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The ebb and flow of retail rhythms

There are some interesting and essential rhythms in retail.

Operating rhythms, customer rhythms, financial rhythms, HR rhythms, reporting rhythms, planning rhythms, the list goes on.

The beauty of rhythms is that they provide a clear framework to drive the day to day business, to create a flow that should afford you headspace to focus on innovation, continuous improvement, people development and the like.

Apart from when the rhythms all collide and flow becomes seriously disrupted. I have despised, almost despaired during February and March when my key operating rhythms slam together.

This is why I haven’t blogged for more than a fortnight; well my excuse anyway! Annual planning with our clients (yes it’s a bit late but everyone is too busy over October-December making hay while the sun shines), closing out the end of year for them and ourselves to meet stretch targets, our business budgeting, performance reviews, on-boarding new clients and helping to kick-start their year. Phew.

But wait, there’s more. February and March tend to be when decisions are made to take significant step changes, often including laying down significant footprint before September which means the engines have to turn over even faster.

All of which has led me to conclude that I simply need to get over it and get on with it. These rhythms and the structures that come with them should enhance the performance of your business as they are key planning tools that provide the flow, giving you the space to bring to life your vision and differentiation.

However, when bouncing my ideas of critical retail rhythms off a Trusted Retail Peer, I was challenged that I had gone too basic and had ignored some good stuff.

So expect Part II to this blog when I will invite said Trusted Retail Peer to espouse his views and take the thinking about retail rhythms and flow to another level of sophistication.

(TRP also admitted he preferred my blogs that “took the piss”. Not to worry, let’s just say this blog is in the “dry retail” category, the category that keeps the wheels of retail turning).

Without further ado, my top ten basic rhythms for retail business:

  1. Stock Management: What stock do you have, do you need, where it is and how it’s moving, or not, or should be. Replenishment and rotation. You can’t sell fresh air.

  2. Sales Planning: daily, weekly, monthly, annually – if you can’t measure to a goal, how do you expect to manage your stock, your labour or anything in between?

  3. Labour Planning: I’m assuming there is a shopper somewhere so you need to know how you are going to serve them. At the basic level of giving the shopper what they want or need (stock on shelf, checkout transaction, service, open the doors perhaps?) through to more sophisticated day-part planning around to ensure you deliver to customer’s expectations and providing customer experience as a form of differentiation.

  4. Merchandise Planning: Measure and manage your core range and ensure you have a frequent rhythm of reviewing your merchandise planning to a budget (a must!) Also manage non performing lines to introduce new products and open up opportunities to innovate.

  5. Operations Checklist: This is my back to basics way of saying you should systemise everything you can from the minute you open your door to the time it closes and day in, day out adhere to those rhythms. An example from grocery is 7/12/4 store walks. Minimise risks and issues and you maximise opportunities and expectations. Operational flow.

  6. KPI Dashboard: Zealously review the KPIs that matter to your business and utilisation of the levels to drive business success. If you can’t measure it, you cannot manage it and you can turn into that business manager making everyone run around like headless chickens because the priorities keep changing.

  7. A&P Planning: This is a business critical map to navigate what you say, where you say it and how you say it to customers. It’s a sure way to focus the business on delivery of the brand promise and convert shoppers to buyers. A&P planning is the driver for promotional planning and operational alignment in store.

  8. Performance Reviews: Articulate goals and expectations, accountabilities and responsibilities and provide ongoing feedback and development of your team. If you have no clue how can your team deliver what good looks like?

  9. Supplier Reviews: Work on the win/win level, ensuring you optimise each other’s activity, identify new opportunities, remove roadblocks and share intelligence. At the sharp end ensure rebates and coop are delivered through the agreed measures (this can get out of control quite quickly), especially if related to trading volumes.

  10. Store Review: Quite distinct to the Operations Checklist, this is reviewing the store through the eyes of the shopper, regularly and at different frequencies to cover the today, the tomorrow and the future. No one loves a dirty, messy, illogical or unkempt store. Furthermore a store should be reinvigorated every three years with a major refit at seven years. Never, ever let a store go beyond 10 years. Do the right thing and resign from retail if you are this cruel.

Oh, and you also need to pay your bills and payroll and other no-brainer business stuff but the basic ten will create business flow. The structure enables focus and delivery rather than an unclear focus. And that my friends, creates the space you and your business needs to innovate, differentiate and succeed. Flow orchestrates the rest.

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