by IvyLee Rosario
From decorations and lights to signage and displays, the holiday season is just around the corner and retailers need to make sure they prepare their stores for the influx of buyers. According to the National Retail Federation, holiday sales are expected to rise 4.1 percent over last year’s mark, to an astounding $616.9 billion. NRF states that the holiday season can account for anywhere from 20-40 percent of a retailer’s annual sales, and accounts for approximately 20 percent of total industry annual sales. In order to keep these numbers rising, retailers need to start planning as early as possible to ensure all bases are covered once the holidays arrive.
With the planning of holiday beginning earlier each year, retailers should start thinking about plans for their store following the previous holiday season. As soon as 2015 is over, you should take a look at what worked successfully in your store, what customers liked and didn’t, and what needs to be improved on – while it is still fresh in your mind – for 2016. This way, you can have a strategy how you want your store to look, and the atmosphere you want to create for your shoppers next year.
Some of the most important steps to planning are getting the sales floor, inventory, and stock room ready before the rush of customers takes place. “Retailers need to have the merchandise on hand to handle the increased demand, and that means stocking up on best sellers as well as having the store supplies like holiday bags, gift certificates, holiday gift-wrap and ribbon,” said Eric Weinstein, owner of Specialty Store Services. “Retailers need to keep in mind what products they need to have on order to be in stock for the holidays. They also need to plan how they want to display the items and as well as any special signage for the holiday season.”
Displays come in a variety of choices, from shelving and floor fixtures to window displays and sign holders. Retailers need to take a good look at what merchandise they have and the best ways to showcase them to make sales. “Buying certain categories and getting them in displays is important. For example, having gift bags on a shelf is not good for sales, because customers want to be able to see the designs,” said Eddie Schweky, President of It’s In the Bag LLC. “Hanging certain items is very important. That way buyers can take the time to see all the different designs and products you are selling, and they will be more inclined to buy.” If a store has items such as gift bags, accessories, and small merchandise, using hanging rods or floor fixtures might be the best option. For items such as apparel, shoes or electronics, shelving displays will best keep the products organized.
One of the most important elements of a retail store is the window. Although customers will be judging the inside of your store’s layout and decorations, the first thing buyers see before entering are your window displays and signage. “Using signage to promote holidays and seasonal events is the least expensive way to advertise,” said Harry Gilmore, Chairman of Banker & Brisbois. “It is also a way of getting around having your windows and interior looking the same day after day. It is a good, inexpensive way to jazz things up and add excitement.” By having unique window displays, not only will customers remember your store, but they will also be sure to spread the word and check back and see how you continue to change with each passing holiday or season.
Another important aspect of getting a retail store ready for the holidays is the atmosphere in which your buyers are entering; this includes music. There are several ways a retailer can go about producing the right music for their store, but they should keep in mind who their customers are and where they are located. “You need to take a look at the market you are in. If you have a store that caters to a lot of younger customers, then playing music they can relate to and know will work best. The same goes for playing upbeat music in a store that sells to an older crowd, it would not be an appropriate atmosphere,” said Schweky. “When it comes to holiday, think about what kinds of traditions your customers might celebrate. Opt for music that does not have religious beliefs and can keep the mood light and fun for your buyers, or you can choose to play instrumentals only, which is a nice middle ground.” Whatever music they choose to play, retailers need to take a look at their specific customer base to make the best decision. There are also music services available to the retail market which offer custom playlists to fit any type of store. Try out Spotify (www.spotify.com) or Pandora (www.pandora.com) to potentially create your own radio station.
Lastly, the ways your employees engage with customers is one of the most memorable experiences when entering a store, especially during the busy time of the holiday season. Employees need to be prepared with knowledge of the merchandise and how to set up the store correctly with decorations and displays. “Start looking for employees now, because during the holiday season you want your employees to be ready to serve your customers, and that means they need to have received the right amount of training and experience in your store,” said Weinstein. “Customers remember rude and unhelpful employees. Always make sure they are trained properly.”
The holiday season marks one of the most important times for a retailer, so being prepared as early as possible will only simplify the process for your store when October rolls around. Remember these few tips when making sure your store is holiday ready:
Start early: Keep in mind things that worked from your previous holiday season and use those notes to prep for the following year. This will keep your retail store one step ahead and organized.
Remember inventory: Make sure you are ordering the right amounts of merchandise to accommodate the increase of purchases during this season. Stock up on best selling items and store supplies that you will constantly need while servicing customers.
Displays and signage are everything: Keeping your store organized and neat are major must-haves during anytime of the year, but especially during holiday. Knowing what type of displays will help keep your merchandise in order is the first step to satisfied customers. Signage is what will draw your buyers in, so make sure you decorate both inside and on the windows to intrigue potential buyers.
Music sets the mood: Although it might be difficult to meet every customers’ needs in the music department, noting the age range of your buyers and the location of your store are a good place to start in choosing the right atmosphere for both holiday and year round.
Have fully trained employees: Employees can make or break a business if not properly trained, so start hiring early in order to find the right ones. Make sure they are knowledgeable of the merchandise being sold and the policies of the store. They need to be able to handle the demand that the holiday season can bring – knowing the ins and outs of the store will make this easier for them.