Ready, set, go for Christmas trading

christmas, tree, shopping centre, decorationThe Christmas trading period is obviously peak season for retailers, accounting for up to 30 per cent of their annual revenue. Preparing for the holiday season can be a lot of fun – decorations, promotions, ‘sampling’ the Christmas sweets you’ve ordered in for customer giveaways. But Christmas is more than window-dressing. It takes a lot of hard work behind the scenes to get fully prepared.

Here are several key tasks to take care of before the Christmas season kicks into gear.

1# Plan your holiday displays

Make sure your displays (i.e. window and instore displays, and shop layouts) will grab attention and entice people to buy. Start planning what you’ll showcase in your store and craft the stories that you’ll tell through your displays. This also includes investing in good lighting to make your displays pop. If possible, use white lights to for the biggest effect. Do away with generic props and get yourself something holiday-specific. Sale signs are pretty standard and you should definitely have them in your signage mix. But be sure to throw in unique messages to get the attention of holiday shoppers – try and conjure something different.

#2 Make your website holiday-centric

See to it that your website is tailored to the holidays. For instance, you may want to create Christmas-themed banners to be displayed on the site. During the holidays, many retailers create special gift sections or categories such as “For Her” or “Gifts under $50” in their stores, but you can also do the same on your website. If you’re running seasonal promotions, ensure that your website visitors can access and redeem your offers easily.

#3 Prepare seasonal staff for the rush

If you’re hiring additional staff, now is the time to start looking. Aside from posting on job boards, ask your best performing staff if they know of anyone who would be suitable, or post the job on social networks where your target employees spend a lot of time.

Holiday shoppers are often stressed and in a hurry, so great customer service is more important than ever. Get your new staff members into the store a few days early for detailed training on your systems as well as your brand and how you interact with customers. It will make a big difference to the service they can provide.
More staff can also mean more opportunities for missing stock. With a rise in seasonal staff, it’s a good idea to set the right user permissions in your point-of-sale so only your most trusted staff have the ability to take actions such as returns and refunds.

#4 Lay out your holiday policies

You may want to implement special policies for the holidays. For example, many retailers are more lenient with returns and exchanges during this time. But, you should also be clear about how you’ll process returns. Will you issue cash refunds or store credit? Will you allow shoppers to return items without a receipt? These are just some of the issues you’ll need to address. There is no one-size-fits-all policy for returns and exchanges, so craft your rules based on what makes the most sense for your business. Whatever you decide, though, communicate it clearly with your staff, and ensure your policies are consistent across all your stores.

#5 Map out a fulfillment plan

One of the most important factors is having a great handle on your inventory, what’s likely to be most popular, and where those products are. That includes having a fulfilment plan. The smallest difference in shipping costs or delivery dates can be make or break for a customer. Map out fulfilment routes and costs from each of your stores ahead of time and publicise these, and make sure you have real-time visibility of your products across all your sales channels. You and your staff should always know what products you have in stock and where they are, so you can provide accurate information to your customers and improve decision making when it comes where to stock up and when.

Francesca Nicasio is a retail expert at Vend.

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