Selling lingerie not only requires a high level of time-investment to provide consultation, but is also often an “intimate matter” between the saleswoman and her customer. A high-quality “shopping experience” in this case is not created by frequency-oriented workforce planning alone, but ideally ensures that the right saleswoman is on the sales floor at the right time. SEAK’s software supports Mey’s specialist shops with this.
Mey, in Albstadt, is a living family tradition since 1928. The company, which was founded at the time as a contract knitting shop, today stands for internationally sought-after women’s and men’s underwear, lingerie and swimwear (men) with premium standards.
Most of the fabrics are made in their own knitting factory in Germany. Above all, the finest, highest quality cotton varieties in the world are used, including organic cotton from Peru, which is picked and sorted entirely by hand and without the use of defoliants and requires significantly less water than in other regions of the world.
In addition to the highest ecological standards, value is placed on fair production conditions. Most of the products are assembled in a fully integrated production facility in Germany and Europe.
Mey started their own retail business in 2010. Today there are 22 stores, seven factory outlet centers and two multi-label stores (in Mainz and Salzburg). The IT solutions for time management and workforce planning in the Mey branches come from SEAK Software and were introduced in April 2019. In an interview, Patricia Bodmer, Retail Operations Manager at Mey, takes stock.
“It quickly became clear that SEAK is something like the Porsche of this market segment.”Patricia Bodmer, Retail Operations Manager
What challenges did Mey Retail face when introducing the SEAK software?
Patricia Bodmer: We still used Excel tables or manually conducted staff scheduling, time recording and budget planning. It couldn’t go on like this any longer. After all, there were already 22 stores with around 150 employees. Everything was too time-consuming, too non-transparent and too prone to errors.
How did you come into contact with SEAK Software and why did you choose this provider?
Bodmer: That happened very quickly. Of course, we checked out several solutions and providers in the market. It quickly became clear that SEAK is something like the Porsche of this market segment.
Which processes have you been able to optimize?
Bodmer: Four to six employees work in our shops, which are up to 100 square meters in size. Their schedules are controlled by the store manager. When planning, they now see the staff availability on every day and at every hour much more easily and clearly.
Budget planning was also massively refined. Before, we had a monthly plan. Now there is a budget for every day. This is possible, among other things, because the SEAK system specifically calculates the frequency forecasts and the appropriate hourly budgets for each of the different days.
There are further simplifications that make the holiday planning process particularly clear.
How do you go about budget planning?
Bodmer: Planned sales are specified by the Head of Retail. This provides a target for an individual store or team. The planned turnover per day is decisive for the number of sales assistants to be planned.
The system makes it possible to better understand the strengths and weaknesses of employees and to substantiate them with numbers.
The store manager, who is responsible for staff scheduling, can now deploy staff more specifically depending on their strengths in individual areas such as sales, merchandising or side-jobs such as goods clearance.
“The system makes it possible to better understand the strengths and weaknesses of each employee and to substantiate them with numbers.”Patricia Bodmer, Retail Operations Manager
Was there any resistance to the introduction of the software?
Bodmer: Yes, there was. At first there was perhaps the impression that those in the HQ wanted to exercise more control. But the SEAK system is very transparent and also enables us to schedule employees more easily on the days and times that they themselves prefer.
We also exercise a more just rotation now in terms of deploying on unpopular days or times. The working atmosphere and team spirit are even stronger now.
Can the improvements be expressed in numbers?
Bodmer: Productivity in the area is increasing. However, it is hardly possible to attribute improvements to a single factor. For example, we train our employees regularly and intensively on site so that they have already worked at the highest level as lingerie specialist salespeople.
How has communication with the teams developed since the software was introduced? Are there any topics that you could not discuss before or that lacked supportive data?
Bodmer: The increased data transparency makes discussions easier. In addition, when there is potential for improvement, it is now more visible and easier to address. In addition, we have a better grip on overtime.
To what extent does SEAK software help improve the customer’s shopping experience?
Bodmer: The system notifies us, among other things, about days and times when a team would be under-staffed and unable to achieve a planned turnover. We then schedule additional staff. In such a service-intensive business, automated notifications like these, are indispensable in order to offer the ideal shopping experience.
What is your opinion on the SEAK employee service portal, with which employees have the opportunity to take care of processes such as holiday requests, booking corrections, etc. and can find out about the current status of their requests, time balances and holiday status at any time.
Bodmer: It’s well received as a tool that enables employees to self-organise more. We use all functions. So far, it can only be accessed from the cash register. As a next step, we also want to give employees access from their smartphones.
What is your experience with SEAK support?
Bodmer: Smooth, quick, uncomplicated.
And your opinion on factors such as reliability, adherence to deadlines, and competence?
Bodmer: Stay as you are.
Is there any experience in particular that stands out for you since the beginning of your collaboration with SEAK Software?
Bodmer: The initial training courses when the system was introduced. They were quite perfect.
Did anything surprise you?
Bodmer: Yes. We were introduced step by step to the functional scope of the system in an intelligent way.
What would you describe as “typically SEAK”?
Bodmer: SEAK is demanding – in a positive sense. Just like today’s customers in retail. I needed a software partner just like that.
We thank Patricia Bodmer for the interview. The interview was conducted by trade journalist Bruno Reiferscheid.
Photos © Mey Handels GmbH, Cover image: Mey Store Mainz