How to Win During the Holiday Sales Season

How to Win During the Holiday Sales Season

by Greg Manning, ABCP | September 30, 2021

Part Two: Managing Post-Thanksgiving Activity

In our first article of the series, we highlighted nine tips for preparing for the Thanksgiving sales season. Now, the holiday season is in full swing. Every day is vitally important. The store will be packed with customers every day.  Every day is critical. Any missed opportunities might not be able to be recaptured before the season ends. Here are some tips to make the final sprint for the holiday season the best it can possibly be.

  1. Keep your customers happy.

The holiday season can create a lot of stress for shoppers. They might have struggled to find a parking spot or might be limited on time. Look for ways to make it easier for them. Keep the check-out experience efficient. Know when your business has the most traffic and staff accordingly. Train your team specifically on the last interaction with the customer to make it a great experience. A smile and a thank you can go a long way. Evaluate the process daily and make adjustments as needed.

  1. Keep your team happy.

As stressful as the holiday season is for customers, it can be twice as stressful for your staff. Show your appreciation with small gifts that go a long way. Give them a “paid mental health” day after the holidays to recover. Provide lunches and dinners if possible. At the end of the season, provide the team with a handwritten thank you note expressing your appreciation for all their hard work. A little something inside the note would be nice too.

  1. Leverage buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS).

One of the best ways to combat online shopping is the ability for your customers to buy online and come into your store and pick up the product without waiting in line. The guarantee that the product is purchased and the ease of getting in and out is a huge advantage. Communicate with your customers as you get down to the end of the season when shipping rates increase. Let your customers know how you are going to help them.

  1. Build on your database of loyal customers.

Communicate with your loyal customers multiple times during the last weeks of the holiday season. They shop with you the most, so offer them special, exclusive offers to continue to shop with you.

  1. Free gift with purchase goes a long way.

One of the best ways to get customers to purchase more products is to offer a free gift with a specific dollar purchase. The products should be purchased in advance, and your threshold should be at least 50 percent higher than your average transaction. If your gift has a high perceived value to the customer, it will easily increase sales.

  1. Remember to watch your maintained margin.

The first markdown is the cheapest. Don’t be afraid to mark down slow movers. You have a lot of customers coming through the doors and the ability to move slow product is a lot easier with a markdown. Be strategic and make it significant. If the discount is too small, people will just pass on by.

  1. Capitalize on last-minute shoppers.

Evaluate the inventory levels of all your remaining holiday products the week before Christmas. Change the merchandising to more “price point” displays to appeal to customers looking to spend a specific amount of money.  Make strategic markdowns. Last-minute shoppers are great customers to help clear your shelves.

  1. Plan for phase three of the holiday shopping season.

Begin planning for the after-Christmas sale.  Consider adding some non-holiday merchandise to the after-Christmas sale. Shoppers are in the “deal” mode, and you’ll have an opportunity to move some other slow sellers. Evaluate the sell-through of your holiday products and determine if there are any SKUs that you want to hold back and sell at full price the following year. Plan your staffing to be ready the moment you open and then scale back after lunch. The largest and most aggressive after-Christmas shoppers will be there early to get the best selection and they will probably have already evaluated your merchandise on December 24. Make sure the staff is trained on how to accept returns. The return process should be as seamless as the sale process. It’s good customer service. If you can print on your receipt, have your return policy spelled out.

Above all, have fun. You are helping shoppers celebrate with their loved ones and with good execution, it will be a very rewarding season and customers will remember their experience in your store, if executed correctly. In the third article of the series, we will discuss post-Christmas strategies.

  • Greg Manning

    Florida SBDC at USF, Polk County

    Specialty: Cash Flow Management, Strategic Planning, Startup

    Greg Manning opened his first retail location in Lakeland, Fla., more than 30 years ago. While cash flow planning and analysis, and inventory productivity were constants in his businesses, he experienced virtually all aspects of starting, growing, and closing a small business over the course of 30 years. He negotiated dozens of leases and designed and implemented various marketing plans. With more than 250 employees, Manning dealt with various human resources issues. In addition to his operating career, Manning was also involved in the financing side of business as the president of the board of directors at Crown Managers Acceptance Corporation. The company had a facility of $150 million dollars to lend via term loans and working capital loans, providing a lifeline of funding to a multitude of retail customers. Manning earned a bachelor’s degrees in finance and economics from the University of Florida. He is also a certified Associate Business Continuity Professional (ABCP).

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