Prepping your Retail Business for Christmas 2017

By: Andrew Sauveur

I know, it’s Summer, why am I writing an article about Christmas? Because as many of you know, now is the time to plan for the Christmas season if you run a retail location. Here’s some ideas.

It’s time to ramp up your holiday planning.

The Christmas season is the biggest shopping event of the year, and for many merchants, holiday sales can account for up to 30 percent of their annual revenue.
No doubt retailers will bring their A-game during the holidays, so you need to work extra hard to compete.

Achieving holiday retail success is completely doable. But you do need to plan ahead and take steps to prepare for the upcoming seasonal rush. To help you do that, we’ve put together several key tasks you should take care of before the Christmas season. Check them out below and see if you need to add anything to your to-do list.

Sales & Marketing

Plan your holiday displays
Make sure your displays (i.e. window and in-store displays, shop layouts) can grab attention and entice people to buy.  Start planning what you’ll showcase in your store and craft the stories that you’ll tell through your displays.

From a logistical standpoint, see to it that you have the materials to set up stunning displays. These include:

Lights – Invest in good lighting that make your displays pop. If possible, use white lights to generate interest.

Props – Do away with generic props and get yourself something holiday-specific. Ensure that your store looks different on December 15th, than it does on September 15th.

Signage – “Sale” signs are pretty standard and you should definitely have them in your signage mix.  But be sure to throw in unique messages and signs to get the attention of holiday shoppers.

Here’s a great example: Try using a sign to encourage impulse buys during the holiday season. Perhaps try a sign that reads “The gift you forgot!” and put it right next to the cash.

Order holiday-specific merchandise

Will you be selling gift items or holiday-themed merchandise? What about gift bundles? If so, you should place those orders sooner rather than later. Complete your holiday inventory planning, and order merchandise by then end of the month at the latest to ensure that you’re able to stock up on in-demand holiday items.

The same goes for gift cards. Order holiday-centric gift cards and plan out where and how you’re going to promote them. Gift cards are particularly popular during the Christmas season and they’re great for your bottom line. The last thing you want is to run out.

Make your website holiday-centric

See to it that your website is holiday-centric. For instance, you may want to plan the Christmas-themed banners that you’ll display. And during the holidays, many retailers create special gift sections or categories such as “For Her” or “Gifts under $50”. Consider doing the same thing on your website.

If you’re running seasonal promotions, ensure that your website visitors can access and redeem your offers easily.

Operations

Hire seasonal staff for the rush
If you’re hiring additional staff this season, now is the time to start looking. Get the word out by posting on job boards, re-hiring previous employees, and asking for referrals.

Aside from that, see if you can implement more creative hiring tactics.
Ask your current staff to ask their friends if they know anyone who may be looking for seasonal work.

Make sure you have enough store supplies
The holidays will be hectic and the last thing you want is to run out of supplies when the Christmas season is in full swing.

Prepare those supplies now so you won’t have to worry about them later on. Here are a few items you may want to stock up on:

Cash desk supplies, including bags, pens, till tape, staplers, hold tags, etc.
Payment terminal paper
Receipt paper
Gift cards
Gift boxes
Hangers
Cleaning supplies

Tighten up security

The holidays bring more traffic, but this could also mean more opportunities for theft. Get your loss prevention ducks in a row well before the Christmas season picks up.

Here are a few friendly reminders:
Set the right user permissions – Most modern point-of-sale systems allow you to set user permissions to enable or restrict staff members from doing certain tasks. Check with your POS solution provider and see how you can update permissions in your store.

Review your user permissions to make sure you know exactly what your staff can see and do with your POS. A big mistake many retailers make is applying the same permissions for all users.

You should also be vigilant when it comes to who can process voided sales, as this is a very easy way to steal stock.

Foot traffic technologies

Conduct partial inventory counts – Consider cycle counting instead of doing full inventory counts. Cycle counting means physically counting just certain portions of inventory on a daily or weekly basis so you won’t have to do a full inventory count anymore.

In doing so, you’re able to identify stock discrepancies and theft sooner rather than later. Not mention, cycle counting helps you stay on top of inventory without disrupting regular store hours.

Map out a fulfillment plan

Order fulfillment is a big deal all year round, but during the holiday season, it truly is a make or break factor. The smallest difference in shipping cost or delivery dates can be a deciding factor for consumers, so you want to optimize fulfillment as much as you can.

The first step to implementing a more efficient fulfillment process is to gain real-time visibility across your sales channels. You and your staff should always know what products you have in stock and where they are, so you can provide accurate availability and fulfillment information to your customers.

Additionally, knowing where products are stocked can help you map out fulfillment routes and improve decision making when it comes where to stock up and when.

The holiday shopping season may not be in full swing yet, but it’s high time you start preparing. The steps you take today will determine whether or not you’ll thrive during the Christmas season. So, give yourself the gift of preparedness and take action ASAP.