How to Win During the Holiday Sales Season
by Greg Manning, ABCP | September 30, 2021
Part One: Managing Pre-Thanksgiving Activity
Before we know it, the holiday season will be upon us. Customers will be flocking to stores to make their season magical by purchasing gifts for family and friends. While the customer is full of holiday spirit, retailers need to be at the top of their game to succeed. Success comes in three parts:
- Managing Pre-Thanksgiving activity
- Managing Post-Thanksgiving activity
- Managing Post-Christmas activity
Pre-Thanksgiving…Preparation for the race to the finish line
The holiday season can be a stressful time for retailers. The steps you take before Thanksgiving have a huge impact on the results post-Thanksgiving. A vast majority of the year’s profitability happens in the final three months, and any mistakes can have catastrophic consequences. Here are some tips to make this holiday season the best:
- Set daily goals.
There are 84 shopping days between October 1 and December 25. You must make every one of those days count. To meet your sales objective for the season, break the time down to weekly and daily goals. Ensure the goals are clearly articulated to the team members on each shift and ensure every team member knows how their contribution will help to achieve those goals.
- Make adjustments quickly.
If you are not meeting your daily goals, make adjustments quickly. With a limited number of days to make up lost sales, it’s imperative that you adapt to sales shortfalls as quickly as possible. It might require a tweak to a promotion, a change in staffing, or maybe a change in merchandising. Whatever it takes, do it soon. Don’t just assume tomorrow will be better. Plan for tomorrow to be better.
- Change your displays weekly.
Make sure you have a weekly merchandising plan as to how you want your store to look. Remember, there are a lot consumers who shop on multiple days and at different times, so show varying looks to your customers. A simple change can create a new feel and generate new sales.
- Holiday staffing is difficult. Start early and train, train, train.
Do not wait too long to add the staff necessary to create the experience you want to deliver to the customer. If you are short-staffed, customer satisfaction will drop, and your sales will follow. It’s stressful enough with the long lines customers have to endure during the holidays. Make sure you do everything you can to make your store a shining star of speed and efficiency.
- Develop incentive plans.
Prepare incentive plans for your team members and reward success often. Then, pre-Thanksgiving, evaluate the effectiveness of the plans. Your team will be working hard, and a combination of team goals and individual goals will help keep them going throughout the season. Additionally, surprise the team with a pizza party or another small gesture of appreciation. It’s important to recognize their efforts and keep them motivated.
- Create a constant stream of events.
Customers need a reason to shop in your store and not online. Events give customers a reason to come into your store. Entertainment makes the holiday shopping experience fun, and a fun experience will translate into a memorable shopping experience. Plan your events far enough in advance that you can put together the proper marketing and in-store activities. If you wait until the last minute, the event will feel last-minute and will not be successful.
- Order enough supplies and support material.
Before you get into the last four weeks of the holiday season, make sure you have contacted your key suppliers and have ordered enough basic supplies. Make sure you have enough merchandise bags, tissue, register tape, and any other supplies that you will need to manage the season.
- Plan additional services to make your store special.
Customers expect something special from a local store, and you need to deliver. So what additional services can you offer to make the customer’s season better? Free gift wrapping, delivery of packages to the customer’s car, refreshments, etc. Think of ways to make your store stand out, and your customers will reward you for it.
- Evaluate early holiday sales and determine if any reorders are necessary.
Use the sales that occur pre-Thanksgiving to gauge if there are any surprise hot sellers that you might be able to reorder. If the exact product is not available, see if there is a complementary product from a different vendor. Finding hidden gems can make a huge impact on the overall sales of the holiday season. Pay attention and always look for opportunities.
Planning and preparation before Thanksgiving will help you with the final sprint to the finish line. In our next article, we’ll discuss how to win post-Thanksgiving.
Greg ManningConsultants, DeSoto, Growth Acceleration Consultants, Hardee, Highlands, Manning, Polk County
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).