Comprehensive Guide to Retail Store Operations: Today and in the Future

By Kate Eby | August 29, 2017 (updated July 19, 2021)

The field of retail store operations concerns all of the activities that keep a store functioning well each day. In the best-run stores, everything is carefully considered, planned, and executed. Operations includes many aspects, such as store design, display placement, customer service, money and credit handling, shoplifting prevention, premises maintenance, staff management, inventory optimization, and dealing with the entire supply chain that leads to having products in the store.

Retail hasn’t been easy in recent years. The rise of e-commerce, such as the behemoth Amazon, has disrupted many retail store operations, and it’s vital that today’s retail operations professionals adapt to handle that challenge. Many retail professionals say the key to success - in stores or online - lies in superior customer service, both today and in the future.

“There is a lot of synergy between your physical store and your online operation,’’ says Jason Parks, Co-Founder of DermWarehouse, a beauty and skin care e-commerce site. “If you just have a physical store and not an online presence, you can distinguish yourself by having amazing customer service. Actual human interaction can never be replaced and that is the advantage that a store owner has.”

In this article, we’ll provide an overview of the functions and responsibilities of today’s retail store operations and retail management. We also interview seven experts who give their tips, including on how to break down the walls between physical stores and online operations.

What Is Meant by Retail Store Operations?

Typically, when people use the term retail store operations, they’re referring to most of the functions and jobs in stores. How the term translates for individual operations depends on the type of store and the specific company’s organizational chart.

So, retail operations can encompass everything about how a store operates each day. If we think about it linearly, we can see examples of responsibilities. Start with choosing the store’s location and designing the store. Then think about how the store plans, orders, and adjusts its product inventory: How it prices items and displays them in the store, under what lighting, in what arrangement, and with what signs. How it treats its customers throughout the store experience, from entry to exit. How it handles cash and credit. How it handles returns and refunds. How it handles price markdowns and sales. How it manages its staff and maintains its premises. How it handles data about customers, products, sales, and revenue. All of this can fall under the field of retail operations.

In larger retail businesses, some of the functions may fall outside of what they call their operations department. For example, they may have departments for finance and/or accounting, marketing, human resources, and IT. Sometimes those departments exist at the corporate level but less so at individual stores, where more jobs may fall under operations. At smaller stores, nearly every position may fall under operations. It all depends on the definitions of the individual business. For the purposes of this article, we’ll take the widest view of retail operations as a field.

Retail can fall under goods or services. Some stores are both. A retail clothing store is mostly goods. A dry-cleaner offers a service. A tire store sells both a product (tires) and service (installation).

Traditionally, the term store meant a brick-and-mortar store, but increasingly people blur the distinction, even referring to online stores. The term retail clearly applies to both physical stores and online operations. Each year, more and more sales are made online as consumer habits continue to change, and as the nature of competition changes.

The next six sections provide a more detailed overview of responsibilities that may fall under the field of retail store operations:

  • Design
  • Customer Service
  • Cash, Fraud, and Internal Controls
  • Product Inventory
  • Administration
  • Store Management

Store Design Responsibilities

Design and aesthetics are a major part of the shopping experience. Design is both art and science, often using data to help make choices, such as product display and placement. Here are aspects of design that fall under retail operations.

  • Store location: As the adage goes, location, location, location. Visibility and customer traffic patterns play a key role in a store’s success. People will travel off the beaten path for something special, but it’s generally harder to build that business.
  • Store design and layout: The store’s exterior and interior design sets the tone for the shopping experience. Design can signal a clean, well-organized but relatively spartan discount store (think Target), a well-stocked, industrial looking warehouse (Home Depot or Lowe’s) or an upscale, well-appointed department store (Nordstrom’s) or clothing boutique (Anthropologie). Another consideration is the display layout. Racks, shelves, or displays can be arranged straight, at angles, or in a geometric pattern to create visual interest in addition to organization. Similarly, traffic patterns for customers can be gridded, almost like streets, looping or curving, or more free flowing. Changes in these patterns can affect what customers see and what they purchase.
  • Creating departments within a store: This is important for item findability in a store, as well as for delivering tailored customer service. By creating speciality areas, such as jewelry, shoes, sporting goods, and housewares, retail professionals create “stores within stores” and have specialty employees who are better able to serve customers.
  • Visual merchandising and display: Create attractive displays of products to set a tone and an expectation. Sometimes, you aren’t just selling a product - you’re selling an experience. A pleasing display of merchandise sends a message to the would-be buyer, and so does a sloppy, unkempt table. Even the height at which items are placed can make a big difference. Some professionals use a retail planogram, a type of diagram, to detail the placement of items in a store.
  • Store atmosphere: Lighting, music, and consistent overall store maintenance create a pleasant atmosphere that makes customers want to shop there. Unpleasant factors like clutter, odors, inadequate air conditioning, or unserviced restrooms can turn off customers. At the best stores, employees strive to create a pleasant atmosphere that helps to define the brand.
  • Signage: Posting signs, both outside and inside, help to direct customers and make them aware of products, services, and offers. Without good signage, a store can be difficult to navigate, and customers might not see what store managers want them to see.
  • Store space management: Avoid clutter and disorganization by managing space well in the store. Make items easily accessible and use out-of-the-way space for storage.

Customer Service Functions

Much of a store’s success depends on customer service - how it treats its customers. Customers may not always be right, but they’re always the customer, representing a potential sale and potential review. With excellent customer service, stores can increase their competitiveness, and even make up for shortfalls in other areas, such as convenience or pricing. Positive, personalized customer service can help the little guys compete against the big guys, and it can help brick-and-mortar stores compete against online operations. However, online operations have been increasingly good at providing remote customer service, with services such as convenient returns. The best-run stores comprehensively train their employees on how to treat customers and provide superior service to keep them coming back.

The following questions address elements of customer service:

  • How are customers greeted when they enter the store?
  • Is there a familiarity with repeat customers?
  • Is personal service offered? At what point?
  • If the store doesn’t have what the customer wants, how does the store handle that? Is it willing to say who else might have the item?
  • Does the store offer helpful guidance - after really listening to the customer?
  • Is loyalty rewarded, such as through loyalty programs?
  • If the customer has a problem or concern, how does the store handle it?

Returns and refunds are another vital area of customer service. A store buys faith and loyalty with customers when it handles returns easily and without hassle. Customers want to know that if they make a mistake with a purchase, the store won’t penalize them. Stores should also carefully track returns to understand patterns and resolve problems. Technology makes this process easier.

Cash, Fraud, and Internal Control Functions

Stores need to carefully define, implement, and monitor these areas of their operations, as they directly impact the bottom line.

  • Handling cash and credit: Good cash and credit handling requires both good people and a good system to track everything, quickly discover discrepancies, and keep the store’s finances and inventory on accurate, solid footing. Today’s technology often comes in the form of a point of sale (POS) system that can handle not only daily sales, but also customer management and inventory. This can make it much easier to track and reconcile each day’s sales with the cash and credit showing in the system. Still, some stores may compare POS statistics with manual counting or cross-checking. They also might do surprise counts of cash or inventory during the day, especially if problems have been occurring. It all depends on the size and complexity of the retail operation. In any case, it’s critical that a store maintain accurate figures with cash, credit, and inventory.
  • Shoplifting and fraud prevention: Stores devote significant resources (both people and technology) to deter shoplifting and fraud. Some keep it behind the scenes so as not to interrupt the customer experience. Others may be more upfront, as in the case of having a guard at a jewelry store entrance. Security cameras, monitoring, and product scanners are also common. Losses from shoplifting and fraud can be significant, including by organized rings and scams, so stores need to be vigilant and find problems quickly if they do occur.
  • Internal controls: Stores develop and maintain internal controls, or standard operating procedures, to prevent problems with cash handling, credit, shoplifting, and fraud. These controls help to prevent money or inventory theft. They include cross-checks such as deposit slips for cash and a well-defined set of authorized functions, so that only a certain level of employees have access to certain items or parts of the store. It’s also vital to have different levels of employees sign off on others’ work, so no one employee can operate in secret. Without these controls, a store could be at the mercy of theft or fraud by employees, customers, or suppliers.
  • Safety and security: Stores try to ensure that their employees and customers are safe. They may use security guards and security camera monitoring. Police calls to stores can be common, depending on the store’s practices. With liability issues, some stores are quicker nowadays to turn matters over to the police.

Product Inventory Responsibilities

For a store to succeed, it needs to have the products to satisfy its customers. This is the fourth area of retail operations: inventory management. Stores do their best to balance supply and demand for products in a constant cycle of selling and restocking. If a product doesn’t move well, it is replaced with something that does. If a product does sell well, the store increase its inventory. It may sound simple, but the quirks of supply and demand can make inventory management difficult. Problems in the supply chain can make it hard to get hold of desired products. A sudden shift in demand, such as a new product making an older one less attractive, can catch a store by surprise.

These functions fall under inventory management:

  • Ordering merchandise: Buyers place orders for products, trying to anticipate the demands of customers. They’re trying to get the right products in the right quantities at the right time. To be efficient and cost-conscious, they don’t want to order too much. In an automated system, the inventory needs are forecasted, so stock replenishment is automated. Another factor to consider is the merchandise mix. Stores want to ensure that the customer has a variety of products, sizes, colors, and other features to choose from, at appropriate price points.
  • Receiving stock: Stores receive shipments from suppliers and distributors. They carefully track and record it all, and make sure it’s handled properly and is in good condition.
  • Using an inventory system: The three main types are perpetual inventory, physical inventory, and combined. With perpetual inventory, the counts are updated upon each sale. This is what happens with today’s computerized POS systems. With physical inventory accounting, the business physically counts its inventory. With a combined system, both methods are used, where the physical count provides a cross-check of the computerized system.
  • Pricing: Stores set the prices and mark the products either physically on the product or in the computer via the product’s barcode, or both ways. Price reductions are based on supply and demand, season, promotions, and other factors.
  • Merchandise handling: This includes stocking shelves and displays, moving items for customers, and shipping items to customers.

Managing the supply chain: Operations people manage relationships with suppliers, distributors and other vendors, and keep products coming to the store for retail sale to customers. Problems can arise in the supply chain, which can result in bottlenecks, backorders, or quality issues, and store operations people handle them.

Retail Administration Responsibilities

These functions fall under administration, the fifth major area of operations.

  • Managing the premises: Maintain the store in good working order. Make sure customers aren’t turned off by inadequate facilities or poor maintenance. Like a home, a store requires consistent care and attention. Customers may judge you based on a littered parking lot, insufficient air conditioning, or dirty restrooms.
  • Training of employees: Employee training is essential, especially given the frequent turnover in retail jobs. Employees must be trained in customer service and store procedures, such as cash handling and internal controls.
  • Managing of promotions and events: Stores rely on promotions and sales to drive additional business.
  • Data management and use of technology: This includes streamlining store operations with POS systems, barcoding, and use of a customer relationship management (CRM) platform. With smart use of customer data, stores can guide targeted customers toward sales and offers, build their loyalty, and improve customer service to them - while increasing the store’s bottom line. Stores can also use data to root out bottlenecks and discrepancies, thereby increasing efficiency and timeliness.

What Is Store Operations Management?

The final area of operations responsibility is store operations management. The store manager is responsible for keeping daily operations functioning smoothly and managing employees. It’s a challenging role in a challenging environment. The store manager reports to regional or corporate managers, or an owner, and may have to follow broad strategies or directives from them. But within the environment of the store, the store manager is the boss and is often responsible for all aspects of its performance, including its finances. Other areas of responsibility may include:

  • Hiring, firing, training, and managing of employees
  • Forecasting sales and budgeting
  • Oversight of inventory and loss prevention
  • Oversight of all internal controls, such as for cash handling
  • All aspects of customer service
  • Internal and external communication
  • Legal compliance

Perspectives of Store Owners, Store Managers, and Staff

Store owners are typically focused on long-term strategy and business success. They may hope that everyone cares as much about the business as they do, but they may realize no one will care more than they do. So they may work long hours to make it a success, as many driven, ambitious owners do.

Store managers also focus on success, but perhaps from a more tactical view of daily operations. They’re trying to meet their goals by hiring and training a team to handle each aspect of store operations. They’re managing the store, while also reporting to the owner or higher-level managers for strategic plans. Still, depending on the business, a store manager may create or contribute to overall strategy. In some cases, such as a smaller business, an owner may depend heavily on his manager to run the business, including setting strategy.

For store employees, such as sales associates, the focus is typically the daily customers they attend to. The best employees demonstrate a sense of drive and responsibility.

Standard Operating Procedures and Checklists for Store Operations

To run smoothly and efficiently, stores should define their daily, weekly, and monthly processes in written standard operating procedures. These procedures can be paired with checklists to ensure they are being carried out properly, by the correct people at the correct time. Virtually every operations function detailed in this article should have a written procedure compiled into an operations manual to ensure uniformity and consistency. Here are examples:

General Store Opening and Closing

  • Employees assigned to open should arrive early to prepare the store for its opening to the public.
  • The store should be opened to the public on time, indicated with signs or lights as appropriate.
  • Employees should begin preparing at a designated time for the store to close. This typically includes cleaning and other preparation for opening the next day.
  • The store alerts customers at a specified time, such as thirty minutes before and again ten minutes before, that the store will be closing. Staff may pull gates, change the lighting or perform other steps to alert customers.
  • All cash is counted, reconciled, checked by a manager, and locked. All keys go to the person in charge of that. The procedure should define in detail how important matters like this are carried out.
  • Opening and closing work is subject to inspection by someone responsible for that, as appropriate.

​Download General Store Opening and Closing Checklist

Store Staffing

  • Employees should be interviewed, hired, onboarded, and trained in a prescribed manner.
  • Job descriptions should be clear and regularly updated to reflect responsibilities.
  • Employee reviews should be done consistently, with regular feedback and follow-up.
  • Employee work hours should be accounted for through a system, especially with variable part-time work or overtime.
  • Compensation should be spelled out, as well as determine when and how payment is made in the case of bonuses, such as sales incentives.

​Download Store Staffing Checklist

Cash Management

  • Front-end cash procedures ensure proper handling at the POS. This includes how and when to take cash to the back office, and how to reconcile cash and credit against sales.
  • Back-office cash procedures are usually a bigger-picture accounting function, making sure the store is on track and carrying out its internal controls to prevent loss and pilferage. They catch cashier mistakes or possible fraud.
  • Cash refunds to customers should be consistent with store policy. Sometimes a store may choose to only give a credit on a credit card, or store credit. This is all important to decide as part of cash handling and customer service.

​Download Cash Management Checklist

Merchandise Handling

  • Product shipments should be received in a set procedure to ensure everything arrives in good condition and in the proper quantity.
  • Route products in an efficient manner to the proper location in the store, either to the shelves, storage, or holding area.
  • Enter products in the inventory system for tracking.
  • Return damaged goods according to standard operating procedures.

Download Merchandise Handling Checklist

Customer Service

  • Help customers in a way that befits the brand (this can be spelled out in written procedures).
  • Accept and route customer complaints to the proper person for response and resolution.
  • Do home delivery of large items on a certain schedule.
  • Special orders may be possible to get items not regularly stocked.

Download Customer Service Checklist

Daily Store Checklists

Running a store efficiently and smoothly requires a disciplined approach. These checklists show the range of things customers might judge in a store and what staff can do to make sure daily operations run smoothly.

Store Cleaning Checklist

  • Clear the parking lot of debris and sweep the sidewalk each morning. Don’t leave empty boxes of trash outside as a customer’s first impression.
  • Clean your windows and glass doors of smudges. Make sure your window display looks good each morning.
  • When you turn on the lights, replace any burned-out ones promptly.
  • Clean, sweep, or vacuum your store floors at closing time.
  • Empty all trash receptacles as needed, plus at closing.
  • Clean your restrooms as often as needed to keep them tip-top. Nothing will turn off customers faster than dirty restrooms.
  • Throughout the day, straighten up the merchandise displays. Don’t leave unfolded clothes or disorganized shelves.
  • Promptly clean up any spills or breakage.
  • Keep all checkout areas spotless and uncluttered.
  • Don’t leave empty boxes in the aisles any longer than necessary when restocking.
  • Promptly attend to any unpleasant odors.
  • Periodically do a bigger cleaning, such as a spring cleaning.

Download Store Cleaning Checklist

Daily Store Opening Checklist

  • Arrive early to prepare the store for opening to the public.
  • Disable any alarm system and turn on lights.
  • Prepare the registers or POS system for the day. Check cash levels.
  • Walk the store and do any necessary straightening, cleaning, or decluttering.
  • Take note of any items not completed properly at the previous night’s closing.
  • Adjust the air conditioning or heat for customer comfort.
  • Sweep the sidewalk and shake out any mats. If you have a parking lot, toss out any debris from the previous night.
  • At opening, unlock the front door or gates and turn on any signs that alert the public that you’re open.

Download Daily Store Opening Checklist

Daily Store Closing Checklist

  • Start closing procedures at a certain time, or when the person in charge says it’s OK. Don’t rush customers out long before the advertised closing time.
  • Announce to customers that you’re closing soon. You also might lock the doors to new customers at a particular time.
  • When the last customers leave, signal that you’re closed with appropriate signage.
  • Walk the store and do any necessary straightening, cleaning, or decluttering. The opening people depend on this being done properly.
  • Restock shelves at this time, or as needed, but don’t interrupt customers unnecessarily.
  • Make sure all shelves, racks, and displays are properly filled and arranged. Customers often don’t put things back correctly.
  • Empty all trash receptacles and discard boxes and packing materials left in storage areas.
  • Close out all registers or the POS system. Count the cash and reconcile it and credit payments with sales. Do all necessary cross-checks based on your internal controls.
  • Based on your procedures, you might take some cash to another spot, such as the back office, for later deposit.

Download Daily Store Closing Checklist

Store Operations Tips From the Pros

We asked seven retail operations professionals to give us their top two or three tips for store operations. Here’s what they had to say.


Hyun Lee

Hyun Lee is Growth Manager at Qminder, a queue management system that improves customer experiences at physical locations. Here are his tips:

1. Get to know your customers.

2. Personalize their experiences (greet them by name, ask about family, open up!).

3. Leverage the personal information into an upsell (when it provides value).


Jason Parks

Jason Parks, Co-Founder of DermWarehouse, a dermatologist-backed skin care and beauty e-commerce website that sells its products throughout the United States, suggests these tips:

1. Get a POS system that connects with your online inventory. Shopify, for example, has its own POS system which ties your online and storefront inventory and sales together, which is very nice.

2. Capture email addresses from all of your customers at your storefront location. Email marketing has a great ROI. You want to make sure that your first-time customers turn into repeat customers, and capturing the email is a crucial step in accomplishing this. Your POS system should have a place to capture the customer’s email. Just leaving a notebook by the checkout area promoting upcoming discounts can also help to capture emails.


Kate Szirmary

Kate Szirmay (pictured here) and her brother, James Matero, are the fourth generation running their family’s business, Jaymark Jewelers.Here are her thoughts:

1. The customer isn't always right, but they always come first.

2. If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right.

3. When you have an outstanding employee, have them create their own procedures.


Pamela Danziger

Pamela Danziger is president of Unity Marketing and author of the book Shops that POP! 7 Steps to Extraordinary Retail Success. She advises:

1. Evaluate open hours: Independent retailers depend upon foot traffic for their sales, so they need to study when people are moving past their stores and be open at those times. Too many retailers on Main Street cling to their 9 to 5 or 10 to 6 hours when the most people are actually on Main Street in the evening. Retailers can’t force people to come to the store when they want them too, but must be open when customers want to be there.

2. Uniforms: I am a huge believer in providing sales staff with some kind of uniform or distinctive identifying clothing item that clearly defines them as people there to help. It doesn’t have to be a full-on uniform as such, but a logo shirt, apron, cap, or something that makes it clear that those people belong to the store.

3. Get out of the back room and onto the sales floor: Too many retail owners and managers spend too much time worrying over the books in the stockroom, placing orders and such, but that isn’t where the success of their store resides. It depends on the work they do on the sales floor, not the stockroom. Store owners need to be on the floor, greeting guests and modeling the customer service that they expect from their sales staff. Retailers need to hire people to do the back office work, but get out there on the sales floor where their store’s success will be made.


Laura Cummins

Laura Cummins is Chief Creative Officer of Nine Dotz Consulting in New Jersey. She suggests:

1. Keep the retail area pleasing to the eye. Change the look of retail displays (including windows) every four to six weeks.

2. Maximize the CRM system. Track customers' purchases in order to create customized promotions.

3. Offer ongoing training - especially when it comes to product knowledge. It is so important that they [employees] are well versed on all products offered. Customer service training is also a must.


Bob Clary

Bob Clary is Director of Marketing for DevelopIntelligence, which creates, delivers and manages highly customized learning solutions. Here are his thoughts for expanding online:

1. Be lean. Square footage is at a premium, so you need to focus inventory and shelf space on what can turn quickly, both for online and offline sales.

2. Consider using 3PL (third-party logistics) partners for distribution if you are expanding online. They can help you scale quickly, and you can always bring things back in-house at a later date.


Andy Hill

Andy Hill is CEO of Startle International, which provides background music and other digital services to retail and hospitality venues to improve their customer experiences and increase spend. 

Retailers need to ensure they are actively engaging the customers to retain interest and provide a memorable experience,” he says. “Offer something that is different to online. Give them a real reason to visit that provides an advantage over e-commerce - and offer both physical and online experiences that can integrate to create convenience and personalization for consumers.”

How to Tear Down the Walls Between Physical Stores and Online Operations

Most sales still take place in physical stores, but e-commerce keeps rising each year. Amazon and other online retailers continue to grow, while many brick-and-mortar retailers have declined steeply in recent years. We asked our experts, How do you tear down the walls between physical stores and online? Here are their tips:

Bob Clary: “By blurring the lines between the two. In-store technology can be expensive and problematic to use, but even simple things like signage and indicators that tie online with brick-and-mortar can bring the two experiences together.”

Hyun Lee: “This is a tough one to answer, but even tougher to act on. Professionals have to take this seriously. They must commit their day-to-day activities to provide a seamless offline and online experience. Product pictures must represent the product realistically. Fit, description, colors, material all have to be realistic. Service should be A-plus both online and offline. No hiccups (website does not load, broken pages, lag vs. not greeting customers, not helpful in store, rude service, etc.).”

Kate Szirmay: “We have been most successful at tearing down the wall by treating our website like another physical store. We offer the same products and services, but with the added convenience of being mobile. For example: When you commission us to make a custom piece of jewelry, you can now follow the same process either online or in-person. You don't miss out if you don't come to the store. We consult via Skype, email you and split screen with you to review your CAD rendering, mail you your 3D printed prototype, and mail or hand-deliver your final product. Where people feel like they are shopping with people, not a faceless conglomerate. It's why we do Facebook Live - it's a driving force toward our crystal ball. Our phrase is when you shop with us online, we will do everything except hand you a cup of coffee.”

Pamela Danziger: “Regarding the walls between online and in-store, I think the main message is that when customers want to buy something, i.e. a buying experience, they are most likely today to go online to make their purchases. Amazon is of course the biggest beneficiary of that trend. But when customers want a shopping experience, they are attracted to specialty independents with a different point of view and a grounding in their local communities. They simply don't go to the malls anymore for either their buying or shopping needs. The retail apocalypse testifies to that.”

Laura Cummins: “Always offer outstanding customer service and create memorable experiences for customers.”

Andy Hill: “Retail operations professionals need to ensure that both physical and online are optimizing their individual strengths, whilst also integrating both into the customer journey to provide a great multichannel experience. For example, the use of technology is becoming increasingly evident and essential to providing excellent in-store experiences, such as with high-end, interactive digital signage (3D animation/AI). This allows customers to engage more with the products and the brand. By linking this to the online platform, retailers can showcase more choice that perhaps isn't available in that particular store, or allow customers to place instant orders if something is out of stock in the store.”

The Rise of Pop-Up Stores and the Effect on Operations

Pop-up stores - also called pop-up retailing, pop-up shops, and flash retailing - are temporary sales spaces often designed to take advantage of a trend. They may be in regular retail spaces, as a store-within-a-store, in mall kiosks, or in vendor stands, shipping containers or even motorized vehicles (taking a cue from the food truck trend). Because of the temporary nature of pop-up stores, operations may be sized down to a manageable level. For example, there’s often less space for inventory or storage, so more regular shipments arrive to keep the pop-up store stocked. You may remove cash from the premises upon closing for security. Advertising and promotion often needs to take place quickly, since there might not be time for a slow build of business.

Sometimes, existing businesses use pop-up stores to extend their brands. For example, Amazon has been rolling out pop-up shops in U.S. malls to give itself a physical presence to pair with its first permanent brick-and-mortar store in Seattle. The same business that caused so many difficulties for brick-and-mortar stores now has one - plus pop-ups.

Businesses have even emerged to help merchants find temporary space. For example, Storefront helps to find pop-up space in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, London, Paris, among other cities. With each change in the retail operations landscapes, new opportunities arise. With pop-ups, retailers can move more quickly and take advantage of an opportunity without the full weight of a permanent brick-and-mortar store.

Store of the Future

With the rise of e-commerce and technology, the store of future may come sooner than we think. We asked our experts: Looking into your crystal ball, what will the store of the future look like?

Bob Clary: “Much smaller than today, for one. I think we’re headed toward an in-store experience that will focus on customizing the experience for each shopper, possibly minimizing human help. Think Amazon’s new automated retail grocery store, Amazon Go, for other categories.”

Hyun Lee: “I believe there will be two major groups. Obviously there's Amazon - they're taking over retail. If retail businesses don't adapt, they will surely lose out in the battle. Amazon prepped for both online and offline stores, and they are rolling in the products fast. The other side is stores with great customer experiences. The ones that truly cater to customers' needs. The ones where the customers go in and feel like home - or feel like they can open up to you. These stores will not just have products on a shelf with a cashier. There has to be active, personal service involved when anyone walks in the venue.”

Jason Parks: “The store of the future is going to just have a small dosage of your overall inventory in the actual store. The majority of the products will be listed online but the store will be the place where you can interact with other customers, employees, and learn more about the brand.”

Kate Szirmay: “In a perfect world, the store of the future would have the convenience and tech of online shopping but still have the knowledge and feeling of a personal buying experience. We are already seeing a shift in this direction in both the physical and online landscape. For us in custom jewelry that means video chat and 3D printing. Hopefully the melding of the two retail spaces will continue. With luck, the next big change will be virtual reality shopping where the customer can visit their favorite store, view the products, interact with the staff, make a purchase, but never leave their chair. No matter what the future turns out to be, the customer experience is the key to success when we discuss combining online and physical retail spaces.”

Pamela Danziger: “When people talk about the store of the future, they inevitably think technology, like the recent announcement of the Amazon-powered Needle & Tufts mattress showroom opening in Seattle. But for Main Street retailers, the store of the future is going to look more like the store of the past, not necessarily the real past but the nostalgic past that people long for. They long for the warm, neighborly feeling that Main Street used to represent, where people knew your name, greeted you like a friend, and welcomed you into the store as warmly as they would welcome you into their home. So for Main Street retailers, they need to draw inspiration for the store of the future from the past.”

Laura Cummins: “I think there will be less waste all together. From the displays to packaging to inventory - everything is going to be simplified. A major return to outstanding customer service will be the norm.”

Andy Hill: “Big brands will have large stores mainly for marketing purposes to provide an end-to-end experience, rather than focusing solely on purchases. Other stores will be smaller and deliver equal choice to online. With intelligent digital signage, the brick-and-mortar buying experience will be more enjoyable and interactive, particularly with the use of 3D and AI. These stores will also offer delivery to home or a next-day pickup at the store (and returns), to compete with the likes of Amazon and other e-commerce giants.”

Education Opportunities for Retail Operations

The retail field has become increasingly sophisticated with data and tech advances. Here are types of retail education:

  • High school programs in retail.
  • Certificates in retail, such as a one-year program.
  • Associate’s degree in retail management or similar fields such as merchandising or marketing.
  • Bachelor’s degree or post-graduate degree in retail or related fields, such as operations management, retail management, fashion merchandising, sales management,  marketing, or business administration.
  • In-house training for retail employees. Many larger retailers have programs for management trainees.

To give you an idea of the range of available retail jobs, here’s the National Retail Federation Job Board.

Streamline Retail Store Operations With Smartsheet

Empower your people to go above and beyond with a flexible platform designed to match the needs of your team — and adapt as those needs change. 

The Smartsheet platform makes it easy to plan, capture, manage, and report on work from anywhere, helping your team be more effective and get more done. Report on key metrics and get real-time visibility into work as it happens with roll-up reports, dashboards, and automated workflows built to keep your team connected and informed. 

When teams have clarity into the work getting done, there’s no telling how much more they can accomplish in the same amount of time. Try Smartsheet for free, today.



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