My friend Jan recently took a bad fall when she tripped over a bolt of fabric left on the floor of a national chain store. The entire place was a mess, she reported, with products in disarray and everything bedraggled and dirty. Who would blame her for deciding to shop online instead of exposing herself to this unpleasant experience?

This is a good reminder that in order to attract customers to our brick and mortar stores, we need to regularly asses the cleanliness of our shops.  The old retail adage “merchandise well kept is half sold” still holds true. It is essential to make sure that shelves don’t reveal a circle of dust when a product is picked up. and that the tops of boxes don’t reveal how long the item has been on display. Checkout counters, customer bathrooms and other public areas should reflect the pride the store takes in its operation.

Safety is also a key motivation in keeping a store clean and neat, as we can see from my friend’s recent fall.  Dirt and spills built up on the floor are potentially slipping hazards.  High touch areas that are not disinfected regularly can lead to the spread of the flu and other diseases.

The shortage of employees is being blamed for the low standards of housekeeping in stores both small and large. But even when a store has an adequate number of staff members, many are not inclined to spend their time dusting or wiping down counters.  Another old retailing adage, “If you have time to lean, you have time to clean,” would strike terror in their hearts.

How can you make sure that your shop lives up to your standards of cleanliness? Start by establishing a check list of what you feel needs to be done daily, every other day, or weekly. Pay special attention to bathrooms, floors, and areas such as the front door and checkout counter. Dusting of displays is also important, especially if you are located in an area where you can keep your front door open.

Some stores hire a cleaning service, although that is not always the best solution. The employees of these businesses are usually paid a fraction of the total amount you’re invoiced, in order to cover the company’s overhead. You might consider hiring a cleaning person directly, perhaps for a once-a-week deeper clean.

We find that it works well to divide the store into departments, with each staff member in charge of restocking – and dusting – their area.  If this isn’t feasible for you, consider assigning one area per day to the sales staff on duty.  Having a feather duster and cleaning cloths on hand is also a good way to get a sales person out on the floor when there’s a suspected shoplifter who needs to realize that they’ve been noticed.

Let your staff know what tasks are expected at closing, including emptying the trash, wiping down the counters, or cleaning the glass on the front door.  We find that it works best to save the bigger jobs such as vacuuming and cleaning the bathrooms for the morning. Certain staff members agree to come in up to an hour before we open to do housekeeping, and they get a small bonus for doing this.

It’s important to have all the supplies on hand that are needed for keeping the store clean, especially for floor care. We’ve burned through many vacuum cleaners over the years, but that’s a sign that they being used a lot!

Happy Retailing,

Carol “Orange” Schroeder