LP 101: Specialty Retail Industry Trends

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Building a successful career in loss prevention has always been predicated on the commitment to professional growth and development. Working in a business as dynamic as retail, it is essential that we remain flexible in our methods and progressive in our approach to global retail industry trends.

Understanding the Role of Management

Perspective is a key component of effective leadership. Lacking a comprehensive perspective, we hamper our ability to serve as leaders and represent the best interests of our company and our team. The depth of our understanding of retail industry trends allows us to manage on a higher plane, and see our objectives through clearer eyes. There are several fundamental differences in the way that a specialty store is managed, and several factors that play a part in creating these differences. Understanding these nuances can play a significant role in your success when managing the loss prevention program.


Where a department store may have a staff of several hundred employees, specialty stores can carry a total work force of fewer than a dozen associates—not during store operations, but rather total team members per store. Having 10-20 associates is common, but some stores average fewer than that. At any given time during business hours, these stores may have only two or three employees in the store, including management. While these numbers can vary based on the total size of the store and its sales volume, there is clearly a significant difference, which will have a substantial impact on the operations of the loss prevention program.

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Store managers in the specialty environment are typically allotted payroll budgets by their regional or district managers or the corporate offices. Payroll dollars are usually determined by a business planning process, and will be influenced by such factors as the size of the store, the average sales volume, and the minimum employee coverage deemed necessary to successfully operate the business. These payroll dollars generally fluctuate from week to week alongside sales. With today’s technology, scheduling can also be tailored to specific needs. We can track the time of day when our staffing needs are greatest by documenting when sales actually take place—at store opening, when school lets out, when most work days end (5:00-6:00 p.m.), etc. so that we can carry the necessary store coverage during peak sales periods.

In a perfect world, we would have an unlimited payroll budget, flexible employees who need no supervision, and enough hours in the work day to complete every task. However, the retail world is not perfect, and managing the scheduling process can be challenging. Creating the schedule requires that we meet the needs of the store while satisfying the needs of the sales team. Personal issues among staff such as lack of reliable transportation, child care issues, illnesses and other matters can occur that can be problematic to meeting store needs.

The Challenges of Scheduling

While scheduling issues can pose a challenge regardless of the retail setting, these issues are magnified in a specialty setting, simply based on mathematics. For example, if you have 50 employees scheduled to work in the store and two call off, you have to make a simple management adjustment to properly cover the store. If you have three employees scheduled and two call off sick, you have a problem.

As employees leave the business and new employees are hired, individual abilities and responsibilities also become a factor. Staffing adjustments made necessary whether as the result of resignations or terminations, especially when involving management or other key associates, can have a dramatic effect on the performance of the store. Continuity of information can become an issue as a result in management gaps. The ability to train new associates, supervise the rest of the staff, manage store operations, and serve customers may require district or regional manager intervention and/or assistance, up to and including assistance from other store locations.

Implications on Shrink

While working with a limited staff can in and of itself impose a variety of inventory shrinkage risks, every staffing issue can affect a specialty store location on a variety of different levels, each of which can have significant impact on sales performance and potential shrink implications. These implications will in turn have direct significance on shrink programs and their management.

For example, every loss prevention store visit potentially takes manpower off of the selling floor, which is greatly magnified with a limited sales staff. The number of individuals within the store that the LP team will be able to interact with on any given day will also be affected by staffing limitations, and can impact the effectiveness of the LP message. This will have a variety of implications on training programs, audits, employee interview situations and other related loss prevention functions.

Limited staffing can result in both customer service issues and greater opportunity for external theft to occur. They can also open potential opportunities for internal theft due to supervisory issues and related concerns. Smaller staffs often lead to more intimate relationships among team members, which can affect store operations and performance. Staff size further magnifies the importance of every hiring decision in the success of the store. Each of these factors and a variety of others can impact the loss prevention program and how it is managed.

By capitalizing on opportunities to enhance our knowledge and education about retail industry trends, we are making an investment in our own future. To learn more about investing in your career, coaching, and the certification process, visit losspreventionfoundation.org.

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