By Charlotte Biggs
The holidays can be an incredibly stressful time for independent retailers. They can also be busy and profitable if your shop sells greeting cards and gifts, but you need to have a clear sales strategy to make the most of this unique selling season. Retailers need a plan that will not only create a profitable Christmas and holiday season, but also set the foundation for the New Year ahead.
Know your products
During a busy holiday season, things get hectic. As an independent retailer, you will have extra seasonal stock, more customers, and temporary staff that don’t know your business as well as you do. With this in mind, it’s good practice to complete a quick inventory of your seasonal and everyday stock. Decide which items you want to sell over the holiday season, and everyday products that compliment this offering. By knowing your focus for the next few months, you can create a winning sales plan for the holiday season.
Know your customers
For most independent retailers, understanding customers is second nature, but it is an important step worth repeating. Take a few minutes to think about what your customers need. When you’re deciding on ideas for promotions and offers, it’s essential to know how you can help solve your customers’ gift buying dilemmas. By making the value of your store stand out in your promotions, you will be an obvious choice for shoppers. At the same time, consider what objections they may have to shopping with you, and address any issues before they prevent a sale. By using your in-depth customer knowledge you can create seasonal offers that are relevant, useful and hugely appealing.
Create your sales strategy
The holiday season is the biggest shopping time of the year. This means there is huge potential, but also a lot of competition. To make the most of this time you need to make your shop the best choice for consumers. Use your product inventory and customer knowledge to create a plan for how you will market your cards and gifts. Create special promotions, offer discounts that will get people excited about shopping with you, and give them a reason to buy.
Set your calendar
A stress-free and profitable holiday season is all about planning ahead, so your own promotions calendar is a must-have item. First, add in the items set in stone; days when you are closed, last dates you can ship products, and last days for processing orders. Next, think about relevant dates outside of your control; Black Friday, Cyber Monday, local shopping festivals, and when stock is arriving. The last items to add into your calendar are the elements that you can control. Add in dates for promotions, special preview days, sale days and late night shopping. Give each promotion a clear start and end date. This will not only encourage urgency in your buyers, but also allow time before and after the event to build anticipation for your holiday events.
Map out your sharing
Once you’ve organized the stock and shopping events, you need to decide how you’re going to share these offers with customers. A brick and mortar shop may want to use direct mail or flyers, while Internet based retailers may want to use email marketing or social media. Whatever your choices, your strategy should be in your plan so you don’t have to think about it in the middle of the holiday season.
Independent retailers will want to spend the holidays focusing on customers, so it’s good practice to prepare ahead of time, as much as possible. With your sales strategy planned, the last piece of the puzzle is your marketing materials, which include flyers, emails, coupons and social media graphics. By preparing all of your marketing materials before the holidays, you will be free to concentrate on customers and their orders when the shopping season arrives.
Go above & beyond
Your holiday events and promotions will be creating a lot of buzz, so it’s important that your store and service lives up to expectations. By going above and beyond expectations, you can turn seasonal shoppers into repeat customers. For the card and gift market this is particularly relevant. Your immediate goal is to make a Christmas sale, but this holiday season is quickly followed by Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. By making an amazing impression during these holidays, you’re laying the foundations for a brilliant spring and hugely successful year.
Rate the holiday
A critical element of planning a successful Christmas season is the post-holiday analysis. As an independent retailer, you need to know what has and hasn’t worked in your business. Look at your revenue and profit, how happy your customers were, and how you coped with the increase in business. When you know what did and didn’t work, you will be an expert in planning your next holiday season.