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Schedule to the Peak

I just received my Profit Survey back from the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA).  Every other year they have toy stores submit their financials to help us see what the Balance Sheet and Profit & Loss might be for a typical indie toy store.  It is a fascinating document full of amazing facts and percentages and one of my favorite benefits of belonging to ASTRA.

Going through all the numbers, it is fun to see how a store my size (the largest family-owned indie toy store in America) compares to other stores.  For instance, we buy from more than twice as many vendors as the typical toy store (540 versus 230).

The number that is always fun for me is the breakdown of payroll.  My payroll is much higher as a percentage of sales than my fellow toy stores.  It isn’t because I give myself a big bonus.  Owner payroll is significantly lower than other stores.  It is because I have a big staff.

Maybe too many people if you look at what other stores do.

But there is a purpose for that.  I like to schedule my staff to the peak.  In other words, when the peak moment of the day happens, I want enough staff here to handle it easily and smoothly without a single drop in levels of service.  The hard part is trying to guess when that peak will happen.  As you know in retail, there are no certainties on when the customers will show up.

So I schedule more than enough staff to handle the average moments, knowing that I will be able to give customers a great experience even when we’re “crazy busy”.  Sure, it drives up payroll costs.  But it helps me save it in other areas.  WOW Customer Service brings Word of Mouth, which saves on advertising.

Still not sure it is worth scheduling that way?

Think about it from a customer’s perspective.  If you don’t schedule to the peak, here is what your customer sees.  She doesn’t know what your peak looks like.  All she knows is that you don’t have enough staff to help her right now.  Your staff might tell her, “Sorry, we got really swamped.  We’ll be with you in a moment,” but what does that tell her?  Some of those customers will think, Wow, that is great that they are so busy.  Others will think, Wow, they didn’t expect to do much business. I wonder how things are going.

Schedule to the peak and when that busy moment happens, she might think, Wow, they expected to be busy.  This store is the happening place.

Just make sure when it isn’t the peak that you have plenty of projects to keep the staff occupied so that they always look like they are working.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS  Make a checklist of everything that needs to get done for the day and give it to each person on the staff.  Challenge them to see who can do the most on the checklist without ignoring a customer.  Reward your winners.  You’ll get more people trying to accomplish more on those checklists every single day.

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