Fall is in the air, and as every toy retailer knows, the seasonal change
means more than football and turning leaves. The holiday season generates
approximately 40 percent of toy sellers’ annual revenue, according to
the National Retail Federation. It is the forge that
hardens or breaks most retail operations. Preparations for this crucial
time vary according to the guiding principles, experience and budget of
each business; however, there is a consensus about some methods for emerging
from the holiday forge as tempered steel.
Start hiring and training your holiday staff at least eight weeks before
the date you view as the start of the holiday season, whether it’s the
Friday after Thanksgiving or the day after Halloween. Don’t throw half-trained
employees into the holiday feeding frenzy and expect them to improvise.
Customers won’t hang around to wait out the learning curve. Set fourth
quarter sales goals and reward your employees with bonuses, gift certificates
or anything that will make them feel that they are part of a team rather
than disposable “help.”
Supplies and Maintenance
Now is the time to make sure your store has all the necessities at hand:
bags, gift-wrap, receipt tape, even toilet paper. Replace worn carpet
(or cover it with strategically placed mats), repaint and/or enhance your
store’s lighting to ensure a welcoming mood.
Map out a floor plan for positioning holiday fixtures and special displays.
Figure out how to reposition stock to compensate for items that sell through.
Empty shelves may bode well for your bottom line, but to the customer,
bare spaces look lonely and convey the message "you-missed-the-boat."
Decide whether you will have a unique stocking crew and if they will work
after hours to keep out of customers’ way. Prepare your post-holiday clearance
strategy now, and have a plan in place for handling returns and re-stocking.
Get the Word Out
An open house is an effective and personalized form of holiday advertising.
Hype the event through a newsletter, flyer or through your store’s website,
then create an event that reinforces your store’s brand identity and coincides
with the tastes of your target customer. An upscale clientele might appreciate
classical music and catering. You could partner with a local restaurant,
sharing the limelight as well as the cost. Host a giveaway contest, or
promise a free gift for customers who attend.
Put Out the Welcome Mat
We all know what an ordeal holiday shopping can be, so make your store
beckon with the promise of a low-stress shopping experience. Keep aisles
clear and window arrangements simple, with an emphasis on a few unique
products. In-store demonstrations increase customer interaction and set
your store apart from impersonal mass retailers. Put yourself in your
customer’s place: Why should she choose your store over all the others
vying for her holiday dollars? Answer that question, and you’ll hold the
key to a successful holiday season—and the rest of the year as well.