11 crucial retail tips for the holidays: Are you prepared?
If you work in retail you likely already know that if your company isn't prepared for the 2013 holiday season yet, it may already be too late. The good news, however, is that there are always improvements to be made, plans to refine and better ways to train employees.
Recently, Retail Dive raised the question of what retailers should focus on with the experts in our Retail Industry Professionals Group on LinkedIn. We received a wealth of responses, but we wanted to share a few of the highlights with you as you evaluate whether or not you're on pace to hit your goals on Black Friday.
Here are 11 of the best suggestions that our group members posted:
1. EXPECT LATE ANNOUNCEMENTS
"The best tip I can give for consumer electronics retailers is: Reserve some space in the plans for small company announcements of "ground breaking" products. Leave a few options for advertising as well. There will be some announcements of AVAILABLE products you can really take advantage of that will increase your floor and and web traffic.
"Buyers, stay aware - talk to sales reps - as many as possible over the next few months. Ask about their new lines and what they think of the products. These vendors are late, but if you do your homework and you can scoop the big guys who are generally interested in completing their planograms by May."
—Howard Blumberg, President, KMH Associates, Inc.
2. REMEMBER THREE THINGS
"Three Things: 1) Have the right inventory available 2) Ensure your associates are knowledgeable 3) Deliver an excellent customer experience."
—Patricia Vekich Waldron, Director, Global Retail Solutions, IBM
3. GET READY FOR SHOPLIFTERS
"Ensure your entire staff is well trained in Shoplifting Prevention. December is by far the most costliest time for shrinkage and training should begin at least a couple months prior to the holiday rush. Too often retailers are unaware of the vast amount of profits that walk out the door during the holiday season and this applies to virtually every retail business. Often even a small amou[n]t of proactive preventative loss prevention measures can go along way to making it a profitable and successful holiday season."
—Fred Tarasoff, Head Consultant and Online Training Developer, Retail Loss Prevention, Tarasoff and Associates
4. KEEP STAFF MOTIVATED
"The first point would be to take care of staff motivation. As people all around are going on holidays, staff would be really pressured to put in their best at work. So have some holiday incentives in place. Also staff rostering has to be done carefully to ensure enough staff is available and that all of them do not go on holiday at once."
—Jay Gopal, Project Consultant, BASF
5. CONSIDER TIME OFF AHEAD OF CRUNCH TIME
"Look after your team and make sure you see them as a person and not a product to achieve a result.
"Make them rota taking their days off, as one weekend in the build up to the main event. They will come back invigorated, positive and ready for the final push.
"Granted it is a risk, but the benefits will quickly be seen to all. You cannot achieve your results without them being at their best.
—Mark Bagnall, Operations Manager, Gant
6. PRIORITIZE SOCIAL MEDIA
"[W]hen the holiday season starts, use social media and radio promotions instead of going into banners and events. reason being, customer is in the mood of spending, they just need the direction that where they should go and spend and radio/social media does that job. Hence saves your marketing expenditure."
—Apaar Arora, Planner Anotah Fashions
7. CHILL OUT AND SET PRIORITIES AHEAD OF TIME
"DON'T PANIC. The holidays come every year. Every year your managers look at those goals and say...oh my.....A new manager will freak. Have your pre-holiday checklist updated and in order. This allows your teams to be prepared for the 'task' items, packaging, visa tape, phone numbers etc.
"Secondly, run sales drills (role-play) with the team. Setting up for Black Friday madness, how to take care of customers even with 50 waiting in line. Man the phones, these are potential customers.
"New Managers, hold their hand right up until the season. Go over all details of what could happen and have a plan for them. Power outage, medical emergency, rain checks, orders not in on time and so on. This will give them the confidence to go into battle so to speak."
—Diane Huff, Director of Sales and Customer Experience, Harry Ritchie's Jewelers
8. CHOOSE IN-STORE SANTAS CAREFULLY
"One of the most traditional attractions a store can offer during the Holiday season is a visit with Santa Claus! This tradition will NEVER lose its popularity and is a DEFINITE draw for your store when promoted effectively and well in advance!
"However, today's trend is not just about having 'any' Santa Claus. Retailers across the nation want 'THE REAL THING!'... A professional REAL-BEARDED SANTA! A Santa who will create a magical experience for both children and adults. This should be an incredible experience for your customers that they will talk about to their friends and family, thus, telling them about your store. This memory will be talked about for YEARS TO COME. They will want to return to your store not only each holiday season, but throughout the year and will have told everyone about your store as well. The important thing is to book in advance. Some of our best Santas book-up early in the season. Whichever Santa you choose, make sure they are background-checked and the company you book through is fully insured. Since our specialty is staffing Santas nationwide, we are happy to assist our customers with planning a successful event, especially if this is their first time planning one like this."
—Cynthia Maheras, Owner, Party Palz Entertainment and The Best Santa Claus Co.
9. PLAN AROUND YOUR BUSIEST DAYS
"Know when you do your business and plan to maximize on business during those days and those hours. The problem is most retailers set up their 'fixed schedules' and don't allow any flexibility for the peaks. My philosphy regarding customer service and salesmenship, is you are only as good as you are during the heaviest traffic time, day and hour! Also the only way to cover your sales floor when it is rocking is by sectioning the store accoding to the acumen of the sales people and the areas that get the most traffic. Customer greeting is the key to making customers feel that they will get taken care of in 'due time.' Retail is suffering due to incompetent sales associates and a lack of training. Preparation is the key to capitalizing on peak times and creating an experience that will bring the clients back to the store and become loyalists. Sales are easy to make, creating relationships and devout loyalists are the key to longivity in the business. Sorely missing in most retail operations today!!"
—Randy Snyder, Independant Consultant, RSRS International Consulting
10. PLAN YOUR MARKETING BUDGET NOW
"Plan your holiday marketing campaigns early. I can't tell you how many times we've had clients who figure out in mid-December that they still have money in their marketing budget, and they want to get something in homes before Christmas. Review your marketing budget for the rest of the year and make sure you're on target (or adjust accordingly). Once you know how much you have to spend for the holiday season, plan those campaigns, start getting the creative underway, and make sure you can hit your targets. Also remember - If you're using direct mail, because of all of the other marketing materials and holiday greetings in the mail, delivery times are lengthened. Getting your campaign timelines in place now will save a lot of headache in the busy holiday months and will ensure you can get your message to your customers in a timely manner."
—Michelle Collins, Principal/Co-Owner, SilverGrass Marketing
11. WORK WITH YOUR SUPPLIERS
"One step that is critically important is join planning between the retailer and the supplier. From a practical standpoint, stick with the 20% of your customer base that constitutes some 80% of your business.Work through a joint product(s) plan, including timing, location, service commitment, tie into promotions/advertising. Common sense goes a long way to meeting/exceeding your customers requirements. Also understanding if the Retailer is moving forward with OmniChannel is critically important."
—Joe Andraski, Founder, Collaborative Energizer LLC
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