If you’re looking to improve the performance of your store in a highly-competitive retail industry, then you’ll need to take advantage of every tool you have at your disposal. Among the most important of these tools is information; fortunately, the modern retailer has access to myriad means of gathering such information. Among the most effective of these means is a technique known as a retail audit.
What is a retail audit?
We tend most readily to associate the word audit with the world of finance. In a financial audit, a few qualified people will retreat into an office for a period, and pore over every detail of the company’s finances. At the end, they’ll have identified weaknesses, and they’ll be able to propose solutions to address those weaknesses.
As well as producing an uptick in performance, an audit will help to lend the business credibility. When you’re engaged in talks with potential partners, investors and collaborators, you’ll be able to cite the audit as evidence that the business is performing well.
Retail auditors like Tactical Solutions proceed along much the same lines as financial ones, except instead of examining the finances of a business, the auditors will examine the stores themselves. In much the same way, they’ll identify areas of under-performance, and suggest ways of correcting the problems.
If you’re planning on conducting a retail audit, then you’ll be faced with two main options. You can either conduct the audit yourself within the business, or you can have a trusted outside contractor like Tactical Solutions come in and perform the audit on your behalf. There are merits to both approaches. Let’s run through a few of them, starting with the benefits of an internal audit.
Why conduct an audit internally?
The first and most obvious reason to perform an audit yourself using your existing staff is that the costs will be reduced. By using the staff who are already on your payroll, you’ll be able to conduct the audit without having to reach into your wallet.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that the labour of producing the audit will be free, as you’ll need to prioritise and drag your staff away from the tasks they would otherwise have been performing to get the job done.
The people who already work within your business will have a greater knowledge of how it’s structured and how it operates. This means that they’ll have less of a learning curve when it comes to familiarising themselves with the structures they’re examining. They might already have a few ideas concerning how to make improvements of their own, which they’ll be able to put forward.
Why conduct an audit externally?
When you bring in a specialist company, you’ll have access to specialist knowledge and experience which you would otherwise be unable to replicate. After all, an organisation which performs audits on a daily basis is always going to have the edge over one that performs them once a year.
As well as improve techniques and knowledge, a specialist will also have access to technology in the form of tablet computers and specialist (and often bespoke) software. Naturally, as well as the technology itself, you’ll also be paying for the training necessary to get the best possible use from it.
When you bring in an outside specialist, you won’t have to go to the trouble of dragging your existing staff away from their tasks. This helps to hugely reduce stress and disruption across the organisation. It’s worth recalling that forcing your staff to perform tasks to which they’re unsuited won’t generate free labour from nothing – there will be knock-on effects that you’ll need to pay for. Better, then, to bring in a professional.
One of the most important distinguishing features of an outside contractor is that they exist outside of your organisation. They’re therefore protected against bias, unconscious or otherwise. As such, the fresh perspective they provide on your work will be a great deal more valuable. Moreover, it’ll save you from putting your staff in the uncomfortable position of having to point out flaws in the internal structure of the business.
After all, would you trust a review of a film, book or restaurant if it was written by the person who created it? This logic applies especially when you’re looking to agree deals with outside parties – to whom you’ll be able to cite independent evidence of your organisation’s effectiveness.