If you're not prepared to manage an increase in foot traffic, your retail store dreams can become a messy nightmare of clogged aisles, overwhelmed staff and disgruntled would-be customers.

What Happens When You Build It, They Come ... and You're Unprepared?

A strong business plan should have strategies in place to help you manage an increase in foot traffic. What drives that traffic surge can be your effective marketing efforts and other internal drivers or circumstances beyond your control, such as a new stadium, concert venue or public transit line being built near your retail business. The good news — assuming you're ready to manage the situation — is that an overflow of new, potential customers will be visiting your store.

But it could also be bad news.

Let's look at an analogous scenario. When online hackers want to shut down a website, the most favored method is to use digital tools that overwhelm the site's digital capacity by sending a flood of traffic and requests to the server from multiple computers. These "distributed denial-of-service attacks" have shut down numerous online retail sites, according to Internet Retailer. The same thing can disrupt your physical store.

Effectively Managing an Influx

An influx of foot traffic can place additional stress on your staff and facilities. Here are some suggestions for managing that stress while optimizing sales revenue:

1. Business Hours
By extending your hours, you might help reduce congestion, since people will know that you're open later or earlier. For example, if games at the new nearby stadium tend to end at 9:30 p.m., and you close at 9 p.m., you may be losing out on potential business and pushing people to crowd your store before the game. Track your foot traffic and look for ways to recalibrate your operating hours to accommodate it.

2. Staffing
More foot traffic often means a higher demand for customer service, especially at the point of sale. Consider hiring additional staff or adjusting staff schedules in order to accommodate peak traffic periods. You don't want to overwhelm your employees, nor do you want to see customers leaving due to poor service.

3. Loss Prevention
Increased foot traffic may also mean more shrinkage. You may want to install more surveillance cameras and employ additional security people and technology to prevent a costly spike in theft.

4. Inventory
If you're selling more products faster, you'll need to have more in stock to replenish your shelves. Let your suppliers know about your enhanced needs as soon as possible, so they can be ready to fulfill your orders. You may even be able to negotiate a better price or bulk discount with your suppliers and shippers due to your increased volume.

5. Retail Space Configuration
You may need to redesign your store to accommodate more shelves and storage space for inventory, as well as enhance its visual appeal. If you can expand your physical space to allow room for more products and customers, that may be easier, but it may not be an option. If not, you should redesign and optimize the use of your existing space. You may need to widen aisles to create more room for more customers or open up areas around your points of sale.

As soon as you identify something that you think may increase foot traffic, let your staff know. This way, they'll be prepared, and they may even have some suggestions for how to make the most of all those new customers. Remember: This could be a very good thing for everyone.

Tags: Business Planning