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Happy Back-to-School! How’s YOUR Planogram Compliance Going?


These days, going through my Facebook newsfeed is mostly a slog through political posts and rants (yes, I’m a contributor to the noise and if you know me, you know it), but once in a while something comes along that has a different bent. It might even have to do with retail!

This week, came a reminder that the Back-to-School season is in full swing.

Sitting here schvitzing in Miami, it’s a little hard to grasp, but school starts here on Monday! And people have been out buying school supplies and (I guess) clothes and whatever else they know kids need for school (see Brian’s piece this week – and don’t forget the pencils). Of course, schools open at different times around the country, making it hard for me, at least, to “comp” any kind of national numbers. I can see doing it by state or county, but not so much nationally.

For example, as you likely know, New York has the much more rational (at least to me) schedule of schools opening the Monday after Labor Day. It has been that way at least since I was a child and remains so. That means New Yorkers are still enjoying the beach and lazy August days.

We know that tons of people still take vacations in early-md August; especially management types. It’s a great time to get out of town if you live in a city. Do back-to-school sales suffer? I think it likely distorts the demand curve for apparel pretty significantly, but school supplies are school supplies. Kids have to have them.

What might suffer, however, with all those management types on vacation, is the state of the store. I’ve heard rumblings about a few stores from one mega-retailer that are messy, and not up to their usual standards. Then a friend posted the following on Facebook from an entirely different retail operation.

Apart from giving me a good laugh at a moment when I really needed it, this told me a retail story (apologies to the chain that sells President’s Choice… I know you generally do better than this! And yes, I know you’re not a US-based company either, but it begged commentary).

You can almost see the store manager or department manager looking at store set instructions and assigning the work:

  • Put up Back to school signage (check!)
  • Assemble knife promotion end-cap (check!)

But where was the eye that would look at this end cap and say, “One of these is not like the other?” Probably on vacation. And in the smartphone era, the shopper caught this somewhat stunning display before store operations management saw it.

This is not the first (nor likely is it the last) chain to get caught with unfortunate product and signage juxtapositions. But given the times we live in, this is funny, yet disturbing.

For me it begs three questions:

  • How specific was the planogram instruction?
  • Who checked to see the finished product?
  • How did they not realize this was a bad idea?

The lesson learned is pretty straightforward to me: make sure instructions to stores are clear and complete and make sure you have adequate vacation coverage during major season set-up times… regardless of the time of year.

When I was a kid, it used to really frustrate me that my father worked every Saturday (and later on Sunday) - but that’s what retailers do. He didn’t have to compete with Prime Day, so we tended to take vacations in July… because again, school didn’t start until after Labor Day. But whenever he had to work, he worked. That’s what retailers do.

Next year, RSR is going to take a look at “building a better workforce” in stores – our first benchmark analyzing workforce management in some years. After looking at the photo above, I can see we need to include vacation scheduling during holiday periods in the benchmark question set.

Happy Back to School!


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Articles & Opinions August 22, 2017
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