Does your backroom hum like the engine of a car?


I love cars. Fast cars. Vintage cars. Muscle cars. If they have an engine, chances are good I am going to want it. I have bought more cars in my lifetime than I care to admit. I normally own three cars at a time so I can alternate what I want to drive based on the weather or my mood. This might be why I am drawn to the analogy of cars and running great retail stores.

The Car Analogy

Think about your store as a car. The sales floor is the body. The backroom is the engine.
Now you might keep the sales floor area clean, sized, organized and well merchandised. And that is great! Customers expect cleanliness and they want the ease of shopping that comes from keeping your store well merchandised. Compare this to keeping the exterior of your car washed and waxed. Who doesn’t love a car that has just been detailed? But what happens if you maintain the exterior of the car and neglect the engine? Over time, the car will break down, right? Well the same is true of your store.

Backroom Fundamentals

When backrooms are a mess – disorganized, unsized, dirty, freight piled up, incomplete markdowns – this is comparable to not caring for the engine of your car. It doesn’t matter how good the exterior of the car looks (the selling floor), if the engine (backroom) doesn’t run. It is just a pretty car that sits there un-driveable.

A clean and well merchandised store should always be the standard. But if your backroom is not operating like a well oiled engine, eventually it will impact your ability to drive sales.

Have you ever thought about your backroom through this lens? Can you afford to lose one customer because they cannot find their size? If the backroom isn’t optimized, I guarantee you sizes will be missing on the selling floor and this will impact your ability to convert customers while they are shopping. Here is most stores reality…you do not have the payroll to provide one on one associate to customer ratio, right? So what if the customer cannot find her size and cannot find an associate to ask? She walks out without buying. Lost sale. Ouch. What if the customer does find an associate and asks if the item is available in the back? The associate has to leave the selling floor and venture into a backroom where they likely will give up if they cannot find the item quickly and return to the customer giving them the disappointing news. What just happened? You lost a sale.  Now the associate might offer to order the item and you still capture the sale.  But was this an optimal experience?  How do you fix it?  A well organized backroom!

Impact to the Customer

Let’s address the other impact a dysfunctional backroom has on your store – it harms your customer loyalty. Chances are pretty good the customer won’t come back if she has been in the store multiple times and continues to be disappointed at goods not available. If you are like me, you believe in the brick and mortar store and while we will take our customer wherever she chooses to shop, we want her to have fun shopping in our store and tell her friends about her great experience and keep them coming back, right?

Customers today have higher expectations than ever. We all spend a lot of time trying to control things that we have no control over. The way your backroom goods flow to the selling floor is something you and your team have total control over!

So what is the solution? Maintain your backroom. Act like customers can see that backroom and make it as clean and organized as if they did. This is not a waste of time. This is the engine oil of your car. It will make or break how the store operates. There are no shortcuts to a well run backroom. It requires an owner who will care for it, who will train the team how to maintain it and will manage it well to ensure that sales happen. The backroom shouldn’t be the last thing you think about. It should be the first thing.

There are a lot of different processes for how to maintain a backroom and your company likely has a process in place.

How to Organize Your Backroom

  • Backroom locations require space for:
    • Shipment processing
    • Order Fulfillment
    • Manager Desk
    • Back-stock Inventory
    • Supplies
    • Marketing 
    • Display items/Props

The first step is to ensure the necessary areas are set in the right place. Are the areas closest to the selling floor filled with current fast moving items? Or do you have props and display materials there because they have always been there?

  • Assign a member of the team to own backroom organization, preferably someone who has a passion for organization. 
  • Keep bulletin boards up to date, removing any outdated information.  
  • Full price and markdown items should remain separate.
  • Non-merchandise items should be kept together 

Time To Take Action

Every backroom is going to be different and I hope this post has encouraged you to go take a look at yours with fresh eyes. Partner with your management team. When they are part of the solution, the outcome will be more effective.

Do you know the old adage “What get’s measured get’s done”? Once you get your backroom situated, you will need to continue to reinforce your expectations and recognize the team for maintaining it well! Backroom organization will never be a “once and done” task. You will need to keep it a priority and in doing so, you will be able to maximize the customer experience in your store.

If you have questions, shoot ’em over to me! I am here to help and as always, rooting for your success!

With Joy,


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