According to Wilkes University’s 2013 Holiday Retail Sales Forecast, most retail businesses will make 25 to 30% of their sales during the heart of the holiday sales season in November and December, and it is expected that holiday sales will be up by an average of 3.9% for the 2013 holiday season. Having a successful holiday sales season is therefore critical to the survival and success of almost all retailers, and small businesses in many other industries. The following are some steps that I have taken in the past, before the holiday rush begins, to ensure a successful holiday sales period.
The holiday sales period should be a time that you put your “best foot forward” as a business. To ensure that your customers and clients have a positive shopping experience, you will want to ensure that all of your associates are fully trained so that they can exceed your customer’s expectations. While the past few years have been economically challenging for many businesses, it’s still a good strategy to hire your holiday sales staff early, preferably by late September to early October, so that there is time to fully train them before the busy holiday season begins. Few things are more irritating to busy shoppers than not being able to find staff that is courteous and knowledgeable to help them.
Pre-order Higher Margin Sales Items and Maximize Sales with Adequate Stock
The holidays are not a time to cut corners on your merchandise budget. Empty shelves, or being overbooked for the services that your small business offers, will cause frustration for your customers, and your sales will suffer for it. Make plans now and pre-order those higher margin items as well as best sellers that add to the profitability of your company, and make plans to add additional room to your schedule for services so that you don’t drive your customers to your competitors.
Timing is Everything
While you will want to ensure that you have fully trained staff and an adequate supply of merchandise or services during the holidays, you will also want to plan and budget for extra scheduling and payroll so that there is time for your shelves to be fully stocked, and services to be performed. This is impossible without allowing for extra payroll dollars in your budget to be spent during the holiday sales period.
Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays – Let the Customer Take the Lead
In recent years, there has been some controversy over whether it is appropriate to wish customers a “Merry Christmas,” “Seasons Greetings, “or a “Happy Holiday.” Regardless of which greeting is used, some backlash is still to be expected. While Christmas is certainly one of the most well-known holidays of the season, it is also true that other faiths and cultures have holidays during the season, and others do not observe any holidays.
To minimize the potential for conflict during the holidays, you may wish to follow whatever is the customary local greeting in your specific location, or let the customer take the lead and only return a customer’s wish or greeting based on the holiday that specific customers invoke. It is also a good idea to train your associates before the season begins and give them some practice scenarios of how to greet customers during the holidays and what steps they should take should they inadvertently cause offense.
It is important to remember that the holidays are not always a pleasant time for everyone, and many shoppers may feel rushed during the season, so something as seemingly simple and innocent as a greeting can be a trigger for some. Proper training can help lessen the stress for both your associates and your customers and help to ensure a successful holiday sales period for your small business.