Holiday shopping sales are predicted to be up 5 percent from 2017 — here’s three ways to cash in
Starting on Black Friday (and even before), eager shoppers flood online sales platforms and brave the traffic to find gifts and hot deals on consumer products. The National Retail Federation predicts the two months leading up to the new year will see up to $720 billion in sales — a nearly 5 percent increase from last year.
If you’re a retailer, you’re probably already preparing for Black Friday and beyond (if you’re not getting ready now, there’s more on that below). If you’re an accountant for a retailer, you’ve probably been thinking about how you can help ease the stress as the holidays approach.
We reached out to a few TSheetsPROs who work with retailers to find out what advice they give their clients this time of year, and we found some common themes. A trusted advisor should be comfortable bringing ideas about staffing, discounts, and cash flow to your attention, giving special attention to the best ways to cash in on the holiday buzz. So here are the top tips for retailers from our fantastic TSheetsPROs:
1. Start now
“Plan your inventory levels accordingly!” says Joshua Lance of Lance CPA Group.
For retailers, planning is all about looking at trends. Inventory can be an especially big opportunity or serious threat, depending on how you decide to stock product. Christina Becker, from Becker Consulting, says planning inventory and employee schedules will help you determine what is needed for this year.
“Compare October and November activity, both prior and current,” said Becker. “It should give you an idea of the current trend to plan for with staffing and inventory requirements.”
2. Check your processes
“Be organized,” is the best advice Holly Murray of Metro West Accounting & Associates gives her retail clients during the holidays.
Organization can look vastly different depending on the size of your business, the types of inventory you sell, and whether or not you have an online or brick-and-mortar shop. But it could be helpful to create a clean roadmap, looking at what processes could be more efficient during times of heavy traffic. It can be as simple as batching credit cards in one fell swoop.
“Batch out your credit cards one time per day, preferably at the same time each day,” says Pat Catanzaro, Abacus Bookkeeping Consultants, LLC.
Think about what other processes you can streamline. Team not sure where to be or what to prioritize? Introduce a daily stand-up with employees at the beginning of each shift to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Marketing hanging over your head? Talk about setting a goal to have your social media posts scheduled and emails sent by lunch each day of a sale.
3. Staff smart
The more the merrier, right? As tempting as it might be to bring lots of additional help on during the holidays, retailers would be remiss not to do a little research before making any big hiring decisions. In other words, “don’t over-staff,” says Susie Spears of Rodefer Moss & Co.
Look at last year’s staffing trends. If you over-staff for the holiday rush, it could end up costing more than it’s worth. “Extra profits can be lost quickly with excessive payroll costs,” said Spears. Find out exactly what is needed, who can train others efficiently, and of course …
“Manage your employees’ time!” advises Dan Luthi of Ignite Spot Accounting.
In all the hustle and bustle, it can be hard to keep track of who is doing what. Keep detailed reports of employee time worked during their holiday shifts to maximize their efficiency and save money next season.
Have employees track time by job so you can report exactly how much was spent on tasks like stocking inventory, sales, and marketing. Then set automatic notifications to team members when shifts change, so everyone is on the same page and the operation runs smoothly even in the busiest nights. But most importantly, treat your team with respect.
“Be kind to your employees. It’s a stressful time for them, so realize they have feelings too! It’s not all about sales and the bottom line if you’re people are crashing and burning,” says Jason Jones, CPA.
When in doubt, consult an expert
From helping with staffing plans to providing insight into how much a business can afford to discount products or services, a great accountant is an invaluable resource during the busy holiday season. And if cash flow is a big concern for you, take it from the PROs: prepare now, optimize processes, and staff smart.