Lean in Retail – Tips for Optimising Your Return

Neil Fedden, Principal Consultant with lean business specialists Fedden USP, believes there’s a lot the retail sector can learn from manufacturing in remaining competitive during challenging times. He has produced his top 10 tips for retail businesses to help them boost their bottom line.

Fedden uses a set of business improvement techniques under the banner of ‘LEAN’, which aim to streamline processes, eliminate waste and help to focus on quality, cost and delivery. He commented: “Having worked with over 70 companies in this sector over a number of years, I believe there are opportunities for significant cost savings. Retail does not have a strong track record in utilising process improvement techniques and so has overlooked some very quick and easy ‘wins’ that could be the difference between profit and loss in a challenging economic environment”.

In summary, Fedden’s top 10 tips are as follows:

  • Engage with staff to work through all internal processes and then together challenge all activities and look to eliminate wasteful practices.
  • Make reducing stock levels a key focus of all staff looking at every stock item – calculate the stock turnover and make every product justify its shelf space!.
  • Make better use of IT and existing computer systems. It’s hard to believe how many retailers still use pen, paper and faxes to re-order stock even though they have the capability to generate electronic orders on their existing systems.
  • Map out the customer journey with staff involvement and look for ways of improving the customer experience.
  • Share the crisis! Introduce visual management boards that display to staff key metrics of the performance of the business e.g. stock turns, sales per employee, average basket spend, sales per sq. metre, etc..
  • Hold regular briefings with staff on these key metrics and talk through the trends and what actions can be done to improve them.
  • Carry out joint improvement activities with suppliers to process map all activities from ordering through to the supply of goods to the retailer.
  • Work with suppliers to get the right quality of goods and correct paperwork.
  • Reclaim store room space and convert it into retail space – remember, warehousing space is dead space!
  • Use downtime to provide training for staff and problem solving activities to be ready for the improved trading conditions. Despite the current economic constraints, there is still some funding available to companies to help them cover the costs of training staff in LEAN in order to generate productivity improvements for retailers.


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