Are You Ready for Holiday Retail 2018?
We are happy to present Rich Kizer and Georganne Bender as our Guest Bloggers this week writing about holiday retail. Rich and Georganne are consumer anthropologists, keynote speakers, authors, consultants who have helped thousands of businesses in retail, restaurant, hospitality, death care, and service industries since 1990.
Fourth Quarter, the Golden Quarter; the big one you can’t afford to mess up is upon us. This is the time of year when holiday retail can expected to generate between 50-80 percent of annual revenues.
According to the National Retail Federation, holiday retail sales during November and December 2017 increased 5.5 percent over the same period in 2016 to $691.9 billion, exceeding its forecast of between $678.75 billion and $682 billion, the largest increase since the 5.2 percent year-over-year gain seen in 2010. That’s a lot of money and a lot of shoppers – to get your share you need to be prepared. Consider the following in your Golden Quarter planning:
2018 Dates to Remember
This year Black Friday falls on November 23, Cyber Monday is November 27, and the biggest shopping day of the holiday retail season will be the Saturday before Christmas. The NRF reported the 174 million Americans who shopped between Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday last year spent an average of $335 per person during that five-day period, Millennials were the biggest spenders, paying out an average of $419.52 per person. So…
Your store must be open on Black Friday
It’s the kick off to Holiday 2018 and regardless of what you sell, or the size of your store, you need to be there. Why some retailers choose to close their doors on one of the biggest shopping days of the year is beyond us. If you want to be a contender for your share of the holiday retail pie you need to play the game.
¨ Consider running a Create Your Own Couponevent on Black Friday, let customers decide what’s on sale. You choose the percentages, they choose the items.
¨ Encourage shoppers to save their receipts throughout the holidays because on Tuesday, December 11th they will be able to redeem them for merchandise at your Cash Register Receipt Auction. While shoppers are busy collecting receipts dated from November 23 – December 11th, you’ll be busy collecting auction items from generous vendors.
These receipts are worth money: Customers who spend $500 during this time frame will receive $500 in play money to spend at your auction. Of course, your store will be open for shopping with real money after the auction ends – when your sales floor is loaded with customers in the mood to buy, it’s a good idea to let them.
Don’t Ignore Cyber Monday
Every brick and mortar retailer can sell on Cyber Monday, even when you do not traditionally sell online. Offer specials throughout the day that are only available via your social medias. If you don’t want the hassle of shipping, then go the BOPUIS route: Buy Online Pick Up In Store.
With BOPUIS you can post items for sale on your Facebook or Instagram and encourage followers to place their order by commenting on your post. You’ll follow up with an online invoice that can be paid via PayPal or a similar service. All it takes is a little thinking outside the box – we know you’re creative or you wouldn’t be in retailing.
Be prepared to sell big on the Saturday before Christmas
Super Saturday – aka Panic Saturday – falls this year on December 22, the Saturday before Christmas. That’s awfully close to Christmas, so Saturday, December 15 will be another big day. Be prepared for crowds both Saturdays.
¨ Some people let the time get away from them and hurry to finish their shopping; others intentionally wait for Super Saturday because they think the discounts will be deeper. You should react with sweet deals on items you need to get rid of open to buy looks good and your inventory isn’t clogged with merchandise that isn’t saleable. Packing product away until next year is almost never a good idea.
¨ Super Saturday is also a good day to host a “We’ve Got You Covered!”event that offers pre-wrapped gifts, lists of gift ideas for people of all ages, and free gift wrap.
Getting Store Associates Ready
If you need to hire additional help for the holidays be sure and start early so that everyone is trained and up and running before all the holiday craziness begins. And while we’re on the topic of training, make sure you don’t skimp on store meetings just because the store is busy. Schedule a short meeting every Saturday morning before the store opens to keep your team informed. Daily, do a 10 minute get together on the sales floor before you unlock the door for business. Talk about what’s new, hot and happening in the store. If you have time hold up and item and ask what additional product could be added to it increase the sale. Hold another 10 minute meeting in between each shift so all associates are on the same page.
¨ Create a weekly Holiday email blast that’s geared specifically to your store associates. Include what’s happening in the store, gift suggestions, how to sell gift cards, store security – whatever is important that week in your store.
¨ Security, by the way, should be a frequent topic. Shoplifting is bound to happen during the holidays, but you can keep it to a minimum if you keep your team in the loop. Thieves hate attention so attentive customer service and eye contact are imperative, if you suspect someone is up to no good, engage them in conversation. Your meeting topics should also include solid customer service techniques, what to look for to prevent theft, and what to do if they see someone shoplifting. It just makes sense to have a plan of action.
¨ Set a Daily Sales Goal. You won’t reach your desired numbers if you leave sales to chance. Plan a monthly sales goal and set daily targets for sales, and even for specific products. Every associate should know daily what is expected of them.
Merchandise Presentation and Display
Your displays should be designed to move customers through the entire store, yet 50 percent of your sales floor is never seen by shoppers. Why? Because we tend to come in to purchase a particular item, find it, then leave. The job of your displays is to entice them to stay and look around.
¨ Set a display plan of action of what to do and when to do it – think monthly window displays, weekly for speed bump displays and end features, merchandise outposts, and impulse items at the cashwrap. Include after-holiday plans too, including required floor moves before you open on December 26, and decor that needs to come down.
¨ The Golden Quarter isn’t business as usual, your windows and sales floor needs to scream HOLIDAY. Use props to create mood-altering ambiance that encourages customers to stay and shop. This includes scent marketing, the music you play on the sales floor, demos, and even what your associates wear.
¨ Place carts and baskets in key locations throughout the sales floor, not just near the door. If you see a shopper with her arms full of product, get that customer a cart or basket ASAP. People tend to stop shopping once their hands are full.
¨ Remember your Lake Front Property: The front center, right and left sides of the store are the first areas seen by a shopper entering your store. These areas set the stage for what customers can expect to find throughout the store.
Front and center is where your speed bump displays go. These small fixtures – we like stacking tables – are used to stop shoppers by offering new and exciting merchandise. Load your speed bumps with gift ideas and pre-wrapped gifts, and cross-merchandise whenever you can. Why just sell a single item when you can sell two or three?
¨ Unless you are having a clearance sale – which would be weird during the heart of the Holiday selling season – clearance merchandise belongs at the rear of the store. It can come up front when you have your end of the year clean up sale.
¨ Plan for impulse purchases at the cashwrap. Think of your cashwrap as another important display area and tastefully load it up with stocking stuffers like candles, accessories, jewelry – anything that will appeal to an impulse shopper. Add a sign recommending gift cards. Spinner racks located near the cash wrap work, too. And don’t forget to merchandise the wall behind the cashwrap with holiday gifts.
¨ In-store signing always plays a key role in turning browsers into buyers; during the holidays they become even more important. Women tend to read signs, but men rely on them. And since you are likely to have more male shoppers than usual during the holidays you need to help them out. Click To Tweet
Depending in the size of your store, there are three important signing zones to consider:
Zone One Signs are placed high above a shopper’s eye level to direct traffic in the store. Zone One signing generally consists of departmental and directional signing. These signs make it easy for shoppers to locate what they came in to buy.
Zone Two Signs are hung just above the shoppers’ eye level. These signs include the promotional and event signs that are meant to be hung for a limited amount of time.
Zone Three Signs are set at eye level to highlight information that will help the customer make an informed buying decision. Eye level is also known as “buy level” or around 5’4” from the floor, the height of the average woman.
Women respond to Story Tellers signs that use the word “imagine” to connect customers to product: “Imagine your little ones snuggled under a quilt lovingly handmade by you”. Men react well to Product Seller signing because these signs highlight a product’s features; all the important information is right there. Zone Three is also a good place for product brochures and other point-of purchase materials provided by vendors.
Increase Your Advertising and Marketing Efforts
How you advertise and market your store should also increase during the Holidays. Your ad vehicles of course are up to you, but it’s definitely time to increase your number of email blasts from one to two a month, to three to four a month – customers expect extra offers during the holidays. Talk about product, offer gift ideas or an Item of the Week. Add a coupon with a specific expiration date so you can track its effectiveness. A monthly newsletter loaded with gist ideas is important, too.
¨ Create and distribute a weekly Bag Stuffer. It can be a special advertisement, class calendar, gift ideas or even POP materials from a vendor. The trick is in how you get bag stuffers into a customer’s hand. If your plan is to pre-stuff them into bags (we know, the name makes no sense) you are wasting your time because most of your stuffers will be thrown out with the bag. Instead, instruct associates to hand the bag stuffer to the customer while telling her what it’s all about. This way the customer hears first-hand about the cool things going on in your store – it’s a free 15 – 30 second commercial!
¨ One of your bag stuffers should be a Brag Sheet that lists all the services and conveniences you offer, where to find you on social medias, frequently asked questions, major brands you carry – whatever makes sense for your store. Print your class or event calendar on the back side.
¨ Create a Top 10 List of Holiday Gifts. Make a list for every age group and product category you sell. Add it to your website and email blasts, give each associate a copy to carry with them, and place them throughout the store.
¨ For the majority of consumers Facebook is still the social media of choice so it’s a good place to advertise.
Facebook ads make sense because they give you complete control over where your ad is placed and how much you spend. You can pinpoint exactly the people you wish to target, and if your ad isn’t doing what you intended it to do you can change, pause or end it midstream. Plan on spending at least $2.00 a day on Facebook advertising, probably more.
¨ Increase your use of holiday related hashtags– #Christmas, #Hanukkah #holiday, #gifts, #coupons, #Santa, etc. – on all of your social media posts. This will help you connect with an audience of potential customers that reaches far beyond your current following.
Gift Cards are Lucrative Business
¨ If you are still selling paper gift certificates it’s time to change to the plastic version. Studies show that retailers who switch from paper gift certificates to plastic gift cards increase gift card sales from 35-50 percent. The main goal is the get the customer into your store to redeem that card, and plastic cards are just easier for customers because they fit right into their wallets.
There’s more: 61 percent of customers spend more than the amount of their gift card, 75 percent spend more than the value of their card, and 55 percent of gift card recipients require more than one shopping trip to the store to spend the balance of their card. The more times they come to your store the more they are likely to buy something.
¨ People buying gift cards can be easily enticed to spend more if you sweeten the deal. Try a Buy $25 in gift cards, get a $5 gift card for free or Buy $50 in gift cards, get a $10 bonus cardpromotion.The caveat is that the bonus cards are not valid until January 1, 2018 so they can’t be used to purchase additional holiday gifts. Who doesn’t like to get something for themselves, especially when it’s free?
¨ Package your gift cards in a unique way that represents your brand. A children’s store might present gift cards in a baby bottle decorated with ribbons; an apparel store might nestle their gift cards inside a lovely box lined in scented paper. Don’t be afraid to be creative!
Events & Promotions
We hope that you have at least one event scheduled for each week of the Golden Quarter. We’re talking Non-Stop Traffic-Building, Profit-Producing, Attention-Grabbing, Sales-Generating, Competition-Miffing, Customer-Winning Retail Events and Promotions™like our Guys Night Out, The 12 Days of Christmas, 50% Off Coupon Event, the previously mentioned Create Your Own Coupon Sale and Cash Register Receipt Auction. How about a Customer Appreciation Sale, Holiday Ideas Open House, and Ladies Night? Sound good? It’s even better than that because if you send us an email with GOLDEN QUARTER in the subject line, we’ll send you each one of those event templates and more. Now, there’s no excuse not to run great in-store events that customers love.
Be Prepared for Markdowns and Returns
¨ Hit the ground running on December 26 with a plan to rid your store of all remaining holiday merchandise. Remember that the first markdown is always the cheapest one to take, so take a deep breath and price to sell.
¨ Part of your signing program should include your return/exchange policy. Post it in a visible place at the cashwrap and add it to the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page on your website. On the day after Christmas be ready to save the sale by encouraging associates to politely ask customers if they’d like to look around for something else before automatically issuing a refund. Another save is to suggest a gift card the customer can use at a later date. But if the customer specifically asks for a refund give it with a big smile and a genuine, “Please come back and shop with us again!”
Your list of things-to-do for Holiday 2018 is probably as tall as the fixtures on your perimeter walls, but you definitely need to make one, and then work it item by item. Don’t forget to keep good records so preparing for next year is easy. Planning for Holiday 2019 begins the day after Christmas… but you already knew that, didn’t you?
KIZER & BENDER are contributors to MSNBC’s television program Your Business. They made Meetings & Conventions Magazine’s list of Meeting Planners Favorite Keynote Speakers, have been named two of Retailing’s Most Influential People, and have been listed among the Top 40 Omnichannel Retail Influencersand the Top 50 Retail Influencers since 2014. Their award-winning Retail Adventures blog was named the Top Retail Blog by PR Newswire Media, and is consistently listed among important retail and small business blogs. KIZER & BENDER are partners and emcees for the popular Independent Retailer Conference held at each ASD Market Week. They recently served as official correspondents for the National Retail Federation’s Shop.org Digital Retail Conference.
Rich and Georganne are experts on generational diversity, consumer trends, marketing and promotion, and everything retail. Any speaker can talk about consumers, but KIZER & BENDER actually become them. In addition to yearly focus groups, one-on-one interviews, and intensive on-site studies, their research includes posing as every kind of customer you can imagine; and maybe even a few that you can’t. The result of their research is literally straight from the customers’ mouth: solid ground level intelligence you can use to better serve your own customers.
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