Countdown to Holiday 2017

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

So, is your retail store ready?

Every business day from Wednesday, November 1 through Wednesday, November 22 (the day before Thanksgiving), RetailNext will be counting down to the holidays with a daily retail tip. Come back every day during the holiday countdown to get your actionable tip to make the most of the holidays!

Happy Holidays!

#16 – “Holiday Creep” extends further and further forward. Early November weekends areconsistently HUGE opportunities for stores, as over recent years traffic has trended up. Unfortunately, for many retailers, their holiday staff is not yet in place, and product assortments are more Halloween than Thanksgiving and Holiday. Have a plan in place to turn visual merchandising as soon as the Trick-or-Treaters are put to bed, and look at detailed staff-by-hour for the first few weekends in November to shift hours into peak traffic times.


#15 – Staff optimally for peak hours. Don’t leave the service of your shoppers to sheer luck. Based on historical traffic trends, identify your peak hours for the season’s biggest days and ensure staffing is adequate across the entire floor for those times. Be sure to adjust meals and other breaks to guarantee peak coverage over peak hours. Delivering optimal coverage can immediately increase sales 6-8 percent!


#14 – Create a training plan for seasonal new hires. Build a training plan for newly hired associates and stick to it. Start with the foundational basics and build it out from there, keeping things simple with “do’s” and “don’t’s” and taking out as much flexible interpretation as possible from policies, procedures and processes. Ensure trainers are adequately prepared; resist the temptation to “surprise” an associate with a training responsibility at the beginning of a shift.


#13 – Neglect Average Transaction Value (ATV) at your own peril. In the busy holiday season, there’s sometimes a tendency to focus attention primarily on store traffic and conversion. Those are important considerations, certainly, but don’t forget average transaction value (ATV). Prepare your staff to upsell and add accessories and other complementary SKUs to items already sold. Take a page out of big, bad Amazon’s playbook and offer additional value – free shipping, gift wrapping, gift cards or a promotional discount – but only after a certain price threshold has been met. Remember, you have two primary store operations levers to affect sales per shopper – conversion and ATV.


#12 – The 2017 holiday calendar is uniquely different, so plan accordingly! Christmas Day,December 25, falls on a Monday, so the really big Saturday shopping day, the so-called “Super Saturday,” will be the Saturday immediately preceding, December 23. But, don’t discount the Saturday before the Saturday before, as December 16 will also see a large swell of shoppers and buying activity. This year, Hanukkah begins much earlier than it did last year, starting the evening of Tuesday, December 12 and running through to the evening of Wednesday, December 20. It offers an opportunity to balance out the big swings of December retail, but it will require planning ahead of time. 


#11 – Small Business Saturday is a “thing,” whether you’re a small business or not. Small Business Saturday is Saturday, November 25, two days after Thanksgiving and one day after Black Friday. Whether your store is open Thursday and/or Friday or not, an increasingly growing grassroots marketing effort will drive shopper traffic on Saturday. If you’re a small business, plan to participate and prepare in ways that will help you break free from the noise, from displays and promotional signage to email and social media campaigns. If you’re a big business, look for efforts to attract the shoppers who are already out and about – don’t neglect your mobile search and proximity and mobile marketing campaigns and tools.


#10 – Ensure your website is mobile friendly. You surely already know mobile is the key engagerwith shoppers, particularly with those shopper generations who are “digital natives.” However, shoppers aren’t the only ones paying attention. Websites that aren’t mobile-friendly are pushed down in search results by Google, and you simply can’t afford that. Test your site’s mobile responsiveness with Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool.


#9 – Optimize for local search. Did you know that local search accounts for over 75 percent of online activity? It’s true, and browsers are dependent on search for identifying local stores – i.e.; your store – that can fulfill their needs. Best practices for optimizing local search include: 1) Complete listings with address, phone number, website and store hours, 2) Ensure location is accurate on Google Maps, and 3) Actively solicit multiple positive reviews from your customer base.


#8 – Think Mobile first, early and often! With each passing holiday season, mobile becomes abigger and more important touchpoint, and mobile is increasingly becoming the first branded touchpoint for today’s shoppers and their new shopping journeys. Ensure all your branded content is mobile-friendly for smaller screens, but stop looking at mobile as a one-way street of “broadcasting.” Mobile isn’t a channel, but a relationship between you and your customers, so employ good relationship skills like listening and observing. Also, consider dropping a comprehensive approach to mobile in favor of delivering one piece of outstanding value through your mobile engagement efforts and gradually growing out your offering from there. For example, you’d never use your favorite airline’s mobile app if it weren’t for easy boarding passes. Find your store’s “boarding pass,” execute flawlessly, and build up and out from there. 


#7 – Schedule an event and market it toward your target audience. An inherent advantage of brick-and-mortar stores is the ability to engage shoppers and deliver a magical shopping experience. Tailor a special event to your store, its products and services and your target customers. Be it a musical act, an expo of artisans handcrafting gifts and other products, a cooking class, a wine and food pairing experience, a custom jewelry designing workshop or whatever, look to rise above the holiday noise and differentiate your store and brand. Don’t schedule on an already projected busy day, but rather look for an opportunity to attract shoppers to your store on a day they ordinarily would not be out and about.


#6 – Don’t leave your window display as an afterthought. The holiday season attracts shoppers to retail environments, and while some are your devoted “regulars,” many are not, and the holidays afford you an opportunity to drive new shoppers into your store. Take advantage of the surge in surrounding foot traffic by designing an eye-catching, holiday themed window display that “pops” and stops shoppers in their tracks. Incorporate your products as key focal points, and lure those shoppers who stop into your store any which way you can, including offering hot chocolate and cookies if you have to. Once in your store, it’s up to you and your staff to deliver the magical retail experience you’re so capable of.


#5 – What’s good for the holiday goose is good for the gander – aka, holiday gift givers deserve gifts too! A great way to increase average transaction value (ATV) and units per transaction (UPT) is to entice gift giving shoppers to purchase well-deserved gifts for themselves. Try promotions like buy one, get one free, or add on gift cards for customers to use as they see fit. Try signage that explicitly reminds shoppers to remember themselves during this most wonderful time of the year.


#4 – ‘Tis the season (aka, it’s better to give than to receive. The holidays are an opportunity to bring out the best, both from shoppers and your very own business. Highlight the needs of a local community non-profit organization and hold an in-store event that promotes the cause, including the donation of a percentage of proceeds. It’s a great feel-good way of promoting both the non-profit and your store to the broader community, and it attracts new traffic to your storefront, raising recognition and awareness, and fostering longer-term relationships. Integrate this tip into numbers 11 and 7 above!


#3 – Direct your attention toward shoppers and your products. Lean staffing often creates a temptation for store and district managers to ring up sales behind the cash wrap counter, the singular place in the store where they add the absolute least amount of value. Get your managers back on the floor engaging with staff and shoppers. Hire for your cash wrap as necessary.


#2 – Don’t forget about December 26 – make sure you’re ready! The day after Christmas falls ona Tuesday, so prepare now to optimize the opportunity to attract store traffic and capture sales. Update your Facebook page and other social media accounts on Sunday night, December 24, and consider simultaneously tying an email campaign together with it. Train staff to greet shoppers returning merchandise with a simple, “How can I best help you find an exchange?” and make sure all returned merchandise is immediately retagged and put on the floor, and not stacked high behind the counter or in the back to tend to later, when shoppers are likely finished for the day and back at home.


#1 – Above all, don’t forget to have fun! The holiday season is a huge source of stress for retailers and a great number of their shoppers and customers as well. It’s important to keep your sense of humor and deliver a surprisingly delightful, magical and memorable shopping experience. The holiday season tends to draw new traffic into stores, and it’s a once-a-year opportunity to make the sort of grand impression that pays off in return visits throughout the rest of the year. Happy holidays, and good luck!



Download the eBook, “A Retailer’s Survive & Thrive Guide to Holiday 2017.”