Saturday, April 13, 2024

Why it’s key to have multi-skilled retail teams

Retail is a people business. And while the rise of online shopping has increased, it has arguably made colleague interactions even more important. The retail mantra of “right people, right place, right time” has never mattered more.

By ReThink Productivity CEO Simon Hedaux. 

Simon Hedaux

Convenience stores are cementing their position at the heart of their community and driving footfall by extending their offer. Whether it’s a pickup point for online shopping, coffee and food to go options or postal services; they all provide extra reasons for customer visits and more skills for the team to learn.

In the UK, banks and post offices have been closing branches and services moved to small supermarkets and convenience stores to provide convenient access to their services. But that doesn’t happen if only one person does parcels and she is off, the colleague tries to muddle through and takes ages, or you wait ages while an expert makes their way from the stockroom. Skilling your team for all the tasks within the store makes sense for customer service.

It makes sense for efficiency too. Retail workload is driven by customer flow and until we can plan our customers so they visit the store in a steady flow, there will always be busy peaks and quieter lulls. A multiskilled team can flex up customer facing numbers when it’s busy and turn their hand to any of the essential tasks that need completing in the quiet spells.

We’ve spent a lot of time measuring how time is spent in convenience and grocery stores, and the biggest multiskilled question is on how stock is managed. We’ve worked with retailers who have dedicated colleagues who do nothing else but stock tasks, and with those who have a more integrated approach between looking after customers and stock.

In general, we recommend a multiskilled, integrated team approach to stock management, unless your turnover and delivery volume are so large that it makes sense to have an out of hours team. Coles might operate more efficiently with a dedicated stock team, however there are not many convenience shops as continuously busy as a Coles supermarket.

If you have a dedicated stock colleague who operate while the store is open, you are kidding yourself if you think they don’t need customer skills as customers will approach them as they work. We studied a DIY store where a pallet of paint was on the shop floor to be put to shelf. In a whole hour, the pallet was untouched as the colleague fielded customer questions.

The big challenge we’ve seen in convenience stores is colleagues being diverted to stock as their number one priority as soon as the delivery arrives, whether the tills are busy or not. And to make it even worse than customers having to wait to pay; stock is often stacked around the shop floor making it difficult to shop and creating trip hazards for customers and colleagues trying to get around the store. In an ideal world, you’d have a fixed delivery time that suited your operation. Real life is often not like that and the best you can do is set aside core hours when you are busiest and only do stock tasks outside of those golden customer hours. It’s a win-win discipline that creates a better customer experience, a more efficient operation and a less frustrating time for your team.

With a purpose of providing convenience for customers, making sure your team are multiskilled and able to help every customer is the only way to go.


About Simon Hedaux 

Simon Hedaux is founder and CEO of Rethink Productivity, a world leading productivity partner which helps businesses to drive efficiency, boost productivity and optimise budgets. For more information see

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