and reminders to staff, and offers an in-app chat function.
- Manages clock ins and outs, as well as document management.
- Enables weekly goal setting, rewards for a job well done, and company-wide announcements.
- The free plan only allows ten users and limited features.
- The three “hubs” are priced separately, which may be confusing if you’re looking for a genuine all-in-one solution.
- Starts with a free plan.
- Rises to $29 per month for Basic, $49 for Advanced, and $99 for Expert.
- Each paid plan covers 30 users and charges extra for each additional user.
Caption: ZoomShift has a simple style and focus and is designed for hourly scheduling.
ZoomShift is designed primarily to make scheduling hourly employees easier. With a simple focus, it’s intuitive and fast to use and offers many of the major features a scheduling app should include. With a visual dashboard and remote access, it could be a helpful solution for both managers and employees.
Best for: Businesses that need to focus on simple scheduling, time tracking, and labor costs.
- Offers work scheduling and time off tracking
- Manages vacation time within the same app
- Enables shift swaps.
- Its Starter plan includes.
- Offers a 14-day free trial but no free plan.
- Has fewer features than some similar competitors.
- Prices per employee per month rather than solely by features, so it may add up for larger teams.
- Offers a free 14-day trial.
- Paid plans start at $2 per employee per month for Starter, and $4 per employee per month for Premium.
- Offers a Custom Enterprise deal for companies with 100+ staff.
Caption: Humanity is a particularly good solution for larger businesses, with a comprehensive dashboard.
Humanity offers employee scheduling software suitable for a range of industries, including healthcare, hospitality, and yes — retail. One of its main functions is offering data-driven forecasting to offer automated scheduling for easier planning and predictable staff scheduling.
Best for: Bigger businesses with a large number of employees that will benefit from automation and require watertight legal compliance right from the start.
- Integrates with HR management platforms such as Oracle Human Capital Management and BambooHR.
- Uses data and templates to help schedule automatically. Includes an employee app.
- Very wide focus, less specific or tailored to retail businesses with hourly-paid staff.
- Offers a free trial.
- Plans range from Starter to Classic to Enterprise.
- Pricing is available on request.
Caption: Sling has two goals: To save time and money.
Sling is a scheduling and employee communication platform that seeks to help companies save hours and reduce labor costs. It aims to make scheduling easy and quick, and enables managers to send group or individual messages to staff from within the same platform.
Best for: Sling has particular experience with large hospitality and food businesses.
- Offers visual templates for fast scheduling and easy internal communication via the app-style messaging feature.
- Also includes time tracking, payroll processing, overtime tracking, syncing for sick days, and customizable labor reporting.
- Simple to use for both managers and staff.
- Designed for use by big and small businesses, rather than specializing in the challenges and unique situations faced by small businesses specifically.
- Offers a free trial.
- Starts at a free plan with key features, unlimited locations, and employees.
- Premium starts at $1.70 per month per user.
- Business starts at $3.40 per month per user for all features.
How poor retail staff scheduling can hurt your business
As your business grows, using retail scheduling software can help avoid issues caused by more traditional methods, such as print-outs and spreadsheets.
Using print-outs or Excel spreadsheets every week to manage your retail staff scheduling opens your business up to major disorganization.
Paper is time-consuming to manage, can get damaged, thrown out, or simply misplaced, and just like spreadsheets, they’re not easy to share or check who’s seen them.
This means staff may struggle to check their schedule, keep their time organized, and risk not seeing updates until it’s too late.
Store staffing stress
At its simplest, staff scheduling is about making sure your employees are where they need to be when you need them.
Disorganized scheduling makes this more difficult, and you run the risk of having hours without enough staff or afternoons with more staff members than you need or can afford. This can be disruptive and costly, and has the potential to make customers unhappy when there’s no one there to help.
A lack of staff could hugely affect your success; a 2022 Zendesk report found that around 61% of customers would switch to a new brand after just one bad customer service experience.
Poor scheduling can also lead to chronically unhappy staff who subsequently have to manage inconsistencies with their work schedule.
Last-minute changes, a lack of communication about updates, scheduling conflicts, and the inability to trade shifts or request time off means that your workers will never know when they’re needed, can’t plan in advance, and feel as though their time is not respected.
In fact, a Homebase study of more than 100 employees found that when businesses published their schedule with only one to three days’ notice, staff turnover averaged 42%, but when businesses published their schedule with eight days’ notice or more, this dropped only 26%.
Unhappy staff are less engaged, which can lead to more no-shows, poor productivity, and high churn (meaning less experienced staff, more money spent on hiring, and more time spent on training).
Dealing with disorganized stores, staffing stress, and unhappy staff will also negatively impact retail managers.
This causes dissatisfaction among the entire team, as well as a lack of productivity and engagement that filters down to your entire retail staff. Just like unhappy staff, frustrated managers are also more likely to leave more quickly.
Failure to keep track of staff scheduling because of poor organization and systems means staff may easily end up working too many hours (even as some don’t pick up enough hours). This may lead you to pay unexpected overtime costs, which could put your business profit at risk.
Poor scheduling practices also risk accidentally breaching labor laws when it comes to misclassifying workers, failing to track work hours or keep proper payment records, or rules about time off and breaks versus time worked.
Breaching labor laws not only puts retail business owners at risk of legal ramifications that could shut down their entire company, but scheduling workers or failure to pay in breach of labor laws could also lead to staff burnout, sickness, and high churn.
Retail scheduling best practices
Let’s take a look at some best practices for setting your retail scheduling up for success.
Best practices include:
- Making sure you understand labor laws in your area
- Scheduling in advance to avoid clashes or conflicts
- Reducing overtime
- Making your scheduling system available on the go
- Fostering open team communication
- Accommodating staff requests
A dedicated staff scheduling app like Homebase can make these practices far easier to manage and apply, without extra manual admin or stress. Here’s how.
Understand labor laws in your area
Retail businesses have a responsibility to understand and comply with all of the labor laws for the states in which they operate. You can check your state’s laws on our labor laws pages.
Rules include paying the minimum wage, the amount legally required for overtime pay, hours, the required length of paid meal and rest breaks, child labor rules, and regulations on final paychecks, leave, hiring, and record keeping. These rules can then be applied to your weekly or monthly scheduling.
Schedule in advance
Scheduling in advance is the best way to avoid staff getting bogged down in timetable clashes or managers facing a lack of employee availability. It means that everyone knows what they’re doing, and staff are less likely to need to reschedule. Managers can plan their scheduling process according to budget goals, and staff feel their time is more respected.
Advanced planning means happier workers, better customer service, and higher productivity.
Save costs and reduce staff burnout too. Tools like Homebase help you keep track of budgets and costs as you schedule staff and send alerts to avoid costly overtime. Overtime can incur extra costs for your business because it’s typically paid at around 1.5 times the normal wage.
While it’s important to pay staff properly if they put in extra hours, this should not be a regular occurrence. Too much overtime will be expensive for your company and also risks causing staff to burn out and grow tired, sick, or resentful.
Make your scheduling software available on the go
It’s far easier to make sure staff are alerted to shifts and changes in real-time if they have access to scheduling on the go via a mobile app.
The best scheduling platforms offer an app that has all functions accessible remotely. That means managers can coordinate timings even if they’re not on-site and staff know what’s happening as soon as possible (no more relying on a paper schedule on a noticeboard!)
Foster open communication in your team
Good staff scheduling isn’t just about giving employees shifts and moving on. It’s also about empowering staff to take control of their schedules, and giving them the power to change shifts with coworkers, request time off, and keep them informed of any changes.
This is part of building a constructive, transparent culture where employees feel happy and informed at work (in fact, a 2021 McKinsey study found that good communication made staff five times more likely to report increased productivity).
This boosts customer service and efficiency and reduces manager workload, as staff share schedules with each other directly and manage shifts among themselves.
Accommodate requests as best as possible
The best retail staff scheduling makes time off as stress-free as possible. You want to be able to grant staff vacation and sick days where possible without forgetting the dates and running into scheduling issues.
Using a tool that keeps everything in one place will sync days off with timetabling, so there’s no risk of accidentally scheduling someone who isn’t available or causing conflict with staff who have already planned time away.
The best retail scheduling tools: Happier staff, happier store
Retail scheduling tools may sound as if they’re about herding staff into the right place and nothing more.
But actually, the most successful retail software solutions go much further than simple timetabling and offer scheduling features that promote streamlined processes and respect employees’ time and happiness.
The best retail scheduling tools enable you to keep employees in the loop, sync updates, reduce costs, avoid overtime, and preserve legal compliance to minimize situations and make your retail business a positive and well-organized place to work for everyone involved.
We designed Homebase to be an all-in-one tool that especially supports small businesses with hourly employees, whose managers understand how important it is to respect staff and apply best practices to scheduling.
Digital retail scheduling tools can help foster a happier and more successful store, which means happier staff and happier managers. (No herding cats required. Regular cats are optional).
Retail scheduling software FAQs
What software do retailers use for scheduling?
One of the most popular retail employee scheduling platforms is Homebase, which is an all-in-one software with all the major features you could need for your business. It’s also specially designed for companies that manage hourly staff. Other options include Connecteam, ZoomShift, Humanity, and Sling.
How much does a retail scheduling system cost?
A retail scheduling system can vary considerably in cost, but many offer free trials or free tier plans for basic features and/or a select number of locations and employees.
Some, like Homebase, enable you to get started for free, with plans that are priced to grow with your business and calculated depending on the number of staff and site locations.
How do you schedule a retail store?
It is best to schedule retail store staff hours using dedicated digital retail scheduling software.
All-in-one scheduling solutions such as Homebase enable you to understand and comply with labor laws in your area, schedule in advance for better productivity and availability, reduce costly and exhausting overtime, and make your scheduling software available on the go.
They can also foster open communication and sync time off for happier employees and managers, a more productive workforce, and sustainable retail success.