4 Secrets to Successfully Scheduling Retail Staff for the Holidays

Scheduling is one of the hardest parts of managing retail employees — and that goes double (if not more so) during the holidays.

Retailers scheduling during this busy time of year must maintain a delicate balance between permanent workers’ need for stability, their seasonal counterparts’ desire for flexibility, and the extended demands on all team members that come with peak season.

Savvy retail managers know that planning the right employee scheduling strategy can make or break a business during the holidays. And because staffing hiccups can turn even small personnel problems into a downward productivity spiral, some retailers have gotten creative in their scheduling, with a few going so far as to adopt on-call work schedules. However, studies show that an unpredictable work schedule (especially over the holidays) can be truly challenging for the 10% of the American workforce in retail.

Working irregular, on-call, and split shifts makes it hard for retail employees to succeed — they are typically more stressed than employees with stable schedules and often report experiencing more conflict at home, which can affect their ability to do their jobs to the best of their ability. In the long run, this can end up costing retailers money in the form of lost productivity and staff turnover. Retailers seem to be getting the message: On-call shifts are quickly becoming a thing of the past, with leading U.S. retailers like Disney, Aeropostale, Carter’s and PacSun leading the charge to eliminate the practice altogether.

Additionally, both state and local governments have begun introducing legislation that protects workers’ rights to request a flexible, predictable, or stable work schedule, such as The Schedules that Work Act. These laws state that employees forced to adhere to on-call scheduling policies face daily disruptions in their lives outside of work.


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Take the case of the Starbucks barista and single mother, for example. Her story about her complicated process of a daily commute and childcare planning prompted Starbucks to change its scheduling policies for 130,000 employees nationwide. Companies are realizing that in order to maintain the best talent, they can’t let scheduling issues develop into an unbearable burden.

Whether your retail business is shifting its scheduling methods or simply gearing up for another busy holiday season, it’s hard to ensure coverage at all times. Here are a few ways to make sure your store is properly staffed during the busiest time of the year:


Give your employees a bit more control over their own schedules by offering them some self-scheduling options. Doing so will increase their brand loyalty as well as give them some of the workplace flexibility they want over the holidays. Using a cloud-based scheduling solution allows employees to check their schedules, switch shifts, adjust their availability and preferences, and communicate with their supervisors or co-workers. It also takes some of the scheduling burden off retailers and puts it in the hands of their workers — leaving everyone happy.


A basic supply and demand approach is not always the best way to handle holiday schedules. While it does minimize retailer costs, this planning method is often responsible for creating erratic and unpredictable shifts for employees. Instead, review your last holiday season’s shopping patterns to outline your staffing needs. Once you’ve identified peak times, generate a flexible work schedule that fits the data.

To learn two more tips for successsfully scheduling your retail employees over the holidays, please read the full article in Chain Store Age Magazine.

AppointmentPlus Marketing Team

AppointmentPlus Marketing Team - 62 posts

The AppointmentPlus Marketing Team researches and writes about the latest scheduling best practices, time management tips, business productivity information, tech trend insights, customer experience news, and more.