Prepare a store for the holidays

This article was featured in Small Business Opportunities Magazine, August 12th, 2013. See the original article here.
This article is slightly different than our normal; it has nothing to do with how to franchise a business. Though franchising is our primary expertise, our team has skills in other places, and our franchisors are able use those skills as they franchise their business.

 

The holiday season is coming at us faster than Santa’s sleigh. If you are not preparing now for the holiday season, you are already behind the times. Stores last year started the selling season earlier, kept later hours and offered better deals. Did you? As hard as it is to believe, each year many consumers start their holiday shopping before Halloween. This is even truer in difficult economies, as it allows families to spread the spending out over several months.  Not much in the way of advertising is done during this time, but you have to have merchandise on your shelves.

Maybe this is your first Holiday season, and you don’t know what to expect? Or maybe you are not happy with your store’s performance in Q4 of last year?  If so, use the suggestions in this article (and the rest of this guide) to boost sales and set some records this holiday season! Oh, and get your shopping done early, because you won’t have time for gift-buying this year!

Store Appearance and merchandising

Store Appearance Assessing your store’s appearance should be step one of your holiday plan. From the moment your customer sees your store from the street, it is talking to them.

  • Dirty, windows, too many posters or poorly designed assets, or a cluttered entrance tells your customer “this store is dirty and unprofessional” whereas a clean looking store, with freshly washed windows, professional art, and a clean, clutter-free entrance says “my owner takes pride of ownership in me”. Which one of these would inspire you to buy, or to entrust your equipment for repair?
  • Visible trash or clutter around or behind the cashwrap, says “we’re disorganized” and products on the floor says “we don’t care about our merchandise”, is that the store you would want your kids in?
  • Barren walls, empty gondolas, and half-filled dump bins say “we don’t have what you are looking for”.Is that the store you want to buy your niece a gift-card to?

 

Be very cognizant of what your store is saying to your customers! Ask a friend or family member (one that you know will be honest instead of sparing your feelings) to walk through your store and tell you the “messages” he or she is receiving.

 

We always encourage you to fill your store with the sounds of your business, but this time of year fill your store with the sounds of the season. Holiday music, as well as holiday colors, really helps set the shopping mood!

 

Merchandising The holiday season is truly the season of impulse purchases. People have huge lists they need to fill, not to mention stocking stuffers and “extra” gifts for unexpected drop-ins. Make sure your store is well merchandised to showcase high-margin gifts, stuffers, and other impulse purchases.  Give your toys better positioning, and make sure you are stocked with them. Make sure that you have candies and small toys at the cash wrap, and mark them as gifts or stocking stuffers. Use gift markings throughout the store as well. Make sure you are also displaying gift certificates at the cash wrap.

 

Staffing

Last year, Consumer Reports released a report that stated that “65 percent” of shoppers are “tremendously annoyed” by bad customer service, with 64% saying they had left a store in the previous year because of this. 1

Your staff IS your company, as far as your customer is concerned. If you have the wrong personnel in place this holiday season, it can cost you thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars in lost sales, both now and in the years to come.

 

Hire For most retailers, the fourth quarter is BY FAR you’re most busy. Many anticipate that the last quarter of the year accounts for as much as 40% of their business. During this time, you will likely have days when you have lines to the door or longer. You will also have days when you have people call in sick, get hurt, go on vacation, etc. Make sure that you start now lining up your temporary help. When you are hiring temporary workers, you still have to find quality sales people. A case could be made, in fact, that you have to hire BETTER people for your temporary positions, because you will have less time to train and mold them before the holiday rushes begin.

 

Train The item that customers come in shopping for is often not the item you want to sell them. Your sales people must be trained to effectively upsell and cross sell. More customers mean more opportunities for add-ons and complementary merchandise. Make sure you train your new staff and re-train your existing staff! Explain to them the importance of the holiday season to your business. Set goals, post them, and hold people accountable. Do roll-playing. Practice the 5 Steps of Selling. Make sure that using a feature/benefit analysis and offering the right product to the right customer is second nature to every one of your employees before the holidays hit.

 

Fire2 Don’t wait, do it now. If you have an employee with a bad attitude, or one who isn’t showing up as scheduled, or even a great and reliable person who just can’t make the numbers, let them go NOW. Why? Because their comfort levels are going to be pushed this holiday season. They can’t hide behind the counter and text with friends or play on their phone when you have 30 people in your store.  They WILL be approached by customers, they WILL have their knowledge tested and they WILL have ample opportunities to make you money. If they are not the right person, you HAVE to let them go sooner rather than later!

 

Social Media

Make sure you are using social media this holiday season. Social media is an inexpensive way to reach people you know are interested in your business.   Facebook obviously allows you to reach people who are your “friends” or who have “liked” your store. If, however, you want to reach their friends, you have to produce content worth sharing! If post something that is entertaining, informative, or just too good to pass up, then your viewing audience will “like” or “share”. The impact that a post going viral can have is huge! Create fun, exciting, content and see for yourself.

To increase your viewing audience, get your customers to “like” your store while they are still in the store. To learn how to do this, look for an upcoming Social Media posting here.

 

UPDATE check out our social media posting here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/consumer-reports-survey-two-in-three-consumers-have-walked-out-of-a-store-because-of-poor-customer-service-123357323.html

2 you are responsible for insuring that all of your hiring and firing practices follow all applicable laws and regulations.