Retail time tracking challenges and how to overcome them

Retail time tracking is just one of the things that a business owner needs to, well, keep track of. You’ve got shifts to manage, payroll to process, shelves to stock, and orders to fulfill. Not to mention, you know, keeping customers and workers happy.

So, what do all of these tasks have in common? They take time and resources to complete. And that’s where Homebase can help.

Read on to learn more about retail time tracking, the challenges faced by small business owners, the benefits of time clocks for retail businesses, and the must-have features you need in your time tracking tools. 

What is retail time tracking?

Retail time tracking is the process of monitoring and recording the time and tasks of your hourly employees in a retail setting. 

It’s done to make sure employees are working when they need to be, your team gets the time off they’ve earned, and that you’re staying compliant with labor laws.

Retail time tracking is completed with time tracking tools, like timesheets or time clocks, and supports the streamlining of administrative and managerial tasks, like payroll, attendance tracking, and even performance reviews

Common challenges with managing retail employees

There are any number of common challenges with managing retail employees that business owners can face. Here are four that you might be familiar with and are looking to overcome. 

1. Turnover

As a business owner, you’ve probably realized that your employees might not always be in it for the long run. Or sometimes, staff are only working for a set period of time, like tourist season or a couple months prior to the holidays.

Other times, employees just don’t work out. It might be due to scheduling conflicts or a desire to explore another industry. Or maybe someone just didn’t account for the demand of schoolwork plus working in a busy retail environment.

This turnover leads to more time spent on recruitment efforts like job descriptions, posting and reviewing resumes, and interviewing candidates, plus the onboarding and training that comes after. It takes a lot of time, and as we all know: time equals money.

2. Scheduling

When it comes to shift work and retail environments, scheduling can be chaotic. Especially if you don’t have the right tools to support you. 

Aside from the shifts themselves and the teams who are working from them, scheduling can be stressful due to managing employee availability, customer demand, and the seasonal changes that cause those demands to ebb and flow.

On top of that, it’s important to consider the preferences of your employees. Who wants to work when? Who needs time off? Who’s better with customers and should be on the busier shifts?

Scheduling is so much more than placing “Person A” on “Shift 1”. It requires organization, understanding, and the right tools to do it all efficiently. 

3. Communication

The art of communication can be increasingly difficult to perfect—especially when you’re on the store floor dealing with customers, while at the same time realizing that the two workers who were supposed to be with you seem to have taken an extra 15 minute break.

Not only does this impact your communication with your customer, it also drops morale and creates a divide between employees, and employees and their managers. Plus, if you have another location, like a pop-up, communication can be even more difficult.

But it doesn’t take conflict or crises to make communication a challenge. Managing schedules and time off, coordinating shift trades, and giving kudos are parts of managing—and communicating with—employees that can be tough. Especially without the support needed to do so. 

4. HR and compliance

Working in retail means working with labor laws and regulations. Because you’re employing shift workers, you’ll need to stay on-top of the time they’ve worked, if they’ve worked overtime, how much PTO they need, and how much they are supposed to be getting paid.

Without time tracking tools, this can be a major challenge, especially when regulations change without notice or shifts swap without being recorded.

The benefits of time clocks for retail businesses

An employee time clock tracks when your employees clock in and out of their shifts. It includes the start and end time of shifts, plus breaks.

As a retailer, you might already know that employee time clocks are very beneficial when running your business. Not only can they monitor hours worked, they can also make scheduling easier, support performance check-ins and reviews, and make the payroll process a whole lot simpler.

Read on to see what else employee time clocks have to offer. 

1. Scheduling support

Scheduling your workers, or at least trying to? You might need a time clock to help. Time clocks are ideal for organizing and planning the shifts of retail workers because they provide you with the data you need to create schedules that work for everyone.

This type of information can be broken down into the 5 W’s. Review it for past and future shifts to make sure employees aren’t over-or-under worked. 

  • Who is working? This identifies what employees will be staffing the shift, and who they’ll be working with. This level of transparency lets workers know who’s on and off, so shift changes can be made easier.
  • What shift? Will the employee be working on the floor, cash, or in the backroom organizing stock?
  • Where are they working? This is helpful for retail businesses with more than one location
  • When are they working? This outlines the time that the employee will be starting and ending their shift. 
  • Why are they working? We know what you’re thinking: to get the job done! But not so fast. When scheduling staff, the why is just as important as who and when. Is it extra busy during the lunch hour? Did you just receive a shipment of bestselling books and need an extra hand?

By assessing all of the above, you’ll be able to put your time clock to good use, tracking your employees as they work, and knowing when they’re not. 

2. Time tracking and communication

Time tracking might seem like an obvious perk of using a time clock, but there’s much more to them than knowing who started their shift and who didn’t. Especially when you pair that knowledge with communication.

By using an employee time clock, you can automatically see who is working and on break, who’s late, and who didn’t show up. With the proper time-clocking tools, you can also communicate with workers to give them a high five for hitting a record on-time streak, or a heads up that they’re late for a shift.

This type of communication is great for building trust and accountability, and lets your shopkeepers and workers know that when they do their job—and do it well—it gets noticed. And when they don’t? You have the tools to know, and to help them improve.

3. Performance tracking 

Remember how we talked about those high fives? Time clocking is a great way to see who’s showing up on time, leaving early, or taking over shifts for coworkers. 

If you’re tracking sales, you can pair those figures with your time clock data to see who’s performing, and identify areas for improvement. This data can help you determine what’s next for your business: better training, an incentive program for workers, or a buddy program where employees who need to excel in their customer service skills can shadow a sales star. 

Plus, all of this data is handy for review time. It lets you put numbers to performance and helps identify areas of improvement and where workers shine. Two areas that are of equal importance, and unfortunately often overlooked.

4. HR and compliance

Time clocks can be exactly the tool HR (aka you) needs to do their jobs effectively. They help to lighten the load of payroll—especially when the time clocks are digital, not paper.

Time clocks help reduce errors in reports and paychecks by adding accuracy to the process, which is helpful for the employee and the business. Nobody wants to be underpaid, and businesses don’t want to overpay, either.

When it comes to compliance, employee time clocks can keep track of overtime hours, time off requirements, and more, which helps you and your business stay on top of labor laws.

Four time tracking tools for retail 

Time tracking is a must-do for any retail environment. Here are three tools that can help you stay on top of your schedule and your business goals.


A timesheet lets you monitor how much time your employees are spending on their work. 

Some retailers use timesheets to record the details of when their employees are working, and on what. This type of breakdown can include tasks like time spent stocking shelves, managing online orders, or simply their time in-and-out of a shift.

Timesheets were originally tracked using tables on a sheet of paper, but they’ve since made their way to the 21st century.

These modern timesheets are like digital documents that have the real-time ability to automate the calculations necessary for invoices based on billable time. Simply put: your employees work. Digital timesheets do, too. They do the math and show you who gets paid what and when.

If you’re using a digital timesheet, it can save you hours on payroll every pay period. It helps you easily track employee work hours, then transfer the data to your preferred payroll integration. 

Online time clock app

An online time clock gives your workers a digital way to clock in and out of their shifts from anywhere—even their own smartphone. Your online time clock app connects with your online timesheet to calculate the hours your employees have worked in a pay period, then creates payroll reports and wages for each team member.

In a way, it’s like putting a time clock in the palm of your employees’ hands, their pockets, or their fanny packs—whatever kids are wearin’ these days.

With an online app for your time clock, employees can get automated messages to remind them of an upcoming shift or notify them that they forgot to clock in for the day. It’s a helpful way to track time, and also communicate.

A scheduling app

Automated schedules? Yes, they do exist. 

Scheduling software automates and optimizes the process of scheduling your retail employees. Schedules are stored on the internet, so they can be accessed by your team at any time and from any device.

Scheduling apps also give you flexibility by letting you update and edit shifts on-the-run. The software will even alert you to overtime, build schedules that are in line with your sales forecasts and labor targets, and post open shifts for employees to claim.

When you do your scheduling and time tracking in one app, you can easily keep your team on time and avoid no-shows with upcoming shift reminders and alerts when a new schedule or scheduling update has been posted.

A communication app

Sometimes, time tracking goes beyond the clock ins-and-outs, and requires a bit more dialogue. For that reason, a communication app that’s suited for employee use is good to have at your business.

When paired with your other time tracking tools, like schedules and time clocks, it can help employees see when and where they’re working, and communicate their time off needs with the manager or even their coworkers. When this happens, shifts can be traded in the app, and tracked there, too.

This keeps schedules organized and shifts filled, and makes life a little less chaotic for everyone. 

Three must-have time clock features for retail

Managing a retail business is different from other industries. This means you need a time clock that pairs with the needs of your staff, and the demands of your business. Here’s what to look for when picking a time clock for your shop. 

It’s mobile

What’s better than a time clock? A time clock that can go wherever your employees go. Having a mobile time clock gives your workers the flexibility to check-in with their schedules no matter where they are: at their family cottage, at school, or even on the bus to work as they wonder if their start was 10 or 10:30.

Mobility also gives you, the schedule maker, the flexibility to make or update your schedule anywhere, anytime. You can also check in wherever you are, too, so if it’s you who’s at the family cottage, you can sip your coffee in peace, knowing that your team did indeed show up for their Saturday morning shift. 

It’s streamlined and easily integrated

Look for a time clock that makes work easy. Time clocks should simplify time tracking for both you and your employees, and make the payroll process efficient and accurate. No calculators required.

Look for a tool that can automatically convert hours and minutes worked, breaks, and wages into your payroll, so you don’t have to pour over schedules, timesheets, and time-off notices to get your workers paid. 

It supports open communication

Time tracking tools that support open communication make for a more transparent and healthy working environment. They allow for employees to communicate with each other and facilitate easy and coordinated shift swaps and covers, which is ideal for a retail environment.

And remember: communication is a two-way street. You’ll want a tool that can help you openly communicate with your team, letting them know about schedule updates, policies, or giving them a friendly nudge to clock in when they get in from their break.

They’ll appreciate it—and so will you when it’s time to do payroll.

Boost your retail timing tracking processes with Homebase 

Retail time tracking doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, there’s a way to have a one-stop-shop for all of your scheduling, tracking, and time clock needs: Homebase.

Homebase is designed for hourly workers, like those in the retail industry, so you can rest easy, or you know, get back to the work that you actually love doing—likely not timesheets.

Enter Homebase’s free time clock app. It lets you track hours, breaks, and overtime all from your smartphone, computer, or POS systems. Each week, you’ll get automated and accurate timesheets that you don’t need to pour over, or worry about spilling your coffee on. 

Homebase’s labor loss controls help you stay on top of overtime, buddy punching, and forgotten clock-outs. And because you like to stay organized, Homebase gives you the option to import your sales data to track labor to sales, then set targets for your team. 

When it comes to communicating those targets and everything else, your shop employees are set up with tools that will streamline chats, congrats, and covers. Use Homebase’s communication tools to create groups for quick requests, like when you need everyone in or need to find a cover for your cashier.

It’s also great for sharing a job-well-done with the team, and tracking it for performance time.

Retail time tracking FAQ

What are employee time tracking tools?

Employee time tracking tools help employers monitor the working hours of their team and the tasks they’re accomplishing. They ease the administrative burden and boost accuracy and efficiency by automatically recording time worked, making processes like payroll and scheduling easier. 

How do employee time tracking tools work?

Employee time tracking tools work by providing a way for employees to record and manage their hours. Utilizing timesheets and managing clock ins and outs are one way that employee time tracking tools can work, and when modernized, they can even be paired with payroll and scheduling apps to streamline processes.

What are the benefits of retail time tracking for businesses?

Retail time tracking helps businesses overcome common challenges that come with scheduling, communication, compliance and labor laws, and payroll.

It optimizes how each of these are done, and provides a streamlined approach that boosts accuracy and efficiency for managers, while also promoting transparency for workers.

What time clock features for retail are most important?

The time clock features that are most important include mobility; the ability to integrate payroll and other apps and tools; and a feature that supports open communication with employees and their managers. Search for a tool that fits the needs of your business and the type of workers you employ.

Is your business struggling with retail time tracking? Homebase helps you track time, stay organized, and manage labor costs, all in one easy app. Get started for free.

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