So you have been tasked with creating or improving a retail space planning team, and the first thing you assume is that you are alone and that there's nobody else that understands the unique intricacies of your challenge. Since retail space planning is such a "behind the scene" artform that most people haven't even heard of before - it's understandable that you would feel this way.
The truth though is that retail space planning is a fundamental part of the retail industry and retailers around the world are working tirelessly to build and develop their space planning capabilities, so you're certainly not alone.
It's not just retailers that are getting on board with space planning; suppliers are also getting involved. In fact there are even multinational companies that specialise in retail space planning software and consulting services.
So without further ado here are 6 things you can do to build a high-performance space planning team (or to take your existing space planning team to the next level):
1. Hire people with potential not just experience
Of course, you should hire for experience. But just because someone has the skills and experience to do a particular job, it does not mean that they have the personality and characteristics to do it well and to proactively contribute to your business.
When building space planning teams for ourselves and customers we prefer a more balanced approach. You need a mix of people with substantial experience, and you also need some people that have the right characteristics to succeed and who are eager to learn and apply their knowledge over an extended period of time. Here are some personality traits to look out for when searching for space planners with potential:
A) Meticulousness - each person on your team needs to have an eye for detail. If this isn't the case you are going to find that work will often have to be redone to be of any value.
B) Coachability - people with potential are just that, people with potential. If you want them to live up to their potential then they will need to be coachable.
C) Creative flair - you want your planograms and floor plans to be data driven, but you also want them to be aesthetically pleasing while incorporating tactical strategies. Having people on your team with creative flair will help.
D) Passion for data analysis - here's where potential gets tough to find. Your high potential candidates should have a passion for data analysis. Yes, they need to have a mix of creative flair and passion for data analysis.
E) Sincere interest in retail - this one is simple, if someone is going to work in an industry as tough as retail then best you have a passion for the industry from the very beginning.
2. Be a leader, and create more leaders
There's a quote by Tom Peters which reads as follows "Leaders don't create followers, leaders create more leaders." If you are going to lead a team of high performing space planners, then you need to understand that you are leading a group of smart creatives who are likely craving leadership themselves. These people are going to expect authentic leadership from you. Here are some things you can do to be an authentic leader your team:
A) Speak to your staff with dignity and respect - the retail industry is packed with big personalities, don't fall into this trap.
B) Expose them to meetings with various stakeholders - don't expect your space planners to sit in a corner and create planograms, floor plans and other outputs without ever having an opportunity to interact with Key Account Managers, Buyers, Merchandise Managers, and Category Managers, etc.
C) Listen to your team - listen to your team's challenges and find ways to improve their process.
D) Give them clear direction - make sure your team is getting clear direction from you regarding projects, timelines and expectations.
3. Make sure your team understands the significance of space planning
This may sound simple, but it's often overlooked. A team that understands the importance and purpose of their work is always more engaged. Make sure your team has a clear understanding of the impact that great space planning outputs have on inventory levels and category performance.
4. Invest in each person on your team
Invest in providing each person on your team with the training, support and mentorship that they need to succeed. You can farm some of this off to more experienced members of your team but at the end of the day, you will need to invest your own time and effort into the team as well.
Spice things up for your team by letting each person swap categories from time to time. Don't leave people to work in the same category for longer than a year!
5. Separate the roles to match task types
There is a host of task types that make up a space planning capability. Create job roles for a selection of task types and match the right person to the right role. For example:
A) Data Administrator - creates realograms, maintains product image libraries and classifies products according to the consumer decision tree.
B) Space Planner (Micro space) - creates data-driven planograms, optimises existing planograms and reports on results post planogram implementation.
C) Floor Planner (Macro space) - creates data-driven floor plans, optimises existing floor plans and reports on high-level category performance.
D) Assortment Planner - identifies and removes slow movers with low levels of transferable demand, optimises assortments and introduces new products that are performing in the market.
6. Give your team user-friendly space planning software
Don't force your team to use outdated space planning software that is not integrated with your POS/ ERP or Data warehouse. It is extremely difficult for a team to perform when they dont have the tools they need. This is the same ragardless of what type of team you are trying to build but it is especially true for space planning teams because category management is extremely data intensive.