by Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender
It’s that time of year again: The fourth quarter – the Golden Quarter – a crucial time for every retailer. The Golden Quarter is traditionally when most retailers go from being in the red to being in the black. You just can’t afford to mess up because there are no do-overs and no going back.
Even great customers shop in strange patterns during the holidays, and their choices tend not to be divided equally among retailers. If you want to spin the doors on your store this Holiday you have to be prepared:
Plan In-Store Events & Promotions
There is a lot of competition going on this time of year for the customers’ attention. You need to be ready with one major and one to two minor events scheduled for every week of the Golden Quarter, especially in November and December. Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) and Panic Saturday (December 22) are critical event days. Remember, in-store events do not automatically equate to a sale, although that’s always a smart option.
Hire and Train Your Seasonal Staff
You can’t do everything by yourself, and when the store is packed it can be hard for your regular team to keep up. You need seasonal staff to help you out.
Be specific about the kind of people you are looking for, and be upfront about what is required to do the job. You can teach about product and how to deliver exemplary customer service, but you can’t teach nice, so start there. Once you have new hires on board commit to a training schedule that lasts the entire season. You’ll also want to employ the buddy system and partner each new hire with a seasoned associate who can mentor them throughout their seasonal employment.
Choose a Holiday Theme
You can’t throw a party without a theme, so choose one and work it on the sales floor, in ads, social media, email blasts – everywhere! Change your windows every couple of weeks, tweaking your chosen theme, play the right music to get shoppers in the holiday mood to buy, serve cookies and cocoa on Saturdays – commit to a theme and make it happen for the entire Golden Quarter.
Review Your Never Out List
Every retailer needs a “Never Out” list of the things you need to have in stock one hundred percent of the time. During the Golden Quarter this list takes on an even bigger significance, because being out of one of these items can literally make or break a sale, and in your case it could be a big one. If you have a POS system it will likely create this list for you, but make sure to do frequent physical counts to make sure your POS list is correct.
Create a Top 10 List of Not-to-be-Missed Holiday Gifts
Build your lists by age, gender, category, vendor, etc. – whatever makes sense to help you sell more. Place your lists at the cash wrap and throughout the sales floor, on your website, and in your email blasts, and on your social media posts. And make sure that every, single store associate knows about them. The goal is to make it super simple for customers to choose gifts for their friends and family.
Sell, Sell, SELL Gift Cards
Gift cards are your secret weapon, especially during the holidays. Notice we said gift CARDS. That’s because a recent study found that retailers who switch from paper gift certificates to plastic gift cards increase gift card sales from 35% to 50%.
There’s more: 55% of gift card recipients require more than one shopping trip to the store to spend the balance of their card – that’s good news for you. In addition, 61% of gift card holders spend more than the amount of their gift card, and 75% of those people spend 60% more than the value of their card – you can’t lose.
Here’s the thing: A gift certificate or gift card presented in a boring paper sleeve or envelope doesn’t look like much, even if it’s for big bucks. You’ll want to create a look that’s unique to you, say a quilted pouch or nestled in scented paper in a beautifully wrapped and beribboned gift box.
Create a Weekly Bag Stuffer
Bag stuffers are easy-to-create ads you make on your own computer. You can use your most recent email blast, vendor produced POP materials stamped with your store’s information, or create a bag stuffer that’s designed to bring customers back to shop with you again. Now, if you merely stuff them in bags you’re wasting paper and an opportunity. It makes more sense to hand your bag stuffers to customers while explaining what’s on them. Consider it a one-on-one 30 second commercial.
Set Your Sales Floor to Sell
Start with your Speed Bump displays: Speed Bumps – small fixtures/tables loaded with irresistible merchandise – set the tone for the entire visit because they are the first displays shoppers see when they enter your store. Speed Bumps work just like speed bumps in parking lots: they make you slow down and pay attention to what’s directly in front of you.
A variety of related product on your speed bump displays, and everywhere else you can throughout the sales floor. Cross-merchandising saves shoppers time, and potentially increase your average sale.
Provide Shopping Carts or Baskets
Customers with carts or baskets stay longer and spend more than they had originally intended to spend. So place your baskets all over the sales floor, and at least 10’ inside the front door of your store; not at the door. Whenever you see customers with their arms full, offer to hold that product at the cash wrap. People generally stop shopping once their hands are full.
Display Impulse Items At and Near the Cash Wrap
You can count on your female customers to make impulse purchases; that’s why you need to display a variety of low-priced, high margin items at your cash wrap. Place a display behind the cash wrap to keep shoppers thinking about product, and on a fixture near the cash wrap so they can continue to shop while they wait to pay for their purchases.
Send a Weekly Email Blast
Sending email blasts every 10-15 days works for most of the year, but you want to increase the frequency during November and December.
Your email blasts should have one clear message that’s illustrated with photos – big photos – and less copy. Make the photos clickable so customers can go directly to your website for a closer look at that particular product. If it takes a reader longer than 20 seconds to understand your message you are wasting your time.
Most email offers these days are read on a smartphone so be sure yours is easy to read on one before you hit send. Test the URLs to ensure that they work, add a subject line that’s 50 characters or less, and include a call to action. Every email needs to encourage the reader to visit the store or make a purchase online ASAP.
Work Your Social Medias
When it comes to social networking, Facebook and Instagram are still the top two. Post your list of “Top 10 Not-to-be-Missed Holiday Gifts”, and offer coupons and deals that are only available exclusively via your social medias. Use the Facebook Events tab when applicable, and plan to spend part of your advertising dollars on Facebook ads.
Every post should include hashtags, so in addition to your favorites add holiday related hashtags such as #Christmas, #Hanukkah, #holiday, #gifts, #coupons, #Santa, #BlackFriday, etc. The goal is to connect with those who are not your current customers, but should be.
Make Sure Your Return Policy is Competitive
If every one of your competitors accepts returns and exchanges but your policies are a jungle of NO! NO! Nos!, customers will go someplace else to shop. If you don’t have a return policy here’s a good place to start: “Returns and exchanges gladly accepted within ______ days. Your receipt guarantees it.” You’ll save more sales if you train all your associates to politely offer an exchange or a gift card before offering a refund.
Be Prepared for Markdowns
You need a markdown strategy for all of the merchandise you need to get rid of after the holidays. Determine which merchandise will be discounted, how much it will be discounted, how it will be signed (note: numbers work better than percentages), and where it will be displayed on the sales floor. On December 26 display clearance merchandise near the front of the store, move it farther back on the sales floor as it gets closer to January.
You’re exhausted just reading this, right? The Golden Quarter means long hours and stressed out, cranky customers – and that’s when you’re prepared. This year make it easy on yourself, if you haven’t already begun, tear out this article and start planning NOW!
Printed with permission, © KIZER & BENDER 2018