Spotlight on Store Ops

Finally, the retail industry has a committee to study the store. The most important part of the retail brand hasn’t been the subject of an industry council, until now.

The Store Operations Council was organized last year following discussions with key decision-makers from Pier 1 Imports and PETCO. Retailers soon came up with a plan to create a committee to enable senior leaders at national retail companies to compare notes on business-building processes and practices.

At the inaugural meeting, participants, most of whom are Senior Vice Presidents of Store Operations, agreed that there were six areas of most interest to them:
  • The customer experience. Every retailer knows that interactions with customers must drive the brand and create true measurable loyalty.
  • In-store communications. Mobility, and the ability to communicate directly with customers while in the store, has the potential to change the retail paradigm substantially.
  • Workforce management. Attracting the right associates, and then training, incenting, and empowering them, will be essential.
  • Compliance issues. Members are particularly interested in various states’ regulations, and how others are dealing with them.
  • Inventory clarity. How can a retailer with 75% visibility into inventory availability compete with one that has 99%?
  • Channel convergence issues. Retailers are still struggling with issues that should have been solved long ago, like who gets credit for an online sale made in the store.
From its inaugural meeting with 17 retailers, the Council has swelled to 67 members including big box, specialty, department stores, and restaurants.

“We needed a group where we could discuss a wide range of issues, from best practices to emerging trends,” says Council vice chair J. Smith of Petco. “My hope for the group is that we continue to have discussions on how to better handle today’s operational challenges, and how to best prepare for the future, leveraging emerging technologies and evolving consumer trends.”

Meetings start with store tours, providing insider information on unique processes that create the ‘secret sauce.’ The meeting last month at The Ohio State University featured backstage tours of Ohio retail icons, and a store designer from design giant IDEO provided insight into how to supercharge a brand.

The broad swath of issues an SVP of Store Ops faces means that each meeting covers a range of topics. The Council’s next meeting at the RIS News Retail Executive Summit, June 19-21 at the Grand Del Mar Resort near San Diego, CA, will concentrate on people-related topics like associate acquisition, retention, inspiration, training and employee-related regulations in California.

There’s no cost to join the Council, no cost to attend meetings, and members attend only those meetings that interest them. The Council’s fall meeting in Dallas will address store financial issues like returns, layaways and payments.

For more information, drop me a note at [email protected]. Hope to see you at a future meeting! 

Cathy Hotka Creator of the firm Cathy Hotka & Associates and the NRF CIO Council, Cathy Hotka launched the Store Operations Council with executives from Pier 1 Imports and Petco in 2012.
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