Top 4 questions to ask when staffing for Black Friday

Holiday shopping
Shopertrak's Brian Field talks holiday staffing.

Although the traditional vision of Black Friday is shoppers camping out at all hours of the night to be first in the door, data from the last four years shows that the busiest shopping hour of Thanksgiving weekend is actually from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Black Friday. Also noted by ShopperTrak, the second busiest hour is 2 p.m. to 3 p.m., followed by 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., all also on Black Friday.

Knowing these peak hours is key to helping retailers plan staffing levels on this busy shopping weekend. Busy times versus quiet time are both important, as the lulls can be used for restocking, staff breaks and shift changes. 

ShopperTrak's Senior Director of Advisory Services Brian Field lays out the top four questions that retailers need to ask in order to effectively plan their staffing models for Black Friday weekend. 

1. How do I determine how to staff Black Friday?

For brick-and-mortar stores, Field says to start with an assumption this Black Friday will indeed be the busiest day of the holiday season. Then, he says, look at how each store historically trends in hourly traffic, if available.

Brian Field
Brian Field

"The trends that we have seen haven’t varied very much over the past several years. The only thing that might influence an individual store’s trend is if the store's operating hours are different this year. If you do not have that data, see our blog post on hourly black Friday traffic trends," Field said. Since this will be the busiest day for shoppers, retailers need to make sure that all of their store team is available to work and schedule them with the best coverage for peak traffic times based upon either the store’s history or on ShopperTrak's predictions. 

"Remember that you want your best multitaskers available during the heaviest traffic times to ensure proper customer service," he added.

2. What data is most important to look at leading up to Black Friday staffing?

For staffing, Field says it’s the expected peak traffic times for scheduling. Additionally, it’s helpful to know who the retailer's best multitaskers are, based on the metrics. Field notes that recommended metrics for sales associates include individual associate sales per hour and transactions per hour. For a cashier, it’s transactions rung per hour. And for stock teams, it’s units processed per hour.

RELATED: How store traffic directly affects staffing

"Going back to your sales team, keep in mind that providing consistent service levels is the key to both driving sales and keeping your customers coming back in after the season," Field said. "If your brand tracks customer feedback, that can be helpful in understanding the level of service each team member provides."

3. How does staffing online versus in-store differ?

Online staffing is pretty limited to either the team technically supporting the website and any team answering shopper chats or phone calls. However, Field says that retailers should measure service level performance, and it should be all hands on deck at peak web traffic times and for those associates also supporting stores during peak store operating hours.

RELATED: Stores choose relaxation over revenue on Black Friday

4. What happens if, on the day of, I got it all wrong?

"Don’t panic! If you have the ability to bring in additional staff, determine if you still have peak hours to offer them. If not, focus on the customer in front of you (there will be many!) and make sure that every shopper gets the attention that she needs," Field said. 

Make sure that tasks, like recovery and restock, are secondary to the customer. 

"If you can split your team up to handle both the tasks and the shoppers without impacting service levels, even better! Then, finish the day, get a good night’s sleep and remember that the next day (Saturday) will be the No. 5 top shopping day of the year, so you have another opportunity to get it right," he added.

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