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15 Things to Do RIGHT NOW to Get Your Store Ready for Holiday 2020

It’s here. The fourth quarter, the Golden Quarter; the big one you can’t afford to mess up. Making the Golden Quarter work for you requires careful planning that, but even if you haven’t laid the groundwork for a big finish throughout the year, you can still reap the benefits of a solid holiday season.

And now we have the added challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year consider the following in your Golden Quarter planning:

1.  2020 Dates to Remember: This year Black Friday is on November 27, Cyber Monday is November 30, Small Business Saturday is November 28, and the biggest shopping day of the holiday season will be December 19, the Saturday before Christmas.

2.  Your store must participate on Black Friday. Even though Amazon kicked off Holiday 2020 in mid-October and Walmart and Target followed suit, Black Friday is still important to consumers. So, regardless of what you sell, or the size of your store, you need to participate either in-store, online or both. 

Walmart has announced it is offering Black Friday sales beginning online at Walmart.com on Wednesday, November 4. Other retailers will offer deals early and spread out over weeks so that people are not tempted to forgo social distancing in order to save. Walmart has also said that all of its deals will begin online and later be available in-store. And beginning in November, Target will offer weekly holiday deals with the products will available both online and in-store. The stores will open at 7:00 AM on Black Friday, the general opening time for the majority of its stores. Target associates will monitor and limit the number of people allowed inside the stores. Shoppers will be able to reserve a spot in line remotely via Target.com and double the amount of curbside pick-up spots are being added.

Both of these retailers offer good plans. Remember, if you want to be a contender for your share of the Holiday 2020 pie you need to stretch beyond your comfort level. This might mean heavier online or social media specials.

3.  Consider a Create Your Own Coupon event on Black Friday and let customers decide what’s on sale. You choose the percentages, they choose the items. 

4.  Host our Cash Register receipt Auction by encouraging shoppers to save their receipts throughout the holidays because on Tuesday, December 8ththey will be able to redeem them for merchandise at your auction. Host it in-store or via Zoom. While shoppers are busy collecting receipts dated from November 27 – December 8th, you’ll be busy collecting auction items and give-a-ways from generous vendors. 

These receipts are worth money: Say a customer spends $500 during this time frame she would receive $500 in play money to spend at your auction. Of course, your store will be open for shopping with real money after the auction ends. When customers are in the mood to buy it’s a good idea to let them. Again, in-store safely distanced or online. 

5.  Don’t ignore Cyber Monday. 2020 has turned just about every brick and mortar retailer into a “Clicks and Mortar” retailer, meaning if you sell online, via Facebook Live or other social media, you  should take advantage of Cyber Monday. Offer a series of specials that are only available online. If you don’t want the hassle of shipping, then go the BOPIS route: Buy Online Pickup In Store – customers love curbside. 

6.  Be prepared to sell big on the Saturday before Christmas. Super Saturday – aka Panic Saturday – falls this year on December 19, the Saturday before Christmas. Many shoppers let the time get away from them and hurry to finish their shopping; others intentionally wait for Super Saturday because they are lured by the potential of receiving an additional discount. Discounting has become big business year round, so during the holidays it’s a good idea to offer sweet deals on items you don’t want to carry over into 2021. Get rid of what you can early so your open to buy looks good and your inventory is not clogged with merchandise that isn’t saleable. Packing product away until next year will only hurt you in the long run. 

Super Saturday is also a good time to host a “We’ve Got You Covered!”event that offers pre-wrapped gifts, lists of gift ideas for people of all ages, and free gift wrap. 

7.  Get store associates ready to sell. If you need to hire additional help for the holidays start early so that everyone is trained and up and running before all the holiday craziness begins. And while we’re on the topic of training, this is also a good time to amp up your store meetings in person or via Zoom. Keep your team informed with a weekly Saturday morning meeting before the store opens, and try a daily 10 minute get together on the sales floor before you unlock the door for business. Talk about what’s new, hot and happening in the store. If you have time hold up and item and ask what additional product could be added to it increase the sale. Hold another 10 minute meeting in between each shift so all associates are on the same page. 

– Create a weekly Holiday email blast that’s geared specifically to your store associates. Include what’s happening in the store, gift suggestions, how to sell gift cards, store security – whatever is important that week in your store. 

– Set a Daily Sales Goal. You won’t reach your desired numbers if you leave sales to chance. Plan a monthly sales goal and set daily targets for sales, and even for specific products. Every associate should know daily what is expected of them. 

8.  The pandemic will be with us for a while so masking, sanitizing, social distancing requirements, etc. should be a topic of frequent reminder. 

We hope you never need it but just in case, the NRF Foundation has partnered with the Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI) to develop online training tools to help retail workers prevent and de-escalate in-store conflicts, particularly around social distancing, mask and capacity issues. You can read CPI’s “De-escalation Tips in Light of Coronavirus Anxiety” tips HERE.Print it and hang it in the lunch room or near the time clock. 

9.  Shoplifting is bound to happen during the holidays, but you can keep it to a minimum if you keep your team in the loop. Thieves hate attention so attentive customer service and eye contact are imperative. If you suspect someone is up to no good, engage them in conversation. Your meeting topics should also include solid customer service techniques, what to look for to prevent theft, and what to do if they see someone shoplifting. It just makes sense to have a plan of action. 

10.  Set your sales floor to sell! Your displays should be designed to move customers through the entire store, yet 50 percent of your sales floor is never seen by shoppers. Why? Because we tend to come in to purchase a particular item, find it, then leave. The job of your displays is to entice shoppers to stay and look around. 

– Set a display plan of action of what to do and when to do it – think monthly window displays, weekly speed bumps and end features, merchandise outposts, impulse items at the cashwrap, and more. Include after-holiday plans too, including required floor moves and decor that needs to come down. 

– Start the intrigue outside with your store’s windows. Use props to create a holiday theme, changing your windows at least once a month during the busy holidays. Assign this task to a creative store associate. 

– The Golden Quarter isn’t business as usual; your sales floor needs to scream HOLIDAY. Use props to create mood-altering ambiance that encourages customers to stay and shop. This includes scent marketing, the music you play on the sales floor, demos, even what your associates wear. 

– Place carts and baskets in key locations throughout the sales floor, not just near the door. If you see a shopper with her arms full of product, get that customer a cart or basket ASAP. People tend to stop shopping once their hands are full. And don’t forget to sanitize carts in between customers. 

– Don’t neglect your Lake Front Property, the front center, right and left sides of the store that are the first areas seen by a shopper upon entering. These areas set the stage for what customers can expect to find throughout the store. 

– Front and center is where your Speed Bump displays go. These small fixtures – we like stacking tables – are used to stop shoppers by offering new and exciting merchandise that is irresistible. Load your Speed Bump displays with gift ideas and pre-wrapped gifts, and cross-merchandise whenever you can. Why just sell a single item when you can sell two or three? 

– Unless you are having a clearance sale – which would be weird during the heart of the Holiday selling season – clearance merchandise belongs at the rear of the store. It can come up front when you have your end of the year clean up sale. 

– Plan for impulse purchases at the cashwrap. Think of your cashwrap as another important display area and tastefully load it up with candles, accessories, jewelry – anything that will appeal to an impulse shopper. Add a sign recommending gift cards. Spinner racks located near the cash wrap work, too. And don’t forget to merchandise the wall behind the cash wrap with holiday gifts. Women are huge impulse shoppers so don’t miss this opportunity. 

11.  In-Store Signing always plays a key role in turning browsers into buyers, during the holidays they become even more important. Women tend to read signs, but men rely on them. And since you are likely to have more male shoppers than usual during the holidays you need to help them out by sharing the features and benefits on key products. 

Depending in the size of your store, there are three important signing zones to consider: 

Zone One Signs are placed high above a shopper’s eye level to direct traffic in the store. Zone One signing generally consists of departmental and directional signing. These signs make it easy for shoppers to locate what they came in to buy. 

Zone Two Signs are hung just above the shoppers’ eye level. These signs include the promotional and event signs that are meant to be hung for a limited amount of time. 

Zone Three Signs are set at eye level to highlight information that will help the customer make an informed buying decision. Eye level is also known as “buy level” or around 5’4” from the floor, the height of the average woman. 

Women respond to Story Tellers signs that use the word “imagine” to connect customers to product: “Imagine your little ones snuggled under a quilt lovingly handmade by you”. Men react well to Product Seller signing because these signs highlight a product’s features; all the important information is right there. Zone Three is also a good place for product brochures and other point-of purchase materials provided by vendors. 

12.  Increase your advertising and marketing efforts. How you advertise and market your store should also increase during the Holiday selling season. Your ad vehicles of course are up to you, but it’s definitely time to increase the number of email blasts from one to two a month, to three to four a month – customers expect extra offers during the holidays. Don’t think that every email blast has to include a deal. You can talk about product, offer gift ideas, and offer an Item of the Week. Your monthly newsletter is important, too. 

– Create and distribute a weekly Bag Stuffer. It can be a special advertisement, gift ideas or even POP materials from a vendor. The trick is in how you get bag stuffers into a customer’s hand. If your plan is to merely stuff them into bags (we know, the name makes no sense) you are wasting your time because most of your stuffers will be thrown out with the bag. Instead, instruct associates to hand the bag stuffer to the customer while telling her what it’s all about. This way the customer hears first-hand about the cool things going on in your store – it’s a free 15 – 30 second commercial! 

– One of your bag stuffers should be a Brag Sheet that lists all the services and conveniences you offer, where to find you on social media, frequently asked questions, major brands you carry – whatever makes sense for your store. Print your class or event calendar on the back side. 

– Create a Top 10 List of Holiday Gifts.Make a list for every age group and product category you sell. Add it to your website and email blasts, give each associate a copy to carry with them, and place them throughout the store. 

– For the majority of consumers Facebook is still the social media of choice so it’s a good place to advertise. (Don’t forget they LOVE to see you on Facebook Live!) 

Facebook ads make sense because they give you complete control over where your ad is placed and how much you spend. You can pinpoint exactly the people you wish to target, and if your ad isn’t doing what you intended it to do you can change, pause or end it midstream. 

– Increase your use of holiday related hashtags – #Christmas, #Hanukkah #holiday, #gifts, #coupons, #Santa, etc. – on all of your social media posts. This will help you connect with an audience of potential customers that reaches far beyond your current following. 

13.  Push gift cards. If you are still selling paper gift certificates it’s time to change to the plastic version. Studies show that retailers who switch from paper gift certificates to plastic gift cards increase gift card sales from 35-50 percent. The main goal is the get the customer into your store to redeem that card, and plastic cards are just easier for customers because they fit right into their wallets. 

There’s more: 61 percent of customers spend more than the amount of their gift card, 75 percent spend more than the value of their card, and 55 percent of gift card recipients require more than one shopping trip to the store to spend the balance of their card. The more times they come to your store the more they are likely to buy something. 

– People buying gift cards can be easily enticed to spend more if you sweeten the deal. Try a Buy $25 in gift cards, get a $5 gift card for free or Buy $50 in gift cards, get a $10 bonus card promotion. The caveat is that the bonus cards are not valid until January 1, 2018 so they can’t be used to purchase additional holiday gifts. Who doesn’t like to get something for themselves, especially when it’s free? 

– Package your gift cards in a unique way that represents your brand. A children’s store might present gift cards in a baby bottle decorated with ribbons; an apparel store could nestle their gift cards inside a lovely box lined in scented paper. Don’t be afraid to be creative! 

14.Practice Shoppertainment. We hope that you have at least one event scheduled for each week of the Golden Quarter. We’re talking Non-Stop Traffic-Building, Profit-Producing, Attention-Grabbing, Sales-Generating, Competition-Miffing, Customer-Winning Retail Events and Promotions™ like our Guys Night Out, The 12 Days of Christmas, 50% Off Coupon Event, the previously mentioned Create Your Own Coupon Saleand Cash Register Receipt Auction. How about a Customer Appreciation Sale, Holiday Ideas Open House, and Ladies Night? Sound good? It’s even better than that because if you send us an email with GOLDEN QUARTER in the subject line, we’ll send you each one of those event templates and more. Now, there’s no excuse not to run great in-store events that customers love. 

15. Be prepared for markdowns and returns. Hit the ground running on December 26 with a plan to rid your store of all remaining holiday merchandise. Remember that the first markdown is always the cheapest one to take, so take a deep breath and price to sell. 

– Part of your signing program should include your return/exchange policy. Post it in a visible place at the cashwrap and add it to the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page on your website. On the day after Christmas be ready to save the sale by encouraging associates to politely ask customers if they’d like to look around for something else before automatically issuing a refund. Another save is to suggest a gift card the customer can use at a later date. But if the customer specifically asks for a refund give it with a big smile and a genuine, “Please come back and shop with us again!” 

Your list of things-to-do for Holiday 2020 is already taller than you r wall fixtures, but you definitely need to make one, and then work it item by item. Don’t forget to keep good records so preparing for next year is easy. Planning for Holiday 2021 begins the day after Christmas… but you already knew that, didn’t you?










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