If you own a small business, particularly a retail business, you are standing on the brink of something great. You, at this moment, are standing at the cusp of the best time of the year to be in business. To take full advantage of this opportunity…
You need to be prepared, and it is already starting.
Around the second week of October people’s minds begin to reprogram, and they start changing their habits. People are beginning to think about the upcoming holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Whether they will admit it or not, or if they realize it or not, their minds are slowly and surely reprogramming their actions. People are beginning to treat themselves, spend more, and buy gifts and treats for others.
And you, as a retailer, are the beneficiary of this.
More than the beneficiary, you have the distinct honor to help people fill a need in their lives right now – the need to give. The public wants to buy your product more now than any other time of year. They want to enjoy it for themselves. They want to enjoy it with others. They want to give it to others.
So what do I do?
- Increase Staffing
- Clean up Your Shop
- Catch up on Administrative Tasks
- Stock up on Supplies
- Prepare Your Staff
- Work on Speed of Service
- Streamline Operations
- Be Flexible and Coachable
- Pay Attention to Your Customers
- Offer Special Services or Products
…and, by all means,
You know they are coming… If you have been in business for a holiday season prior to this year, go back and look at your sales reports and trends. I’ll bet that you ran an increase during the holidays. Of course, there are other factors which influence sales trends, but when this many people start thinking the same way, retailers feel the difference.
So, since you know they are coming, you should staff up ahead of time. Now is the time to hire the people you think you are going to need between Thanksgiving and Christmas to handle the rush of customers you will have coming through your doors during this time. Hire them today, get their HR file all completed and get them in your scheduling and other systems. Train them over the next couple of weeks so they will be ready to go when you really need them.
Clean it Up
Declutter, scrub, and do the deep cleaning you’ve been wanting to get to “one day when I have time”. Your retail space is about to be in the spotlight for the next 10 weeks, and you want to look your best.
Another reason to deep clean is that as you are serving all of these extra guests during this time, your space is going to take a beating from a cleanliness standpoint. More guests means more messes. You will have more spills, splatters, drops, and oopsies whenever there is this level of uptick in your business. Head over to Walmart.com to find the best prices on cleaning supplies for your business!
Get it cleaned up now, and you’ll be glad you did!
If you are like me, small seemingly insignificant administrative tasks get pushed off the agenda by bigger, more immediately urgent tasks almost daily. This is one time of year that it really makes a ton of sense to go ahead and block off some time to get those done each day.
For instance, if you have putting off changing your HVAC filters, your system may be overtaxed and may stop working in the middle of the busiest shopping season of the year. Not only will this distract you from you many customers during this time, but it will also be difficult to find a repair technician to take care of the problem quickly. Speaking of HVAC filters, get stocked up at Lowes.com.
Block off the time, and get these done daily.
Increase Your Inventory
There is no faster way to disappoint a guest than to not have something that you have advertised. This time of year, you will be serving guests that may have never come to your shop. It sounds cliche, but you really don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. You will have many opportunities for first impressions over the next several weeks, so make the most of them!
Suppose that someone comes into my shop and wants a gift card. If I didn’t have the foresight to have plenty of gift cards available, not only do I lose a sale, I’ve lost the chance to make a great first impression. That first impression may have been able to gain me another regular customer. We do a lot of shopping at walmart.com (with free site-to-store shipping) and Walmart Online Grocery (with free grocery pick up).
Be ready with your inventory so you can always say “yes”.
Make Sure Everyone is Ready
So you have hired and trained new team members, and you have some faithful who have been working with you all year. Now you need to make sure that everyone is on the same page. You need to make sure that everyone understands what is about to happen. They need to know that business is about to spike.
The employees that have been with you for a full year will remember. They will only need to be reminded that it’s that time again. Usually, this is also a fun time of year to work (if you have done a good job creating a positive work environment), and they will also remember that.
As for the new team members, they will need some help adjusting to the new pace. Your more seasoned team members can help make sure they are ready, and will enjoy doing so. I recommend a mandatory holiday preparedness meeting to get everyone on the same page. The meeting should be upbeat, not scary for your team. Make sure you talk about this being the best time of the year, and that business can be much more fun when it’s really busy if we handle that business in the right way.
Here is some gear that can help with your team member meeting.
Presentation Stand for a projector, laptop, or other device – this could later be used as a standing laptop desk.
Or if you want to go old school…
Just be very clear with everyone that busy, fun times are coming and they need to be ready.
Speed it Up
I run a coffee shop with a drive-thru. I am very used to my guests being in a hurry. They are stopping to get a latte on their way to work, on their way to take their kids to school, or on their way to do whatever it is that is the main purpose for their commute. This time of year, that hurriedness only increases.
In my business, if you are slow, you may not get another chance to serve that customer. At least you may not get that chance for a long time. We take great pride in our speed of service. This makes us faster all year, and gives us a heightened sense of the need for speed during this time of year as well.
Understand, they are in a hurry. If you want their repeat business, show some urgency.
Operations, Operations, Operations
When you run a retail business, much of your day every day is doing the same things over and over again. For me, it’s brew coffee, set up the espresso machine, fill the water pitcher, set the chairs down off the tables, put cash in the cash drawers, fill the bakery display case, all of this by 6 AM. The day goes on from there, and I continue completing the same tasks, day after day, all while taking care of customers’ needs. These tasks are, as a group, called operations.
The challenge that this pending increase in business represents to operations is that what has worked all year, may not work at all when sales dramatically increase. I have seen it happen over and over again, and it will probably happen again. When it does, you have to be open-minded and humble enough to admit that yesterday’s great process is not getting the job done today.
The trick right now is to plan ahead, and think about the challenges that are likely to happen with increased business. Think about busy days you have right now. What processes are barely doable when you are busy? Do you have equipment that can barely keep up with your business? These are the operations which you need to rethink, and the equipment which needs to be repaired or replaced, so that when the really busy days come, you already are in the practice of preparing ahead for the business. This will put you in position to be capable of sales levels you never thought possible.
Check out Amazon.com for all of your equipment replacement needs. They pretty much have everything.
Think ahead. Be willing to change. Be ready to achieve greatness.
Chances are you have someone closely related to your business that can tell you some of the things that you really should change, and you should listen to them. Maybe you have a very loyal regular customer you can trust to give you good, unbiased advice. I know we have some of these customers in our business, and from time to time we do ask their opinion about things. This builds trust with your loyal customers as well, and they are your best marketers.
Ask for help, and accept it when it’s given.
Special Item Sales
This is probably the biggest opportunity you have to take advantage of the holiday season. You need to be thinking about items to offer, possibly items you don’t offer the rest of the year. Your customers are open to buying things from you right now, and buying them in large quantities, that would likely sit and go stale on your shelves the rest of the year.
For us, this means gift cards, gift baskets, bags of whole bean specialty coffee, mugs, branded tumblers, and other merchandise. These items provide a jolt of new category sales during the holiday season. They are a shot in the arm of our business, one we are glad that we have to opportunity to capitalize on.
If you use Square as your POS system, you can pick up gift cards at Amazon.com as well.
Think of special items you can offer for sale during this season that fill the gift-giving need and crank them out!
The holidays are coming, and you will do well to ready your business. Get yourself, your team, your processes, and special items ready and have fun dominating this holiday season.
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