How this retailer increased profit by $8.9m from rostering more hours

Liam Hukins

17 January 2019    |   

There has been a lot of speculation on why we are losing retailers so fast. An interesting research piece from the US presented an alternative hypothesis that generalises the issue down to rostering for profit rather than rostering to control costs. For context – If you were given the choice of increasing revenue by 5% or reducing costs by 5% in order to create the most profitable outcome, what would choose? A “back of the hand” calculation would show that reducing costs increases profit more than the equivalent uptick in revenue. Accordingly, most retailers choose option two. This makes sense if you assume the two scenarios are independent of each other, but what if the cost was your employees? This is where the problems arise. For industries like retail, where staff have a direct impact on sales, it’s not as simple of a question as cutting costs to increase profit. In a study led by Professor Marshall Fisher from Wharton, he and his research team constructed a conceptual model from historical data to identify stores within a US-based retail chain that had the highest potential to benefit from increased labour spend. Importantly, the strategy was actually implemented at 168 retail sites over a 26-week period to validate the model, with the retailer electing to implement the strategy further. The result: A near $8.9 million increase in profit of the stores included. The labour cost challenge The challenge in allocating labour budgets lies in the tradeoff between the known immediate payroll cost and the less certain increase in sales that could be achieved with more staff on hand. The researchers point out that retail managers have a tendency to overweigh the decision to reduce the known payroll cost than the less certain increase in sales which could be achieved by allocating additional labour spend. The labour budget death spiral The study highlights the limitation of the most common retail strategy — setting labour budgets as a portion of sales. Fisher points out that this approach creates a circular problem by failing to take into account how store labour spend can positively impact sales, with the worst case leading to a spiraling effect of reduced sales forecasts reducing labour spend which reduces sales further and so on. Quantifying the impact of labour spend on revenue Creating labour budgets that are designed to maximise profit requires retailers to know on a store-by-store basis the correlation between labour-spend and sales. One way to do this is by looking at times when staffing levels deviate from the original schedule. If ten staff were scheduled on a particular day, but on that day only eight turned up, did sales also decrease by the same portion? If not, by how much? If the answer to the above is that sales didn’t decrease at all, the store is likely overstaffed. If there is a measurable impact, the inverse scenario is likely true and the store may be losing sales by being understaffed. This is the same approach used in the study, which found the relationship between random staffing deviations and impacts on sales was statistically significant. Results showed an increase in labour spend pointed to increased sales at varying degrees, depending on known store attributes. Implementing the strategy for profit The study identified stores in a US retail chain which had the highest market potential, making them good candidates for an increased labour spend. The market potential factored in attributes like average basket value and proximity to competitors, which would create scenarios that allow workers to have the highest impact on converting sales. In the study, 168 stores were selected this way, then allocated a 10% increased labour budget over a 26-week period, of which 75% of the increase was actually consumed in practice by the stores. The outcome was a 4.5% increase in revenue at the impacted stores and resulting in a near $8.9 million profit increase. Learning from the strategy The study shows empirically why the common practice of setting labour budgets as a fixed proportion of forecasted revenue is often self-defeating when applied in a retail setting. An opportunity exists to all retailers to leverage this same profit-centric model for defining labour budgets. The data required is available to all retailers however, it may just be a matter of leveraging that information with the right systems. An integrated forecasting strategy that integrates foot traffic, sales, and employee scheduling data is a practical opportunity afforded to retailers of any size to optimise their labour resource allocations. The interesting part is, Fisher’s research is readily available to all retailers who are looking to drift away from the traditional method of fixing labor budget rosters. The next step is to get this method of labour resource allocation battle tested in the Australian markets. Stay tuned. Up next: What is the Contingent Workforce and how can you leverage it in your business?

There has been a lot of speculation on why we are losing retailers so fast. An interesting research piece from the US presented an alternative hypothesis that generalises the issue down to rostering for profit rather than rostering to control costs.

For context – If you were given the choice of increasing revenue by 5% or reducing costs by 5% in order to create the most profitable outcome, what would choose?

“back of the hand” calculation would show that reducing costs increases profit more than the equivalent uptick in revenue.

Accordingly, most retailers choose option two.

This makes sense if you assume the two scenarios are independent of each other, but what if the cost was your employees?

This is where the problems arise. For industries like retail, where staff have a direct impact on sales, it’s not as simple of a question as cutting costs to increase profit.

In a study led by Professor Marshall Fisher from Wharton, he and his research team constructed a conceptual model from historical data to identify stores within a US-based retail chain that had the highest potential to benefit from increased labour spend.

Importantly, the strategy was actually implemented at 168 retail sites over a 26-week period to validate the model, with the retailer electing to implement the strategy further.

The result: A near $8.9 million increase in profit of the stores included.

The labour cost challenge

The challenge in allocating labour budgets lies in the tradeoff between the known immediate payroll cost and the less certain increase in sales that could be achieved with more staff on hand.

The researchers point out that retail managers have a tendency to overweigh the decision to reduce the known payroll cost than the less certain increase in sales which could be achieved by allocating additional labour spend.

The labour budget death spiral

The study highlights the limitation of the most common retail strategy — setting labour budgets as a portion of sales. Fisher points out that this approach creates a circular problem by failing to take into account how store labour spend can positively impact sales, with the worst case leading to a spiraling effect of reduced sales forecasts reducing labour spend which reduces sales further and so on.

Australia-Retail-Profit

Quantifying the impact of labour spend on revenue

Creating labour budgets that are designed to maximise profit requires retailers to know on a store-by-store basis the correlation between labour-spend and sales. One way to do this is by looking at times when staffing levels deviate from the original schedule.

If ten staff were scheduled on a particular day, but on that day only eight turned up, did sales also decrease by the same portion? If not, by how much?

If the answer to the above is that sales didn’t decrease at all, the store is likely overstaffed. If there is a measurable impact, the inverse scenario is likely true and the store may be losing sales by being understaffed.

This is the same approach used in the study, which found the relationship between random staffing deviations and impacts on sales was statistically significant. Results showed an increase in labour spend pointed to increased sales at varying degrees, depending on known store attributes.

Implementing the strategy for profit

The study identified stores in a US retail chain which had the highest market potential, making them good candidates for an increased labour spend. The market potential factored in attributes like average basket value and proximity to competitors, which would create scenarios that allow workers to have the highest impact on converting sales.

In the study, 168 stores were selected this way, then allocated a 10% increased labour budget over a 26-week period, of which 75% of the increase was actually consumed in practice by the stores.

The outcome was a 4.5% increase in revenue at the impacted stores and resulting in a near $8.9 million profit increase.

Learning from the strategy

The study shows empirically why the common practice of setting labour budgets as a fixed proportion of forecasted revenue is often self-defeating when applied in a retail setting.

An opportunity exists to all retailers to leverage this same profit-centric model for defining labour budgets. The data required is available to all retailers however, it may just be a matter of leveraging that information with the right systems.

An integrated forecasting strategy that integrates foot traffic, sales, and employee scheduling data is a practical opportunity afforded to retailers of any size to optimise their labour resource allocations.

The interesting part is, Fisher’s research is readily available to all retailers who are looking to drift away from the traditional method of fixing labor budget rosters. The next step is to get this method of labour resource allocation battle tested in the Australian markets.

Stay tuned.

Up next: What is the Contingent Workforce and how can you leverage it in your business?

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The advances in credit card technology and the creation of the of the electronic payment terminal in 1982 revolutionized payment processing for businesses around the world. It leads to better cash flow management, and an increase in sales processing efficiencies, ultimately influencing customer spending behavior. Over the years the technology has developed, and advancements like contact-less payments, NFC, and card-free payments have emerged. However the next technological wave of retail evolution is upon us, and it’s time for businesses to dive in head first. Cloud software has been the latest revelation in technical advancements. POS, Payroll and Workforce Management, the list could go on. While each of these individually represents a leap in innovation in their own right, the true value lies in their interconnectedness. On one level integrating Workforce Management software and Payroll software makes sense. It’s practical, efficient and creates order in what can potentially be a frustrating and time-consuming process. However, integrating POS and Workforce Management software goes further as it enables the user with the ability to make smarter decisions, such as: 1. Create schedules with the right amount of staff every time Ever look at the store to see staff twiddling their thumbs or a huge line at the checkout? Welcome to the complex world of accurate shift management, where you’re either increasing your staffing expenses or losing potential revenue. But, it doesn’t have to be this way. By integrating your scheduling system and sales data, you can make smart decisions to have the right amount of staff every time. 2. Make decisions in real time Thought you were going to be run off your feet this week, only to find that sales are slowing and business is quieter than expected? Once you’ve integrated your sales data into your scheduling system, you can make real time decisions on staffing levels, rather than reviewing at the end of each month. Track your revenue and wage percentage costs in real time, so you can alter and adjust the roster as the day or week changes. Of course, all your staff is immediately notified of changes, so everyone’s kept in the loop. 3. Be future oriented, move your business forward Stop looking backwards at last week’s schedules, timesheets and payslips to make next week’s decisions. Workforce Management software has come along way from the paper schedules and timesheets. It’s now possible to not only forecast future costs, schedules and staff requirements but also automate the entire scheduling process with cognitive scheduling software. The rise of internet shopping and retail giants like H&M and Zara means that traditional ‘brick and mortar retailers’ need to be using every edge possible to stay competitive, relevant and front of mind for customers. Businesses that fail to embrace technology as a tool for success, are likely to struggle under the weight of the world that is rapidly embracing a more digital and connected world. How many times have you walked into a store, only to find that you can’t be served because the company is understaffed? While the economic benefits that come from an optimized roster are apparent, the value that comes from roster optimization is expressed tangibly on a daily basis through customer service and customer retention. According to customer experience research conducted by thinkJar’s Esteban Kolsky, 66% of consumers who switch brands do so because of poor customer service and 85% of this customer churn could be prevented. Kolsky also notes that attracting customers is an expensive exercise costing businesses approximately six to seven times more to attract new customers, rather than retain existing customers. Building on this, further research shows that you’re 14 times more likely to sell to an existing happy customer than a new customer. It is therefore essential that retailers are providing the best customer service experience, to ensure customer retention. Businesses that optimize staffing rates for peak sales periods, will have the correct staff to customer ratios, creating efficient and favorable customer service experiences, resulting in higher customer retention rates. For traditional retailers, customer retention is paramount, as it not only ensures business continuity but also becomes a significant channel for acquiring future customers. Differentiating your business through excellent customer service and optimized staff efficiency, not only provides the competitive edge but also allows for financial stability and security as you can confidently make future oriented decisions to grow your business both financially and professionally. POS software integration is the next step in retail evolution. Like the payment terminal revelation before it, POS data integration will change the way businesses operate and what it means to be a traditional business in a digital world.

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We want you to use our software less. Here are 5 new ways to do it.

Have you ever changed numbers on Excel, and everything else changed too? How long did that take? I’m guessing less than the time it took to read this sentence. What takes seconds now took an entire day for an accountant or bookkeeper in the ‘60s. They had paper spreadsheets back then. So a small adjustment meant recalculating, erasing, and filling out all boxes affected by that number. Manually. So if businesses wanted to know how something affects the bottom line, they need to plan ahead. And pay a day’s wage for someone to work it out. This is just for one change. Accounting tools of the 60s. Groovy. Just because something is used a lot doesn’t mean it works. We’re living in the manual spreadsheets era of workforce management Even with current solutions, workforce management is still mostly manual. Checking timesheets, calling up staff to cover, staying on top of qualifications. What should take a couple of minutes can take hours. In short, more time spent in the back office. Less time spent leading staff, tackling business issues, hitting business goals. Less admin, more ambition You buy software to do everything faster. All Tanda research and development comes down to this: we want you to use us less. Less means the job gets done faster. Less timesheet reviews, less calling around, less communication blocks. More working on the frontline, more business goals, more rest and relaxation. Here are 5 new ways to use Tanda less. 1. Less time behind the desk with Live Feed Wherever you are, see who’s at work — and who’s not. Combined with key alerts and live insights, you can make snap decisions to keep your store, warehouse, or centre well-staffed throughout the day and night. Live Feed on the mobile app Previously, you’d have to get on My Tanda to see who’s clocked-in—which takes some time. Even then, it may not be possible, especially if you’re managing a remote workforce, or travel frequently. How it Works. Live feed lets you keep an eye on staff status on the mobile app. This works across teams and locations, depending on manager permissions. Read more: How key alerts and live insights lead to better customer service. 2. Less time figuring things out with the Training Centre Everything you need to get started with Tanda—from basics to breakthroughs—we’ve put it all in one place. Whether you’re just getting started or refreshing your knowledge, our video tutorials will guide you through in record speed. Tanda Training Centre How it Works. A series of videos that teach you everything from basic set-up to advanced rostering. Learn at your own pace. And if you ever get stuck, the chat button is always there. Access it on my.tanda.co/learn. 3. Less work approving timesheets with Associated Tags No need to assign higher duties tags manually on timesheets — which can be time consuming, especially if you have a large team. Associated tags automatically assigns this when certain staff work in different teams.  The associated tags field, located in the team profile. How it Works. Assign the higher duties tag in the team profile. If an employee with that higher duties tag works in that particular team, they’ll immediately receive the higher duties allowance. For more information, visit our help page. 4. Less uncertainty with new Rosters Overview validations Identify unsustainable patterns across time more easily, including overworked or underworked staff; how many staff are going on leave; and staffing levels across multiple weeks. Seeing these inefficient patterns early means you’re likely to avoid them on your next roster (e.g. over-rostering, concurrent leave). Validations on rosters overview. See the full list. How it Works. View as much as a month’s worth of rosters on Rosters Overview‘s easy-to-use interface. Now with all validations of the old weekly roster view. 5. Less clicking around with Qualification Expiry Emails Only see which qualifications need action, when they need to be actioned. You won’t need to go to each staff profile page to review this, which means time saved. This becomes more important as your business grows. An employee qualification email alert How it works. You’ll receive email alerts when staff qualifications are 1) expiring in one month; and 2) have expired. They’ll also be alerted and asked to update their qualifications, if necessary.   Tell us what features make you use Tanda less. The only thing we love more than helping you succeed is hearing success stories. We love your feedback. We listen to it all. Send me a direct email at emerson@tanda.co. Keep up to date with our latest updates on our full changelog.

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About the author

Liam Hukins

Liam Hukins leads the Retail Solutions team at Tanda, the World’s #1 Platform for Workforce Success. Tanda integrates existing retail data from Point of Sale, foot traffic monitoring systems, and other demand sources to create profit centric schedules.

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