Retailers know that their two largest, most controllable expenses are shrink and labor. In today’s intense marketplace, where hiring and training are major challenges, two industry leaders have teamed up to help food retailers better control margins. ProfitTrax and TimeForge, both recognized partners of Associated Wholesale Grocers (AWG), are teaming up to provide retailers with best-in-class, cost-saving solutions to maximize margins.
ProfitTrax solves shrink reduction and overall gross margin improvement, while TimeForge specializes in labor efficiency, employee retention, and labor law compliance.
Below, we break down the challenges these leaders are helping the industry overcome, and how:
- Leverage Systems that Complement One Another
- People-Centered Operating Model
- Balance Technology and Best Practices
- Reduce Shrink Loss
- Right People, Right Place, Right Time – Employee Retention
- Proactive and Preventive Labor Law Compliance
- Continually Reassess ROI on Technology
Leverage Systems that Complement One Another
It’s no longer a luxury to have well-integrated solutions all talking to one another – the point of sale, the labor platform, the margin-management platform. Without centralized data, a business cannot run as effectively as its competitors do. However, when all of the pieces of your business talk to each other and leverage each other’s data for synchronized operational benefit, the whole machine moves more smoothly – and profitably.
With the onslaught of emerging technologies over the past 18 months, many retailers discovered how important it can be to plan a holistic ecosystem before selecting a provider for a point-solution. Industry leading retailers know that the choice is no longer between cobbling best-of-breed vendors or selecting an all-in-one; modern integration capabilities allow for best-of-breed solutions that flexibly work with other solution providers to comprehensively solve for retail challenges.
Also Leverage Partner Expertise
If the future of retail tech is integrated point-solutions, it’s more important than ever that businesses have reliable experts to partner with. Choosing a partner who not only provides demonstrated expertise, but also works with your existing ecosystem, will ensure efficiencies and ROI for years.
People-Centered Operating Model
Another key differentiator among retailers who are thriving is a people-centered operating model.
When it comes to reducing and preventing store shrink loss, retailers can gain up to 200 basis points in storewide gross margins by training and coaching 7 proven best practices and working to consistently execute them in every store, every day.
Supporting that execution with fit-for-purpose tech helps store teams to operate smarter and better. The gross margin gains are made in all departments with the biggest gains in Fresh departments. Larry Miller, President of SRS/ProfitTrax, calls this combination of technology and best practices “The Human Operating System.”
Balance Technology and Best Practices
Experienced retailers know that even the best systems in the world can’t solve a broken process, so it’s imperative that leading technology solutions are paired with proven best practices. Miller further shares that if people are at the center of your operating model, the partnership of ProfitTrax and TimeForge can help you drive operational excellence.
ProfitTrax trains store teams in how to reduce shrink loss to improve gross margins and supports best practice execution with the ProfitTrax BI software. TimeForge not only helps to make sure stores have the right people in the right place and the right time, but that processes, policies, and systems around labor are all synchronized and supporting business goals.
Examples from Retail Grocery
Scott Bayne, VP of Sales at Balls Foods, said, “Our grosses are up 200 basis points with ProfitTrax at the center of our initiative. For sure, ProfitTrax has helped us to run better stores. Our entire Team of Store Managers and Dept Managers and all of my Product Directors are all fully engaged.”
Bayne explained, “The ProfitTrax 3-click rule makes it super easy to use, and the ProfitTrax Support Team provides excellent training and Support. Not a week goes by that we don’t hear from the SRS team with helpful Tips and Alerts. We are now laser-focused on shrink reduction, inventory turns, and best practice execution accountability at all levels. The Bottom line is: The ProfitTrax system works.”
Reduce Shrink Loss
When systems are cooperating with one another, the organization is people-centric, and technology and processes are all aligned; shrink loss becomes a clear focus for profit-minded organizations.
John Stanze, Director of Operations at Cosentino’s Food Stores in Kansas City, shared his experience reducing shrink with ProfitTrax:
“My most recent grosses are definitely up versus 2019. To be clear, ProfitTrax is a ‘system’ of best practice training, excellent software that supports best practice execution, and ongoing, excellent Support. ProfitTrax is not just software for more reports and data. It’s a system that gives every store manager, every corporate product director, and every store department manager KPI analysis and plain-English profit improvement direction every morning at 8:00a for their Store Walk.”
The Power of Profit Improvement
Stanze went on to say, “I use the ProfitTrax Command Center, Sales, and Shrink drill-downs, the Merchant Analytics, and Production Planning analytics every day or week, depending upon what I am working on. As to their support; no other company tops the team at SRS. I definitely recommend ProfitTrax for sales improvement and shrink reduction.”
Right People, Right Place, Right Time – Employee Retention
Talented operators plan for the expected and manage the unexpected. There are countless moments of truth each and every shift – a manager must make snap decisions based on his knowledge, his gut, and the tools he has at hand. The most successful operators know that their tools need to offer access to real time data and allow for managing in the moment; otherwise, the tools are not only unhelpful, but can actually lead to bad decisions.
Critical to operational excellence, including precise labor coverage, is easy-to-access centralized data. To that end, retailers are leveraging labor platforms that integrate with their point of sale system. TimeForge’s multiple sales integrations paired with its native labor data allows retailers live access to what’s happening at the store, while TimeForge’s proprietary Machine-Learning algorithms forecast sales with 98.87% hourly accuracy, which can then be applied to automated labor distribution for optimized staff coverage according to anticipated demand.
Importance of Anticipating Demand
Anticipating demand is often the secret sauce for retailers who are thriving amid the labor shortage. “While recruitment efforts are critical, additional emphasis needs to be placed on the importance of retention,” says Audrey Hogan, Chief Operating Officer at TimeForge.
“Right now, it’s much easier to retain the folks you have than to hire replacements. Amid the chaos of short-staffing, it’s important for managers and owners to remember that every time you’re short-staffed, you’re increasing the likelihood that you lose the folks who are currently on the payroll. Despite your signing bonuses and perks, every time an employee works a short-staffed shift, it’s like adding a new papercut to your retention efforts – it can feel like you can’t win for losing. Appropriate hourly coverage may feel more like a luxury than a necessity, but employee retention rates are proving otherwise.”
Perspectives in Retail Grocery
Doug Haworth, VP of Operations at Woods Supermarkets, said: “We are a long term ProfitTrax user and when they introduced us to TimeForge we were happy to listen. TimeForge worked with us and we conducted an excellent pilot. It went great. The TimeForge Team were very helpful and expert at getting us up and running.”
“Pre-COVID, many retailers were skeptical about forecasting. Many grocers, especially independents, assumed that there were just too many factors in play, like seasonality and holidays, to leave it to a computer to decide over manager experience,” says Hogan.
Sales Forecasting can Predict Seasonality, Holidays, Weather, and Other Trends
“When we helped predict sales stabilization, surges, and wanes throughout 2020 and early 2021, we really had a challenge and an opportunity to put our money where our mouth was. In fact, our AI modeling allows seasonality, holidays, weather variance, and other trends to be incorporated into the forecasts far better than what managers are able to do alone.”
“Our forecasts were able to stabilize within a few weeks of initial shutdowns last year, giving grocers who used TimeForge a critical advantage over their competitors – it was a crystal ball in the most uncertain of times. This is not to discount the importance of managerial experience, though – in fact, we find that the most accurate predictions marry manager instincts with our proprietary algorithms – so we encourage store leadership to create their own sales projections in the platform. We see more grocers relying on our sales forecasting than ever before, which leads to better labor coverage, which leads to better customer satisfaction. All of the pieces move together, in the right direction.”
Proactive and Preventive Labor Law Compliance
Every retailer hears of horror stories of labor law compliance in states like California, Oregon, and Washington. TimeForge offers solutions for enforcing and automating labor regulations across the United States (and many other countries), but has really differentiated itself in the grocery market through proactive operational solutions. For example, instead of just calculating expensive meal penalties, TimeForge can also help retailers prevent meal penalties by sending automated reminders to managers when employees are due for a meal period, and can then enforce that the employee takes the appropriate-timed meal period.
Meal penalty laws are just the beginning. Depending on where you do business, you might also have to abide by predictive scheduling or secure scheduling laws, fair workweek laws, right to rest regulations, and more.
Why Retailers Should Pay Attention
One thing these laws have in common is that they all place heavy burdens on employers, especially in retail. Fair workweek laws typically mandate that work schedules be posted weeks in advance, for example. The laws also require employers to pay out costly premiums when they make adjustments to posted schedules. As a result, many employers in fair workweek areas must make drastic changes to how they schedule hourly employees.
Fortunately, TimeForge is equipped to handle every fair workweek and labor law compliance scenario and helps get businesses up and running within a matter of weeks – not 6+ months.
Examples from Retail Grocery
Sandahl’s colleague, Erik Armstrong, Director of IT at C&K Market, added, “TimeForge not only replaced our timeclocks in less than a week, but also was extremely helpful in navigating the difficult labor laws of both California and Oregon. The continuous changes to labor laws in both states along with similarities in some areas, and stark differences in others, was clearly understood by the installation and support teams from TimeForge.”
Continually Reassess ROI on Technology
With the rapid tech adoption across grocery over the past 18 months, many retailers are only now experiencing their first opportunity to assess the profitability of their recent investments in solutions like e-commerce and self-checkout. Retailers who are thriving know that they need to constantly re-assess the ROI on their technology solutions, especially if they’ve chosen a holistic ecosystem of coordinated point-solutions.
Both companies, ProfitTrax and TimeForge, provide excellent ROI to retailers. With ProfitTrax, retailers can expect a 5:1 annualized ROI after just 12 weeks of use; retailers typically see a 2-5% reduction in labor costs with TimeForge. However, the true ROI of each platform is exponential and can be more difficult to calculate; as process improvement results in long-term improvement of metrics like employee retention, shrink loss, overall profit, and customer satisfaction.