It usually starts with turkey and Thanksgiving. More accurately, it starts with “Black Friday” the day following Thanksgiving which is one of the busiest retail days of the year. And for many businesses, it doesn’t let up until after New Years Day. How will you fare during this holiday rush? Assuming your business will experience a rise in sales, what are the challenges and opportunities that await you?
This is the time of year when many stores start to see a profit from a long year of transactions. There’s an increase in sales and an increase in customers. Since these customers do not normally shop at your store, this is a great opportunity to interact with them and win them over to the idea of shopping at your store on a regular basis.
Opportunity #1– The one time client turned into repeat business. Are you ready for it? Why not pay your staff a little extra to come in one weekend and train them in extra special customer service skills; the investment you make in their training, if successful, will come back to you in an increased amount of business throughout the year. With the increase in customers, there’s the natural increase in sales that follows.
Opportunity #2– More money from increase in customers and sales. Some stores do raise their prices during the holiday season and I’m not against that in some cases (since demand does allow for it as part of the natural movement of the market) but I don’t support price gouging. If you are going to raise your prices, raise your customer’s experience, too by staffing up to avoid long lines as well as offering everyone free mugs of hot apple cider and a candy cane as they browse. Don’t forget to stock up on Christmas-themed impulse items which usually make great stocking stuffers. These ancillary products often have higher profit margins than most stock.
There are pitfalls to watch out for, too. With everyone shopping, there’s sometimes the inevitable rush on a popular item and every year there are a half dozen news stories about two soccer moms or nice grandmas who resort to fisticuffs as they compete for the last Tickle Me Elmo or Harry Potter novel.
Pitfall #1– The rush of customers usually have a negative impact on customer service. How can you solve this before it’s a problem?
Staffing up is a simple matter and not as costly as you might think. Put your higher paid staff interacting most with customers and your minimum wage staff on the cash register. Get a temporary employee from a placement agency to keep your store clean and your shelves stocked. Try to identify all “easy” or “menial” work and delegate it to a temporary employee so that your staff can focus on customers.
One notion in retail is that staff must look busy, however, customers tend to like it better if they walk in and see a staff member standing patiently behind the cash register, waiting to ring someone in. It’s better than having the customer bring their items to the counter and then waiting for the staff member to put down the mop or come out from the stockroom.
Pitfall #2– A lack of products. If your products are selling, that’s fantastic, but this could lead to a poor experience from a future customer.
Holding back some products is one idea, although you really need to be confident that you know your business before you do that, otherwise you might end up holding back too much. Knowing where to find more product in a hurry is a good idea, too, and you might consider even buying it from a competitor and selling it for a breakeven price at your store just to keep the customers happy.
This is not the time of year where people want to get rainchecks; they’re looking for the perfect gift for Uncle Harry or Aunt Maggie. Rather than giving out rainchecks, engage the customer in a conversation to find out what they want and see if something else you have will be a suitable replacement.