Are we entering a retail apocalypse or a retail revolution? This was the question that StoreForce Solutions posed to attendees at its first user conference held in Chicago on September 26-27, 2018. The answer, delivered over the two-day conference by StoreForce employees, customers and industry experts, is that retail is undergoing a revolution. But, that revolution requires innovative store concepts and a unique customer experience enabled by engaged, high performing store associates.

StoreForce provides a unique software offering to a large, though niche market – specialty retail – and is what sets it apart from other WFM vendors. With StoreForce, sales performance is paramount. It recognizes that the majority of a specialty retailer’s sales are done in a few peak hours each week and helps to schedule the best performers at those times – something other vendors have had trouble doing efficiently. It spreads the labor budgets, set by finance and store operations, across the week, to maximize selling opportunities and minimize non-selling work. Therefore, everything that StoreForce does – from its dashboards to peak scheduling, from guided-employee coaching to missed opportunity reporting – is focused on helping store labor drive performance.

So, it should be no surprise that this conference brought together some of specialty retail’s leading brands, including Cole Haan, Duluth Trading Co., Alex and Ani, Soft Surroundings, Helzberg Diamonds and Aldo. And, attendees had a wide range of product experience from Lush, one of StoreForce’s oldest customer, to Toms, its newest.

The knock against most user conferences is that the vendor spends a lot of time talking about how great their product is and the customer speakers tend to focus on telling their implementation story which all sound the same. Rarely does the content tackle real world problems and tie a direct line to how the product can solve them.

StoreForce deftly avoided this problem by focusing each session on a real-world retail problem, having a customer or industry expert explain their practice for solving it, and illustrating how StoreForce helps to address it. For example, I spoke about labor planning with StoreForce Product Director Bliss Gordon. We described the pitfalls of planning with traditional metrics such as payroll percent, the need to consider the unique attributes of each store to drive the right amount of labor and showed how StoreForce can help identify store outliers to better plan labor spend. Other sessions covered holiday readiness, employee performance, and unified commerce, among others.

One of the more memorable moments of the conference came after a session in which StoreForce presented the results of their research on driving performance at peak times. StoreForce gave each customer a customized reporting package that illustrated how their stores were managing performance at peak. This really drove home the close relationship and personalized service that StoreForce provides their customers. They also provided a whitepaper with key performance indicators for measuring peaks and improving performance. You can download it here.

StoreForce wrapped up its conference by announcing plans to hold a second conference next year. Though a date has yet to be determined, there’s no doubt it will gather a larger crowd of specialty retailers and I will look forward to being a part of it, again.