How to Maximize 2023 Holiday Retail Sales with Strategic Scheduling
Get ready for another busy holiday shopping season. Despite continuing economic uncertainty impacting overall growth, holiday retail sales are still likely to increase by 3.5% to 4.6% in 2023. Consumer sentiment also rose to its highest point in two years this summer, and slowing inflation means that customers are feeling hopeful and ready to shop.
This is great news for your business as a retailer — but with the increased demand and foot traffic that comes with every holiday season, you’ll need to find ways to maximize your profits. A key strategy for this is scheduling your staff strategically. Not only does this ensure your customers are always supported, but also that your team’s skills are being put to good use.
At Shiftlab, our team is passionate about helping retailers improve staffing to increase their revenue, employee engagement, and success — during the holidays and throughout the entire year. Here’s our guide to maximizing your 2023 holiday retail sales with strategic scheduling.
Why is strategic scheduling important?
Strategic scheduling for retail simply means putting together an optimal scheduling plan using a combination of store and employee performance data, real-time updates, and time-saving tools like AI, automation, and mobile apps.
The holiday season is an extremely busy time for everyone, from your managers to your floor staff to your customers. Increased demand and store traffic, short-staffing, continuing high turnover rates, and scheduling complications (due to time off, sickness, etc.) all contribute to an extra challenging few months for retail owners and managers.
In addition, having a great guest experience can make a huge difference in your sales, competitiveness, and customer loyalty — 54% of consumers would stop doing business with a brand after one bad experience.
By putting together the best possible schedule, you can proactively tackle these problems, improve your customer and employee experience, and increase your revenue.
Tips for strategic scheduling during the holidays
Use performance-based scheduling
To take full advantage of the increase in foot traffic and provide a great customer experience during the holidays, you want to ensure you have your best people working the busiest shifts. Performance-based scheduling is the answer.
Many managers schedule to employee preferences or treat the scheduling process like a mundane operational task. But performance-based scheduling enables managers to think more strategically about how to position their team for success during the holidays — giving them the tools to maximize performance and make decisions based on real-time business trends.
Creating a performance-based schedule means considering a lot of different factors:
- Store-specific forecasting and trend data
- Individual employee sales data
- Store location data and employee & management info
- Real-time reporting on KPIs (store level and C-suite level)
By analyzing all of this information, you can more easily schedule the right person for the right shift at the right time. You can avoid under- or over-staffing and provide the best customer experience possible during the busiest time of the year.
Most retail teams simply don’t have the time or resources to do this manually. Fortunately, tools like Shiftlab make the process easier by doing all the analysis for you. Shiftlab combines real-time Point of Sale and time and attendance data to schedule your staff at ideal times, increasing profitability per employee by 5% and guest satisfaction scores by 15%.
Whether or not you use a tool to help, empower your managers to treat the scheduling process as more than just a “check the box” task this holiday season.
Leverage AI for smarter forecasting
With the ever-changing retail landscape, it can be hard to predict demand for your stores. But despite the uncertainty, forecasting remains a critical part of creating optimized schedules.
Luckily, the rise of AI-backed solutions (including Shiftlab) can help retailers take the guesswork out of forecasting to accurately predict labor demand.
Since historic data can’t tell you everything you need to know about future demand fluctuations, AI-driven algorithms that can learn from other schedules and stores are the key to forecasting accurately. For example, Shiftlab’s AI-driven forecasting engine uses historic sales data, recent trends, and event effects to accurately predict the labor demand for each location down to the hour.
“There’s a ton of data you can use to calibrate your schedules,” says Devin Shrake, founder and CEO of Shiftlab. “With AI, you can draw actionable insights from that data much quicker than with traditional business intelligence techniques. Retailers need to use that to their advantage during the holidays and the rest of the year.”
Retailers who use Shiftlab’s predictive forecasting are achieving scheduling accuracy of 95% and greater, and increasing their sales, average transaction value, and guest satisfaction scores through smarter schedules.
Set your staff up with the right tools
Retail’s famously high turnover rates have only increased over the past few years, and employee retention is more important than ever. Anything you can do to make things easier for your team will act as a retention tactic. Keeping employees satisfied and selling when your store is at peak capacity during the holidays is a huge win.
Empower your team with tools to help streamline processes, save time, and make better decisions faster — it can go a long way in making their time with your business a positive one. For example, you can equip your team with a mobile app that lets them easily see their schedules, who they’re working with, and how they’re performing to keep them engaged and motivated.
For managers, using an app like Shiftlab’s Store Pulse lets them leverage real-time store data so they can identify and resolve issues quickly. From late store openings to overtime trends, managers can stay on top of what’s happening at their stores throughout the day. This real-time information enables managers to communicate more effectively, deal with operational issues as they arise, and easily make more strategic decisions.
Automating or streamlining time-consuming or mundane tasks for your team, or simply making their lives easier with the right tools, can make a big difference in employee engagement and retention during this busy season.
Be proactive, collaborative, and creative
An unpredictable work schedule (especially over the holidays) can be challenging for retail staff. Since employee retention is more important than ever, you want to ensure that you schedule holiday shifts as far in advance as possible. It’s definitely not too early to start planning now!
Make sure to be collaborative and include your district managers in the scheduling process, since they have their fingers on the pulse when it comes to unique staffing needs for their regions. Get them involved early to review schedules so they can identify any potential issues before they become reality for in-store staff.
Some of our clients find it helpful to use Shiftlab’s schedule locking and approval features so that November and December schedules are locked down early — after that, all changes need to flow through leadership so everyone stays in the loop.
Finally, the holidays are a great time to get creative with your scheduling as needed. We’ve collected a few tips from our retail clients:
- If you’re a multi-location retailer, consider the “substitute teacher” model. Hire seasonal employees in a pool instead of assigning them to specific store locations. This not only gives your seasonal hires a flexible schedule with more hours, but it also helps each of your locations boost or reduce staff as needed over the holidays.
- Temporarily switch some part-time staff to full-time, if they agree. Moving your workforce from 37 hours to 41 during holiday season scales your staffing model up by 10% without adding to your January staffing overage.
- Reach out to college students who have worked for you in the past who are home for the holidays and could use extra cash. There will be less training involved since they’re already familiar with your products and sales process.
Treat the whole year like the holiday season
If retailers gave scheduling as much attention year-round as they do during the holidays, it would have a major impact on cost optimization.
Whether you want to implement a scheduling solution before the 2023 holidays or are looking ahead to 2024, using a tool like Shiftlab can drastically improve employee engagement and retail sales. Over 30,000 retail leaders and employees use Shiftlab to automate their scheduling so they can focus on other areas of the business.
Make better schedules faster, accurately forecast labor demand with AI, auto-populate work schedules with just one click, and create millions of complex schedule combinations that consider your current labor strategy — all within seconds. Shiftlab places the right people in the right role, at the right time, every time.
Book a demo to learn more and start setting your team up for success this holiday season!