Processes are everything in running a retail store. When team members know what they’re responsible for and the area of the store they operate within, nothing falls through the cracks,
Most importantly, when your business runs like a well-oiled machine, store visitors get the frictionless shopping experience that convinces them to buy.
Splitting your team into front of house and back of house is the simplest way to break down responsibilities and areas of the store. This guide explains the difference between the two, the retail positions associated with each, and the benefit of having both teams in sync.
- What is the front of the house?
- What is the back of the house?
- FOH vs. BOH in retail
- Common areas for FOH staff
- Common areas for BOH staff
- FOH retail positions
- BOH retail positions
What is the front of the house?
Front of house (FOH) refers to any customer-facing employees in your store. It’s their job to create a friendly shopping environment, solve customer questions, and guide visitors toward a purchase.
FOH employees must possess excellent customer service skills. They must have good communication and negotiation skills because they are the frontline workers, dealing with customers face-to-face.
What is the back of the house?
Back of house (BOH) refers to any non-customer-facing employees, such as accountants or stockroom managers. These team members don’t interact with customers face-to-face. Instead, they manage store operations and keep things running smoothly from behind the scenes.
FOH vs. BOH in retail
Front of house staff are customer-facing employees. Those working in the back rarely come into contact with customers, but that doesn’t mean they play any less of a role for your store. Teamwork creates a seamless shopping experience for in-store customers.
Say, for example, a customer visits your store looking for a new pair of sneakers. The shop floor only showcases one pair of each design. Your FOH retail associate helps the customer choose one.
Once a customer has decided, the retail associate goes to the stockroom and asks a BOH inventory specialist to find the same design in the customer’s shoe size. Both teams have worked together to try and make a sale, even though just one team member communicates with the customer.
BOH employees bear the backlogs, technical issues, and other problems encountered by the FOH team. They must be excellent planners, be analytical, and have good problem-solving skills to perform their roles properly.
Common areas for FOH staff
When new shoppers enter your store, first impressions count. Front of house employees should be there to greet potential customers, making them feel welcome and comfortable during their visit.
The entrance of your store is also a great opportunity to learn more about your potential customer. What drew them to your store? What are they looking for? What problems are they looking to solve? Answers to these questions help you fine-tune your sales approach.
The sales floor is your front of house team’s main focus. FOH retail associates should keep the area neat and tidy, optimize the store’s layout, and process payments at your checkout desk. It’s their job to guide first-time visitors toward choosing the right products and leaving with a purchase.
Changing rooms are an important part of most shopping experiences. The ability to touch, try on, and interact with products influences 82% of people to do their initial shopping for a product in-store instead of online.
Whether it’s a virtual fitting room or traditional changing area, FOH employees manage this area. It’s their responsibility to keep the area clean, move unwanted inventory back to the sales floor, and prevent theft.
Common areas for BOH staff
Back of house retail staff manage your stockroom—the holding area for unsold inventory.
While customers don’t see your stockroom, it’s important to keep the area clean, clutter-free, and well organized. The easier it is to find a specific product, the faster it’ll be to provide a customer with the products they want to buy.
Larger retail stores, or those with multiple locations, often store inventory in an offsite warehouse. These storage areas can be much larger than any individual store, and come complete with their own BOH teams.
Warehouse staff—including quality control associates, inventory receivers, and machine operators—receive inventory and manage order fulfillment. They pick, pack, and ship items to a customer’s home address if the item the customer was viewing in-store wasn’t immediately available to take home.
Think of your retail office as the hub for your back of house operations. Whether the office is in the back of your store or offsite, it’s the place for accountants, marketers, and buyers to come together and make sure the back end of your business runs smoothly.
FOH retail positions
Retail associates are among the most important employees you can hire. Also known as sales associates, they’re front of house employees who deliver customer service and convince shoppers to purchase your products.
This type of FOH employee is responsible for:
- Greeting customers as they enter the store
- Restocking shelves and organizing inventory on the sales floor
- Answering product questions and guiding customers toward a purchase
A cashier works at the checkout counter and processes customer orders. Train cashiers to use your point-of-sale (POS) system and to handle FOH tasks like:
- Creating customer profiles for new shoppers
- Recording sales to keep your inventory management system accurate
- Processing gift cards, returns, and exchanges
- Handling cash and processing card payments
- Analyzing POS data
Retail store managers have ultimate responsibility for in-store experiences. They’re the first port of call for any issues that FOH staff are facing, and deal with unhappy customers who want to bypass a store associate and speak to a manager.
Alongside this responsibility, store managers:
- Manage employee schedules and create staff rotas
- Train new front of house staff
- Monitor store performance
- Enforce health and safety regulations
- Mitigate inventory shrinkage
A merchandising specialist is responsible for making inventory look appealing to store visitors. Visual merchandising tasks that fall into their remit include:
- Creating window displays that increase foot traffic
- Answering product-specific customer questions
- Promoting specific products in-store and through local marketing
BOH retail positions
An inventory specialist works in your stockroom. They’re one of the most important back of house team members your store has, since they handle products you generate revenue from. They’re in the trenches, physically touching your stock and ensuring it’s on hand for store shoppers.
It’s an inventory specialist’s job to:
- Forecast demand around peak seasons
- Analyze inventory reports and prioritize items to restock
- Implement a strategy to reduce inventory costs
- Keep up with inventory quality standards
- Prevent inventory shrinkage and theft
Stockroom managers are a valuable part of your BOH retail team since they keep stockroom operations running smoothly. They’re responsible for larger scale, long-term tasks like:
- Running ABC analysis
- Maintaining health and safety standards in the stockroom
- Conducting physical inventory counts
- Auditing your inventory management system to confirm accurate stock levels
- Setting processes for receiving and organizing store inventory
If the back end of your retail business runs like a well-oiled machine, there’s a good chance your accounting team is involved. Accountants handle the financial aspect of running the store. It’s their job to:
- Pay suppliers and vendors
- Report on cash flow, profit, and loss
- Calculate beginning and ending inventory
- Set open-to-buy budgets
- File your store’s tax returns
Better manage your store’s FOH and BOH operations
Although FOH and BOH are sorted into two different buckets, the old saying applies: Teamwork makes the dream work. Empower both teams to complete their responsibilities in their own area of the store, while also encouraging them to work together.
When both teams collaborate, store visitors get excellent shopping experiences—the types that make them more inclined to spend money at your retail location.
FOH + BOH = Shopify POS
Shopify POS is a single back end that powers both your FOH and BOH teams. Get your retail staff working from the same page for operations harmony.