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Clutter Clearing: Removing Barriers to Retail Success

Clutter Clearing: Removing Barriers to Retail Success

    Your retail space is so appealing, neat and organized. But, look behind the checkout counter. Check the storeroom. That’s another story! And, the office. . . let’s not even go there! It’s quite common for the public spaces in retail establishments to shine while the work areas that are visible to staff and management are littered with clutter of all kinds.

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    You may be thinking, “It’s the public areas that affect the bottom line, right?” Think again. All areas of a business affect the bottom line. Feng shui teaches that everything is connected. Clutter, dirt and disorder in one part of the establishment are sources of negative energy and that negative vibration will affect all other areas of the business. If that energy happens to be located in the area that holds energies associated with wealth and prosperity, the business may suffer financial challenges. If it is located in the area that holds energies associated with fame and reputation, it could experience difficulties with visibility and attracting business. If it is located in the areas associated with children or family, there could be difficulties with employees. And, if that source of negative energy is located in the area that holds energies associated with helpful people, the business could have difficulty attracting customers.

    In addition, clutter in those out of sight places has a profound effect on staff morale, behavior and efficiency. A cluttered environment attracts more of the same. In retail it could manifest in a fuzzy, cluttered brain that is less able to make good decisions with customers. Or, a cluttered space with its annoying, irritating energy could lead to irritations among staff members. If nothing else, clutter in the areas of the business that are visible only to staff creates a double standard. The public gets and deserves to have a pristine environment, but the staff must tolerate clutter and visual chaos. What message does that send to staff about their importance to the business?

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    If a business has an office on site, think of it as the physical brain of the business. A cluttered brain operates ineffectively, is unable to make good decisions consistently, and tends to be reactive rather than proactive. Can you really afford to have a cluttered business office?

    So now what? First, if you have neglected those out of sight places in your retail establishment, you must begin viewing those areas as just as significant as the public spaces. You may not worry as much about their decor, but investing energy to make them neat, clean and organized will have a big payoff on many levels.

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    An initial cleanup will be necessary plus the establishment of procedures for maintaining order and cleanliness. Job descriptions should include clear expectations about maintaining both the retail and the out of sight spaces of the business.

    And, the business office. Clear it of anything that does not pertain to the current operation of the business and management of employees. Old records should be archived in another part of the building or off site. Keeping only current documents and records, with the exception of old records necessary for current operations, keeps the business alive and vital. Old records can be distracting and take up prime real estate in the brain of the business.

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    Clear the clutter. Create a new order. Commit to maintaining a clutter-free environment and watch employee behavior and interactions both with customers and other employees improve. Pay attention to your own ability to think clearly, handle problems and make decisions. And, watch the bottom line. Having removed the clutter barriers to success, you are more likely to experience positive change in many areas of the business.

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    The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

    The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

    It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

    Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

    “You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

    In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

    New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

    There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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    So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

    What is the productivity paradox?

    There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

    In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

    He wrote in his conclusion:

    “Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

    Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

    How do we measure productivity anyway?

    And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

    In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

    But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

    In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

    But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

    Possible causes of the productivity paradox

    Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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    • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
    • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
    • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
    • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

    There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

    According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

    Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

    The paradox and the recession

    The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

    “Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

    This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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    According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

    Looking forward

    A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

    “Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

    Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

    “Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

    On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

    Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

    Reference

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