District Manager Spotlight: A Checklist for Store Audit Success
A day in the life of a District Manager (DM) moves fast. They supervise the stores in their district, working with store managers to troubleshoot problems, implement programs, and improve store performance. Store audits are a common but important DM task that offer tangible benefits for the store and overall organization. Why? A customer’s in-store experience can influence their purchasing behavior and whether or not they become a loyal patron.
Auditing stores with a customer’s critical eye can help identify weak spots and give district managers data on operational effectiveness, shoppers’ experience, and product merchandising. Additionally, DMs use store audits to ensure stores are in compliance with corporate standards so the organization can deliver a consistent brand experience throughout their multiple units. All of the actions from store audits can translate to sales and profit.
For a basic but comprehensive retail audit, we have the following recommendations for district managers as they approach their store audits.
1. Prep for the Visit
Before even going to the store, District Managers need to prepare for the visit and create a list of topics to cover with the Store Manager. Time between District and Store managers might be limited, so District Managers need to make the most of time outside of the stores, and use time inside the stores as efficiently as possible. A visit checklist will make in-store meetings more effective and relevant.
2. Consider the Customer Perspective
Although District Managers should have a list of corporate standards to check, they also need to think from the customer perspective. The DM should enter the store as if they are a patron, and pay close attention to the overall environment. They should ask the following questions:
- Was parking and entering the building easy?
- What does the store entrance feel like?
- How was the greeting?
- Is the store clean?
- Are there long lines at the register?
In our recent Customer Experience research, we learned a customer’s experience is going to be influenced by the quality of the environment almost immediately. If they have a good experience, they are more likely to spend more time in the store. To create a positive environment and the right ambiance, retailers need to consider the entire sensory experience including smell, sound, and sight.
3. Focus on Merchandising
Merchandising is an integral part of a customer’s shopping experience. It shapes the environment and our perception of products. Great merchandising means placing products in the right place at the right time for the right price. Poor presentation of the best products might still send the message that the store is a bargain basement, which means the customer will expect bargain prices and poor quality. Great presentation can offer an impressive competitive edge.
District managers need to pay particular attention to merchandising to analyze customer perception of products and the store. What is merchandised well? What merchandising diminishes the brand?
In order to navigate store merchandising, district managers can ask the following questions:
- Are windows attractive and inviting?
- Are all signs clear and easy to understand?
- Are displays attractive and inviting?
- Are high traffic areas showcasing the right seasonal and up-to-date goods?
- Are impulse buy displays positioned correctly and attractively?
4. Use Efficient Tools (and bring a camera)
Pen and paper might be universal, but smart tools can deliver better results if used correctly.
- Electronic documentation will help District Managers keep cleaner records that are easy to share throughout the organization.
- Data tracking allows District Managers to have data on-hand throughout the store audit, and add new data when needed. Store managers gain visibility into micro and macro issues with action items they can address immediately.
- Another simple but essential tool is a camera (a cell phone camera is all but universal now, and works well). Visual images make store reports to Store Manager or corporate superiors clearer and specific.
5. Meet and Follow Up with the Store Manager
If District and Store Managers can collaborate together as a team, District Managers can become powerful and effective store consultants. After the District Manager completes a full store audit, they can take their prepared list of action items and work with the Store Manager to achieve store performance goals. We highly recommend having a clear way for District and Store Managers to create action items and define accountability for successful follow-through.
While District Managers focus on these action items above, they often don’t have the time (and perhaps shouldn’t be spending it) in the back, crunching numbers and analyzing reports to share with the team. Yet, they are expected to be the ultimate consultants for the stores. Read why we believe District Managers are the biggest assets in a retail organization, and how they need the tools to be the real MVPs they are meant to be.
Download District Managers: The Real MVPs of Retail to learn more.