Yes, school is just starting back, summer temperatures are still upon us, and it seems like we should be sunning by the pool instead of looking ahead to the holidays. But, as a retailer, your biggest moment is just ahead! Whether you’re a year-round retailer or a seasonal specialty shop, the Fourth Quarter is your opportunity to really bring it all home with a stellar sales season and great profits. So, what do you need to do to ensure that these last few months of 2015 live up to your expectations? We’ve got some tips on preparing your store for the holidays to ensure you’re on top of it all.
Plan your Work and Work your Plan: First and foremost, you want to have a detailed sales plan as you head into the last part of the year. Even if you’ve not been diligent about it thus far, you can still make up for it now. Map out your sales, whether by category and month or even week-by-week if that works better for your business. Review past sales data to understand the ebb and flow, and then incorporate this year’s sales trends into your plan. As you review your past numbers, take into account one-time events, such as products or promotions that may have affected your sales numbers. Think about what is realistic and go from there. Ideally, yes, it’d be great to sell every item in the store, but you want to build your sales plan based on what is likely to happen, not a “maybe.”
Inventory is your Best Friend: Once you have your sales plan in place, ensure your inventory is in line with your sales strategy. You are the expert on how much product you can warehouse at a time, as well as the predicted sales stream. You also know how your vendors operate and what their delivery and restocking timeframes are. Compile all this information and make sure you’ve got an inventory strategy in place, guaranteed to have the products you need for each of your sales cycles. If you’re working with new vendors this year, have a business conversation about how they operate during the holiday season so you are prepared. As a retailer, you never want to miss a sale because you’re out of stock too early in the season. So take the time now to make sure your inventory plan, your vendors and your warehouse are ready for action!
Displays with a Capital “D”: As we all know, the right display is key! Be sure you’ve got fresh, new ideas for this sales season. As you create your displays, here are a few simple rules to follow:
- Coordination is key. Tie the products in with a great theme, a good color scheme and clean, simple ideas.
- Signage, signage, signage. Work in creative signage that is eye-catching and properly positioned to get attention.
- Keep it fresh. Rotate your displays and don’t be afraid to change them up.
- Track it. As a manager or owner, you want to know what works, so track what you’re using and how it works. This also helps you avoid repetition and stale ideas.
People, People, People: This is THE time to get the right people hired, trained and ready for the holiday season. The last thing you want to do is hire any warm body off the street on November 1 as you go into the busiest shopping season of the year. Instead, use this time to advertise, interview and recruit the type of sales team that you want in place, knowing that this is when you want to amp it up. Today’s shoppers are efficient, time-oriented and let’s be honest, impatient people. You want to have an attentive, knowledgeable and engaging team on your floor to really capitalize on the sales opportunities of the season. But also, don’t forget your current staff! Keep them in the loop on what’s coming up for the 4th quarter; get their input on displays and sales strategies; take advantage of any downtime now to ensure they are trained and up-to-date on everything in the store. And, use your best people to train your new staff members. At the end of the day, you can have the best products in the world, but it’s your people who will truly sell.
Don’t Be Afraid of Change: Sometimes, even the best-laid plans don’t yield the results you want. If something’s not working, think about making a change. Whether it’s the display, your team, a product or even your store hours, make the adjustments you think will work. If your competitor across the street opens at 9am instead of 10, think about doing the same. If a certain display’s not getting the traffic you want, move it. If a particular product isn’t selling like it should, do a promotion. If your team is uncertain on some processes, plan a training session so everyone’s on the same page. You’re the boss and you know best, but more importantly, you’re the team captain. You set the tone and you keep your finger on the pulse of your store. Don’t’ be afraid to admit change is warranted – and get additional input when needed.
Every retailer – from the most seasoned owner to this year’s novices – knows that the 4th quarter is your opportunity to bring it all home! For most of you, you’ve been preparing for this season, but take this opportunity to fine-tune and make sure all your “i’s” are dotted and “t’s” are crossed. This is the time for your store to shine. So, make it happen!
- Lambert, Emily. “Selling the Season.” Specialty Retail Report. Fall 2005.
- Hurlburt, Ted. “How to Manage Retail Seasonality.” Business Know How.