By Rieva Lesonsky, CEO GrowBiz Media & SmallBizDaily.com
Don’t look now, but the holiday shopping season is just around the corner. Over half of holiday shoppers research and plan their gifts as early as October, according to the National Retail Federation.
Even though most purchases won’t be made until November and December, now is the time to prepare, so to make sure your store is ready, follow these six steps.
1. Start advertising seasonal employment now.
To compete with big chains and department stores during the holidays, you need a well-staffed store, so start advertising open positions now. Increase your chances of finding qualified employees by asking friends, family members, and your current employees for referrals.
Spread the word on social media, too, with links to your job listings. Who knows? Some of your best customers might be looking for part-time work and be eager to earn extra money (and earn an employee discount) over the holidays. Connect with local high school and college career centers to find students looking for temporary jobs. You can even post fliers at senior centers to attract retirees looking for part-time work.
2. Get your scheduling system in order.
Scheduling retail employees and tracking their hours worked can be a big headache at any time of year, but never more so than during the holidays. That’s why it’s so critical to have a plan in place that simplifies the scheduling process as much as possible.
Look for a cloud-based employee scheduling software that lets you create, manage, and share schedules from your computer or smartphone so you can handle last-minute changes wherever you are.
The right scheduling tool will also send notifications so employees are automatically alerted of shift changes via email or push notification. Your scheduling tool should also track employee hours and timesheets, to ensure you’re always on top of all hours worked for quick, easy payroll.
3. Plan for training.
If temporary employees are coming on board, they’ll need to know your systems and processes. Make sure your employee handbook and any documentation you keep at the point-of-sale is up to date so new employees always have cheat sheets to refer to.
Schedule a group training session for new hires or pair them up one-on-one with experienced employees. Whichever method you choose, just make sure new hires get plenty of time to practice before they’re actually put on the sales floor in the thick of the holiday rush.
4. Start your marketing engines.
Create a holiday marketing plan that takes you week by week through January. This will save you headaches when crunch time hits, and it can ensure that nothing slips through the cracks.
Schedule out social media posts, print and online ads, email marketing campaigns, website promotions, direct mail pieces, and any other type of marketing and advertising you want to do. By planning ahead, you’ll have more time to prepare each element of your marketing outreach.
5. Get your store shipshape.
Today’s retail shoppers can buy everything they want online. When they visit physical stores, it’s because they want an “experience,” not just a product. Examine your store with a critical eye. What would make it more enticing, enjoyable, and appealing?
Eye-catching window displays, festive decor, and background music appropriate for your brand can all help. Don’t forget about little extras, like comfy chairs where shoppers’ friends or family can rest for a minute, or holiday refreshments like apple cider and cookies, that you may want to add to the store.
6. Plan your merchandising and displays.
How can you best merchandise your store to draw shoppers in and attract them to move most profitable items? Be sure to put plenty of impulse-buy items near the point-of-sale to tempt customers waiting in line.
Appeal to harried gift-givers by creating pre-packaged gift groupings suitable for moms, grandparents, co-workers, or BFFs. That way, your customers can just grab, pay, and go. Finally, displaying gift-wrap, ribbons, cards, and gift tags near checkout can boost the average sales ticket, since these are things every gift-giver needs.
By taking these six steps, your retail store will be well-positioned to handle the holiday rush — and enjoy a hefty profit.
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva, and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.