The customers are coming. Are you ready?
If you operate a retail store, you have less than one month to make a big success of this holiday season.
I’m sure you know how to run your store but I’d like to give you some tips to contribute to your success.
1. Few stores have enough staff working the floor. Schedule more staff than you need to work the registers and stock the floor. It’s stupid to operate with only sufficient staff to ring up sales. The goal isn’t to get the customers out the door as quickly as possible. Shoppers at this time of year have no idea what they want and are highly suggestible. You should schedule enough staff to keep the lines short at the cash registers and have sales people circulating the store suggesting items to customers. The goal is to sell as much as possible. If everyone is ringing up sales, no one is selling. Adding staff to work with customers will produce more sales. Retail help is CHEAP. A floor person can generate at least $100 per hour. Don’t be cheap, be smart.
2. Train your people. Retailers make the mistake of treating the holiday season as a “busy” time. It’s not just a busy time. The rules of engagement are completely different in November and December than they are for a busy Saturday in August. First of all, people are not buying for themselves at this time of year as they are during most of the year. This changes the whole shopping dynamic because people know what they like for themselves but find it much harder to choose something for someone else. The customers need more assurance. They want to know that their selections are good ones.
Teach your staff to help people shop for other people. NEVER ask, “can I help you?” Try this, “Hi, may I ask who are you shopping for? I might be able to suggest something great.” Do you want to knock your customers over with great service? Ask them “Is there anything I can do to make your shopping easier?”
Another big difference about this time of year is men will be shopping in stores or departments where they do not normally shop. Help them. Men are looking for a way to buy their way out of the season. There’s an old expression in retail that says women browse for a pair of pants and men hunt down a pair of pants.
Lastly, budgets mean nothing in December. People who had carefully planned to spend $50 on mom will spend $100 to get mom checked off their list.
3. Keep the goods on the sales floor, not in the back room. The store’s shelves must be full. When the amount of goods on the shelves begins to thin, the available selection looks picked over. That’s another reason to keep plenty of staff working. Small stores tend to stock and organize when things slow down. That’s the Sears way of doing things. You want your store as nice and full as possible when the most people are shopping in your store. As obvious as that sounds, you’ll seldom see it in practice. As soon as things slow down, around 9:00 p.m., everyone is folding sweaters and bringing out goods. Don’t bring carts on the floor during the busy time. But you can bring out goods in a constant flow of small boxes. When you bring a box out, watch the crowd flock to it.
4. Shock your customers with service. Offer to carry bags to their car. Offer separate receipts for each item. Sure, that’s a pain for you but it’s a wonderful service for the customer. Have envelopes handy and offer to put receipts in envelopes. You could run off some nice stickers for the envelopes saying something like, “gift receipts from Mandy’s Boutique”.
Get a pile of $5 cards from the food court or a near by coffee shop. You can probably get a big discount from your own food court vendors. If a customer spends over a certain amount, give them a card and tell them to take a break on you. Don’t advertise this. Just do it. Building goodwill through service is a lot cheaper than marking everything down 3 weeks before Christmas. Make it so fun to shop in your store your customers will tell their friends about you. Sell everything and you won’t have to take mark downs.
5. Offer gift boxes before the customer reaches the register. Show them a particular item in a box. You are selling convenience. Customers see your wonderful staff doing half of the project of wrapping their purchases. That’s much better than asking customers if they want some boxes at check-time and then just putting flat cardboard in their bags.
If you don’t have gift boxes, go get them, dummy! ANYTHING in a box will sell as you get closer to the end of the season. Display lots of items in boxes. Guys especially will appreciate seeing things boxed. It completes the picture. They see a robe hanging and think, “maybe she’ll like that”. They see a robe in a box and think, “I’m done shopping”.
You don’t need to box everything in the store. You can box samples for display. Next to the hanging robes, put one in a box. Your staff can switch it for the customer’s correct size and color. That’s a service, right? You should have a box for everything you sell. When people see a boxed item, they buy it.
5a. More about the box thing. If it’s in a box, suggest it. When guy buys a robe, suggest a nice boxed pair of gloves. Add-ons are easy to sell when boxed. Go to Sears and look around. They put screwdrivers in boxes during the holidays. Sears gets that part of the season right.
All 5 ½ of these items relate to giving good service. If you train your staff to provide extraordinary, remarkable, outstanding and incredible service, you won’t be discounting your inventory as early as your competitors.
Holiday shoppers want to finish their shopping, not to shop. Make it easy and fun to shop at your store and people will try to finish their shopping chore with you.
Do not run out of boxes. That’s inexcusable this time of year.
Have a great season!
Chris Reich, Author of TeachU’s Business Talk Blog