Retail & Distribution
18 December 2015
Area Managers must ensure compliance in all areas. They must drive sales and profitability through the performance and development of their store managers, whilst working within an agreed budgets. To achieve this, Area Manager’s must conduct store visits.
Any retail ops practitioner will confirm that spending one-on-one time with store managers and staff is the only way to maximise in store execution. The main challenge for an Area Manager is the division of time between stores, because each store requires different level of support.
Typically an Area Manager visits 4 to 6 stores per week and spends a considerable amount of time on the road. Their schedule is incredibly busy so it’s easy to understand why ensuring high standards is difficult. So with that in mind.
Here Are Our Top Tips For Successful Area Manager Store Visits:
As Benjamin Franklin said: “By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail”.
The following should be considered prior to arrival:
- What are the key objectives of the store visit?
- How much time do you have in store?
- What previous tasks were assigned and which of these have been completed?
- What was the outcome/score of the previous store visit?
- Who is going to be on duty?
- What metrics and relevant store data needs to be reviewed prior to arrival? Think footfall, revenue, average order value and so forth.
- What VM campaigns are currently active?
- What are store’s financial targets? Know your numbers!
2. Structured And Methodical
Store visits need to be conducted to the same standard across all stores by each Area Manager. For this reason, most retailers will have store visit review templates with predefined checklists and standardised scoring.
Retailers may have a number of different templates:
- A comprehensive “full-day” store review template, conducted every quarter or bi-annually.
- A standard store review template that covers the key points but is less time-consuming. This might be a half-day visit so that the rest of the day can be focused on team development.
- Some retailers prepare specific templates for Health and Safety checks or Peak Season preparation.
Regardless of the structure or number of store reviews, using a template helps drive consistency across store visits. The template should include a detailed notes section, often referred to as a “What Good Looks Like”, where the AM can add additional comments when appropriate.
In a recent survey, 900 District Managers were asked what the main challenge was to driving consistency across stores. The overwhelming response was not “having enough time with store managers”. In order to solve this problem, store visits need to be more efficient.
Common time wasters :
- chasing up prior tasks
- low-value add administration and data entry
- trawling through emails and attachments
- not having fast access to documents and store metrics
- an inconsistent and unstructured approach to visits
It is only possible to drive consistency across a store portfolio if retail field operations are transparent. The Retail Operations team should have access to store review scores, visit frequency and task completion rates etc. This data should be neatly packaged into easily digested review reports. If the need arose, the operations team would be able to access the data immediately without having to trawl through endless emails or dusty filing cabinets.
All store visits and reviews must be scored using a system that is understood by the Area Manager and the Store Manager. Common systems include Yes/No (tick and cross), or Traffic Light (red, amber, green) scoring. if you asked two different AMs to conduct the same store visit, their scores should be the same (or at least very close.)
The great thing about tracking store reviews, scores and task setting, is that you begin to compile metrics. This data can provide insight on store performance and help improve in-store execution.
Ideally tracking should be automated without wasting time inputting data into spreadsheets.
6. People Development
A key function of the AMs role is to train, motivate and provide constructive guidance to store teams in regards to effective operations. No store visit is complete without some time for the Area Manager and Store Manager to catch up. AMs should set aside some time to coach store teams and monitor customer experience. Time should be spent sharing best practice from other stores and the AM should always remember to give praise where it is due.
7. Followed Up
A common complaint we hear from Area Managers is that they spend too much time chasing Store Managers to complete outstanding tasks. Time is wasted by trawling through emails and cross-checking spreadsheets. Sometimes just knowing which stores need follow ups can be difficult.
On the other hand, store staff are busy and should spend most of their time in store focused on sales and customer experience. They need to have the tool-set to quickly review tasks and feed them back, closing the loop on task completion with very little effort.
Accountability drives improvement. A consistent and transparent store review process will hold Area Managers accountable for their effectiveness in managing their store portfolio. It will also hold Store Managers and staff accountable for the actions.
9. Customer First
Area Managers must look at the store, the merchandising and cleanliness, through the eyes of a customer. This also applies to store staff. They should be well presented and have a good attitude towards their work. It is the AMs duty to ensure that the store team are representing the brand.
10. Go To The Bathroom
Don’t just review the customer loos. We always advise a quick trip to the staff loo to check it’s spick and span. The standard of the back of house area tells you a lot about your store manager and how they value their staff.
In conclusion : Area managers and retail field operations personnel are unsung heroes. They are the conduit between head office, visual merchandising, marketing and stores, through which retail operational excellence flows.
Without effective store visits it is impossible to ensure consistently exceptional standards throughout a store portfolio.