Friday, 11 November 2016

Retailers need to be ready for the Christmas rush

This is the time of the year for retailers. I have worked in retail for a long time and Christmas saves many businesses that have struggled the rest of the year. I know of some companies, including some national U.K. retailers, that look to break even all year round and get all their annual profit in the next six weeks or so.

But it isn't about opening your doors as usual and hoping that more customers will walk through them. Retail doesn't work like that and even with plenty of empty units out there you will still face be a lot of competition. It isn't always easy to see where your competition is coming from nowadays either with the internet undercutting many traditional retailers. Here are the things you need to get right for a successful retail Christmas.

Having the right selection of products on your shelves as well as enough of them is vitally important. You need to do something to supplement what you already offer. People are looking for something completely different at this time of year so make sure that you are in a position to provide it. Look at your range and see how it can be adapted and added to for this time of year.

People shop differently at Christmas. They will be buying gifts for people and will take a guess at what they might want. The refund and exchange counters at the big stores are packed after the big event with people taking back gifts they didn't want. You need to cater to the demand of people who don't quite know what to get. Either have a gift selector on your website or make sure your team are ready to help here. This brings me on to the next part.

Your team
You may need extra bodies at this time of the year to cope with the rush and to keep up your service levels. Think about taking on Christmas temps to help you out. You can give them short term contracts to see you over the busy period. You may have extended opening hours (more on this later) so you may see your existing team spread a little thinly. Try to counter this with help.

Make sure your team are geared up for Christmas. It might seem like they will just cope with whatever you throw at them, but show that you care. It is a hectic time for most people so help them unwind and keep up the spirits. Your customers will notice.

Extra training may be needed if you are offering new products or services. Get your whole team involved in this to get the most from it. Retail is all about the experience you give your customers so make it the best possible.

Opening hours
Shops do open longer over Christmas. You may find that the rest of the retail units in your town or shopping centre open later for one or more days per week. Look at the number and type of extra customers this will bring in and make your opening decisions based on this. With out of town large shopping malls often open until 11pm or midnight and the supermarkets and online retailers open 24/7 you can't compete with everyone on this. Choose your battles wisely and extend your hours where it will help you the most.

It may be that opening earlier helps people in their way to work pick up things from you. It may be that you are more likely to attract extra trade by opening later. Work out what you need, get your team in all the right places and do what will work best for your customers. If you don't have an e-commerce website to sell all hours of the day and night then think about getting this sorted before next Christmas.

This is a hectic time of the year and it can come with a lot of stress. If you get things right before Christmas hits though you will be able to enjoy it more.

What's your favourite part about Christmas as a retailer? Let me know in the comments below, I'd love to hear from you.

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