Managing multiple retail stores is an exciting endeavor that comes with challenges. Rather than simply duplicating what you’ve been doing already, you need to shift your staffing, tech, and inventory management strategies as you open new shops.
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What is multi-store management?
In retail, multi-store management means overseeing daily operations at two or more brick-and-mortar locations. Oftentimes, multi-store management also involves running an ecommerce site with national, or international, delivery options.
Operating multiple stores comes with new and increased responsibilities, such as managing more employees, offering new order fulfillment options, and working with enterprise-level technology that can help you scale.
What are the benefits of having multiple retail stores?
If your store is doing well and you’re considering opening more locations, here are several reasons to take the plunge.
Reach more customers with an in-person experience
Even though online shopping is wildly popular, the experience of shopping in a store can still be hard to beat. Customers get the opportunity to try before they buy, and speak with brand representatives and product experts. With more stores, you can cater to more customers’ needs and generate more revenue overall.
Grow your brand
Rent may very well be the new customer acquisition cost, since storefronts act as billboards for your business. Your store’s signage and window displays inevitably boost brand awareness by luring customers in, and enticing passersby to check you out online. Amplify the effectiveness of your window displays by adding QR codes to windows to encourage after-hours online shopping.
Faster order fulfillment
With more stores, you can fulfill online orders faster than ever before. Customers can choose in-store pickup and get their orders from whichever shop is closest to them, and you can choose to fulfill online orders from whichever store is closest to the customer.
With smart order routing from Shopify, you can configure your system to automatically fulfill orders based on the closest location to the customer, or the location with the most inventory in stock. Whether you are self-shipping your products or partially outsourcing, assigning the best location to ship orders from is critical in order to drive down costs, surface the right shipping cost and transit time to shoppers, and speed up delivery times.
What are the biggest challenges when managing more than one store?
More locations come with more responsibilities. Here are some challenges you’ll encounter as you grow your business.
Keeping a tight control of inventory
As you add more inventory to your shelves, it becomes more difficult to control and track. It can be harder to understand which items are popular in which stores, forecast demand accurately, or calculate sell-through rates per product.
Additionally, you’ll need to track inventory levels and replenish products across locations so orders arrive before stock levels deplete, and build a scalable and repeatable process for counting inventory on-hand and reconciling discrepancies.
Maintaining a single view of each store’s performance
Understanding the performance of each storefront, and how it compares to other locations, gets trickier the more stores you have. You need a way to isolate or combine store reports to compare and contrast their performance. You’ll need to pay attention to store performance based on venue, geography, and store average benchmarks.
Managing staff permissions in POS software
Unless you have enterprise-level POS software, giving each staff member the permissions they need to be effective and efficient in-store, whilst safeguarding from accidental overrides and operational errors, can be challenging with more locations.
💡 PRO TIP: With Shopify POS, you can assign different roles and permissions and set boundaries on what store staff can do in your POS system without manager approval—like changing a product’s price or applying a custom discount to a sale.
Establishing standardized operating procedures for store staff
A larger workforce means you need to be more strategic with how you manage staff. However, by putting systems in place, you can spend less time making staff management decisions with each new location you open.
Invest time into creating opening and closing procedures, customer service policies, safety and security procedures, store layout and merchandising guidelines, and an employee handbook and training manual to scale growing your team.
Essential POS features for multi-store management
These POS features can help you combat the above challenges as you manage multiple stores.
Robust multi-store inventory management
With more products at more stores, you need more efficient ways to know what you have and when you need to reorder. Look for a POS system with low-stock alerts that help you know when you’ve reached your reorder point.
Shopify POS provides an overselling warning and confirmation if an item is sold out, committed, or not in stock. If that item is added to the cart, sales staff are notified and can decide if they want to complete the sale or remove the item from the cart and create a ship-to-customer order instead.
Unified reporting and analytics
Your POS needs to help you see how the business is doing as a whole and let you focus on individual locations. With access to unified reporting, you’ll be able to reach the right business decision faster.
Customizable staff roles and permissions
Flexible staff roles and permissions let you control who can do what at your stores. For example, you may want to configure roles so that sales associates need a manager’s approval to process a return, refund, or discount.
Omnichannel order fulfillment
Look for a POS system that lets customers shop in a way that's most convenient to them. It should let you offer in-store pickup for online orders, ship-to-customer fulfillment for in-store purchases, and buy-online-return-in-store for maximum convenience.
Tips for managing multiple stores effectively
By using the right technology and implementing these tips, you’ll be able to manage multiple stores with ease.
Have a unified system of record for all sales channels
When all of your sales data from each location and revenue stream goes into one source, you’ll gain visibility into your business and be able to avoid mistakes, ensure inventory is in stock, and operate more smoothly.
Use roles to efficiently control staff permissions across store locations
Don’t just use your POS system’s default staff permissions: customize them for precise control over your business. For example, instead of letting sales associates log in only at one store, you can expand permissions to make it easier for staff to fill in if someone calls in sick at a nearby location.
Manage locations programmatically
Save time and reduce human error by using Shopify’s public API to create, edit, delete or activate locations without manually logging in to the Shopify Admin panel. Instead of typing in all the locations manually, API location management helps you work faster and use other systems, like an ERP.
Simplify multi-location inventory tracking with inventory states
Leverage robust inventory tools to increase efficiency and improve the customer experience. With Shopify’s inventory states, for example, your team can clearly see if inventory is available, incoming, committed, on hand, or unavailable. This feature also lets you transfer inventory between active locations.
Plus, shoppers can see available quantities at their five nearest locations when they opt to buy online and pick up in-store.
Create a staff training process
Streamline onboarding as you hire for new locations by having a system in place. Create an employee training checklist for managers to use to ensure all staff members at every location receive the same training and can fill in for each other, as needed. On the checklist, include topics like how to use your store’s technology, how to process inventory, how to restock shelves, and how to interact with customers.
Equip store managers with appropriate permissions
Double check that you’ve equipped store managers with the POS permissions they need to best manage their location, such as accessing reports, closing cash tracking sessions, applying discounts, and authorizing returns or refunds.
Gather staff feedback
Give floor staff the opportunity to regularly share insights about what’s working and what isn’t related to processing returns, storage, technology, store transfers, and more, through all-staff meetings.
Create a store opening and closing checklist
In the hubbub of opening the store or closing it for the day, small-but-crucial tasks, like activating the security system, might get overlooked. Create an opening and closing checklist to ensure nothing is forgotten.
How to set up multiple stores on Shopify
If you’re a Shopify merchant, follow these instructions to add multiple stores to your account.
1. Add a new location in Shopify admin
From your Shopify admin page, go to Settings and then Locations. Click “Add location,” then enter a unique name and address for the location and click Save.
2. Enable online fulfillment for store pickup orders
If you want customers to be able to pick up online orders from this location, select the “Fulfill online orders from this location” option.
3. Edit fulfillment priority for online orders
Shopify lets you determine the priority of each location for fulfilling online orders. Edit the order if the default doesn’t align with your needs.
4. Assign inventory to your new store location
Use Shopify’s bulk editor to assign existing inventory to the new store, and to add new inventory.
Manage multiple retail stores with ease with Shopify
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