Preparing for the 4th Quarter

It's time to get ready for the holiday season

Cris Willis

Can you hear that? If you listen closely, you can hear the Christmas bells already ringing.

Are you ready for the 4th Quarter?

You need to stop, think, and plan now if you want to have a successful Holiday Season in your retail store.

Whether you are pumped up, cautiously optimistic, nervous but hopeful, or scared of your sales projections for this upcoming holiday season, you need to put in some time planning. For most retail stores this quarter is “make it or break it” time. You cannot just do things as you have always done them. COVID has not canceled Christmas, but it is going to look very different this year.

 

You cannot wait until “you have time” to plan your 4th Quarter business.  There never seems to be enough time in the day.  You must schedule a time to plan, and the sooner, the better.  Those Christmas bells are getting louder and closer each day.

 

You must Maximize your Merchandise

 

Put your holiday merchandise out sooner

“Everyone is going to be shopping earlier,” says Hitha Herzog, chief research officer of H Squared Research.

With the uncertainty of the upcoming flu season and the unknowns about coronavirus this winter, many consumers will start their Christmas shopping earlier than before. Many people will get their shopping done sooner than they usually do after experiencing shortages of items and slower delivery on shipped items.  

 

Watch the sales trends closer than ever

Most retail stores that are not considered “essential” have ordered less merchandise for the upcoming holiday season. It is safer to have less inventory on-hand and on-order with all of the unknowns, but that means you have to watch it even closer. You have to stay in stock of your best items. Inventory Management is more important than ever.

You must be ready to reorder quickly as needed and be prepared to markdown slow sellers earlier than ever. 

That being said, you must continuously be receiving NEW items into the store. Customers love NEW. Sales will go down if your merchandise mix is stale; you need a continuous influx of new.

 

Make your merchandise available the way your customers want to buy it 

The global health crisis has shifted consumers’ preferences and pushed them to online shopping. Many independent retailers did not have good e-commerce sites at the beginning of this year, and many were not involved in social selling. After six months of coronavirus, many retailers pivoted and now have excellent websites with e-commerce, are selling online via Facebook and Instagram, and have implemented curbside pickup and delivery services.  

The big box stores will be pushing their online sales this season. Many consumers will be looking for free shipping. Make sure your store is changing to meet your customers’ new shopping patterns.

 

You must Maximize your Staff

 

Recruit and Hire Well

Do you hire seasonal employees? This is a great way to bring on associates for a 2-3 month job. You can get to know them and their work ethic before committing to year-round employment.  

Many employers are having a hard time finding staff right now. Here are a few suggestions to help you.  

  • Consider posting your openings on Snagajob.com or Indeed.com.  
  • Always be on the lookout for anyone doing a great job while you are out in your community. Give them your business card and tell them that if they are ever looking to make a change to give you a call.
  • Write a fantastic Red-Hot Help Wanted ad and post it to your Facebook, send it in an email, and put it on a sign in your store.

 

Sales Training for Holiday Selling

Sales Training is always a key factor for retail success, but in the 4th Quarter, it is even more critical. So, plan some sales training meetings with your associates early in the season. Then continuously coach them throughout the season. Selling merchandise is why your store exists, and you must cultivate a sales culture in your store.  

Bob Negen with WhizBang! Training developed a 6 Step selling process called “The Perfect Purchase.” If you would like a great sales training program with all of the work done for you, check out The Retail Sales Academy by WhizBang! Training.

To watch my videos explaining the 6 steps, check out the Retail Clarity Business Coaching YouTube channel.

 

Plan Games, Perks, and Employee Events to Boost Morale

The Holidays can be a very stressful time in retail. Everyone is busy and working long hours, and many employees spend more time at work than they do with their friends and family. You need to plan now to have fun at work and help your staff avoid holiday burnout. Be purposeful in making your team know how much you appreciate them throughout the season. 

Make a plan and get it on your calendar before time gets away from you.

Here are a few suggestions to get your brain working:

  • Plan some fun Sales Games for your associates where they can win prizes or cash!
  • Plan a Holiday Party for your associates.
  • Plan some lunches and sweet treats to surprise your associates over the next couple of months.
  • Write some personal notes to each associate telling them how much you appreciate them.

 

You must Maximize your Traffic/Events/Promotions & More

 

Start your Holiday Events and Promotions Sooner

The Holiday shopping season is kicking off earlier this year. Amazon is having a “Prime Day” shopping event in early October. 

Other retailers are planning sales events on Oct. 10th. Target, Kohl’s, and many other big box stores have announced that their Holiday deals will start in Oct. as well.

So independent retailers looking to capitalize on this Holiday Season need to be sure that their stores are stocked, decorated, and ready earlier than ever before. You should consider having your own Prime Day or Prime Week specials in early October and continue to fill up your Holiday Calendar from there.

 

Have Events and Promotions run longer

In the past, it was all about driving customers into your store—the more the merrier. Now, it is all about social distancing. To do that, retailers will have to have events and promotions run for a longer time to spread out the crowds. If your Fall Open House used to run for one week, it may need to run for three weeks this year.

If your Christmas Open House used to run for a weekend, it might need to run for 1 or 2 weeks this year. Your Thanksgiving and Small Business Saturday Promotions may run for a week instead of a day or two.

The most important thing is to have a calendar full of events and promotions, giving your customers reasons to shop with you each week throughout the Holiday Season. If you have not done so yet, STOP right now and work on your Events and Promotions Calendar for Oct, Nov, and Dec 2020.

 

Create Omni-Experiential Events where customers can participate in the way that works for them

These events and promotions need to be available to your customers in the way that they want to engage with you. Be sure to plan how customers can participate via your e-commerce site, Facebook, Instagram, etc. Also, be sure your customer is getting the same consistent “on brand” service that you offer in your store, whether they are picking up curbside, shopping online, or having their items delivered. Bob Negen with WhizBang! Training calls this “Omni- Experiential.”

 

For a deeper dive into how to have a super-successful holiday season despite the pandemic, make plans to attend the Holiday University 2-Day Live Virtual Conference. WhizBang! Training will be holding this event on Thurs, Sept 25th, and Fri, Sept 26th.  Click Here for more information and to register.

Cris Willis

Cris is a business coach for independent retailers. With 25 years of experience owning and operating a family business, she now guides retail owners to make smarter decisions regarding inventory management, marketing, sales training, product assortment, and more. When not at work, she loves to travel the country with her husband in their motorhome.

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