State of the stockroom

Amber, warehouseThe stockroom, back of house, warehouse, call it what you will it is the most vital piece of real estate in the retail industry and by far the largest contributor to the bottom line, be that a positive or negative.

This engine room affects an outcome and is dependent on expertise, teamwork and good old fashioned hard yakka.

It is an area of restricted space, often a poor environment to be in with excess inventory and neglected resources, bereft of the glamour and sophistication of today’s retail. It’s also a place where technology is of little help to the ingenuity and resilience of the trained mind.

The warehouse is plagued by insufficient planning and weak management from those who lack the skill sets and gumption to drive for change. It’s the dumping ground for the undisciplined and the ‘I couldn’t care less’ cohorts. Brought about by ignorance and a dread of the task at hand.

A well-executed and maintained storeroom is an invigorating domain of mutual awareness and respect. Where everyone plays their part and recognises the communal benefits of teamwork.

The success of every shop, no matter the extent of the back of the house, relies on three key leadership competencies.

Proficiency of process

Methods are the backbone to the whole operation (not to be confused with the process of compliance in the absurd belief that one-size-fits-all).

There is, or should be, a tailored procedure. Based on the composition of the zone, the volume of trade and standard of competence, which considers the intention of the corporate model but is not crippled by it. A step-by-step proceeding inspired by realistic targets and brand objectives. Where business as usual (BAU), is lived and breathed by all. Not left to the few, charged with the fine tuning of a well-oiled engine room.

Commitment to availability

Availability results from the process. Every stock item must be accessible at a moments notice, on show before the customer demands it. Space integrity is of the utmost importance while capacity is but a state of mind. There should also be an attitude of what may not be possible. Both factors are reliant on the aptitude of the leadership and in the mentorship of the team.

What takes up space should reflect the failure of external influences rather than that of the store’s execution. Full availability maximizes sales opportunity. The rest is down to the selling team’s efforts.

Cultivation of culture

Culture should be a non-negotiable standard of the process, with disciplined routines in the pursuit of one hundred per cent availability. Goals that are responsive to outcomes. The benefits of which arise from productivity, where efficiency is a measure of engagement and is driven by relevance.

Teams should hold a purpose that depends on all aspirations yet is delivered by a team of individuals.

Never underrate the input of the blue-collar-leader. It is a specialised field that calls for a seasoned retailer who understands not just the fundamentals but also the intricacies of the sales floor.

Every senior executives’ visit worth its salt will first call on the stockroom.

For it is a thermometer as to the health of the store. More so than the band-aids used on the shop floor to hide the wounds of shortcomings and opportunities. Invest, mentor and above all else roll up your sleeves and take part in the most costly or profitable square meterage in the business.

Retail is about people, for people by the people. Nowhere more so than the unsung stalwarts in the back.

Dave Farrell is a retailer and writer with three decades of experience on three continents.

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