Tips for Smooth Store Operations This Holiday Season

The holidays are a time of cheer, celebrations, and (unfortunately) stress. Days are busier, nights are longer and the overall well-being of yourself and your store staff is often compromised due to the extra demands that the holiday season brings.

There are a lot of things to consider when it comes to preparing for this busy time of year, including how to approach them as stress-free as possible. Aiming to have a smooth, successful holiday season begins with factoring in what can help accomplish this. From wanting to keep customers top of mind to delivering stellar results on store operations and aiming to make this your most profitable season yet, there is a lot to keep track of. To help, consider the below tips.

Tip #1: Determine and Promote Your Holiday Hours

The National Retail Federation expects holiday retail sales during November and December 2019 to increase between 3.8 percent and 4.2 percent over 2018 to a total of between $727.9 billion and $730.7 billion! Extending store hours can help boost your chance of capturing more consumer dollars.

If you are in a mall, strip mall or another area with neighboring stores that have pre-determined hours, it’s likely holiday hours have already been set by your landlord or leasing company. If you are a stand-alone business, consider what nearby businesses are doing and what past years – if relevant – suggest as peak times to be open.

Once identified, begin to promote your holiday hours so that store staff, existing customers and potential customers alike can also begin to plan for these adjusted hours. Sharing these details via social media, on store receipts and even on peer-to-peer review site profiles such as Yelp are all valuable ways to help promote these details.

Holidays Extended Hours Example

Tip #2: Prepare for Increased Holiday Working Hours

Once you have identified what your store holiday hours are, evaluate the availability of existing staff and consider if you will need new hires to support extra holiday demands. If you haven’t already, begin your holiday hiring ASAP.

Once hired, you can mitigate holiday stress by investing in training– for both new and existing employees – on holiday store expectations. Use training to prepare your staff for the challenging scenarios that come with the hectic holiday season. Helping all staff prepare for this chaotic season helps them manage the pressure they feel.

This training may include but is not limited to operational procedures, customer service standards, time-off requests and more. Have both your regular and seasonal staff prepared to handle returns, process gift cards, gift receipts, frustrated customers, unexpected challenges and other scenarios that are typical to your unique store – particularly based on past holiday experiences you have had.

Bonus tip for reducing stress: Add some fun to this training with a team-building event or dinner, such as bowling or enjoying a local restaurant together. Collectively, these efforts will help strengthen team spirit, increase employee productivity and offer stronger customer experiences thanks to having a well-trained team.

Tip #3: Prepare Holiday Packaging, Gift Wrap and Shipping

Offering complimentary gift wrap during the holidays has become an expectation among customers – thus, your store should be no exception. Keeping this in mind, consider what you can do now to support the influx of gift wrapping expectations to come later.

  • Create a classic, store themed gift wrap that is symbolic to your store, such as Tiffany’s has done with its iconic packaging. Tiffany’s packaging is so iconic they turned it into a pop-up shop.

Tiffany pop-up

Or take a cue from the UK bakery chain Greegs, who promoted their newly launched Christmas line and bespoke wrapping paper with free gift wrapping for stressed shoppers. Customers could have their gifts wrapped while enjoying Greegs’ sausage rolls and mulled wine.

  • Offer a variety of gift wrap options for your customers to choose from, including sustainable boxes, bags, tags, and tissue.
  • Keep it simple and offer a holiday ribbon tied on a branded store bag.

The ideas are endless yet your time to prepare for them is not. Don’t forget to:

  • Order necessary supplies.
  • Plan for where you will have them stored.
  • Train your staff on what your expectations are for holiday gift wrapping.
  • Stock up on tape, scissors, shipping materials and other necessary details to help expedite shipping this holiday season.

This will not only ease holiday frustrations but also offer added value to customers looking to ship purchases directly from your store. Don’t forget to promote all of these options to your customers, as well.

Tip #4: Create a Promotional Calendar With Events and Marketing Plans Included

From social media to in-store events to product promotions and more, there are a lot of details to consider when it comes to promoting your store and inventory this holiday season. To help, plan now to avoid heightened stress later.

There are many marketing touchpoints that can help boost your in-store sales this holiday season. Both digital and in-store strategies are important to plan for.

With digital strategies, automate when you can where you can. For instance, creating promotional, holiday-themed emails in advance that are strategically aligned with store events, product promotions and other festive activities that will occur during the holidays. Then schedule these emails to automatically be sent on specific days, eliminating one more thing on your to-do-list during the actual holiday season.

In order for your pre-planned emails to align with your store events, you also need to plan those events in advance. To help your in-store marketing efforts run more smoothly, take each week beginning in November through the end of the year and identify what products you want to highlight through sales, promotions and merchandising.

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From front window displays to in-store merchandising, make sure you not only have a plan in place to get these done but also the necessary supplies to help you do so.

To make things easier, use a task management module to schedule merchandising turnover.  Attach best practice photos to all merchandising tasks. Including visual guides reduces stress so staff have a clear picture to implement. Due dates ensure your promotions are setup on time and the ability for staff to attach proof of execution photos means you know your displays are erected properly across all locations.

Black Friday Task Example

Another tip to cut down on stress for both staff and customers: Offer pre-wrapped gifts in your store that are grab and go ready for those customers who may be in a rush. This helps staff make quick, on-point suggestions and gets customers through the line more efficiently.

Tip #5: Keep Your Own Wellness In Check

The National Alliance of Mental Illness suggests keeping yourself top of mind despite the pressure to put others first – including your store, staff, and customers – during the holidays is an important step to combat the holiday blues.

This can be as simple as recognizing you need a time-out from the go-go-go pace of the holidays to scheduling a team member to offset some of your own store hours during the holidays. The key takeaway here is simple, really, though often hard to accept. In other words, it’s okay to slow down if slowing down is what can keep you moving forward.

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Remember, the National Retail Federation reports holiday retail sales are expected to be between $727.9 billion and $730.7 billion during November and December alone. Not preparing to capture these dollars will increase holiday stress for both you and your customers. Preparing now can help combat stress later and in return also help you have your best holiday season yet!

About the author:

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Nicole Leinbach Reyhle is the Founder of RetailMinded and a published author. She is a frequent contributor to The Today Show, Forbes, and countless B2B publications. Reyhle is the Spokesperson for American Express’s Small Business Saturday and writes regularly as a retail thought leader for various industry resources and is recognized as a Top 10 retail thought leaders from Vend and a retail “futurist” for IBM. Finally, Reyhle is also the Co-Founder of the Independent Retailer Conference.



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