Some retailers dread it, some are rubbing their hands together in anticipation of it, some are match the eager anticipation of a five year old. Regardless of where you fall on this spectrum, the holiday season makes a huge impact on most retailers and it probably will on you!

If you’re like your retail compatriots, you may be happy to swap the seven swans a swimming, give up the six geese a-laying and take a pass on the partridge in a pear tree and exchange them all for 12 useful tips and tricks to make this year’s retail season the best ever.

Well, Christmas just came early (it does that in retail) and the following should help you to have a holly-jolly Christmas and a fabulous retail holiday season.

The Twelve Tips of Christmas

1. Leverage this year’s trend.

Leaf through your industry publications and scan the blogs, websites and social channels, and get a clear feel and understanding of what’s hot and what’s not this year.  Have a peek at social media and what your customers are talking about, pop in and take a look around Pinterest for the latest. Put a poll on your social stream asking what your shoppers are hoping to get this year.

If you haven’t already ordered you might be under the pump, but there are definitely things you can also do with what you have, for instance:

What’s the hot colour this season? Make sure there’s lots of it on the floor.

Have you planned a special Christmas shopping day in store? If not, do it!

Are there products you can group together to form unique Christmas gifts, baskets, or special themed gifts? Get creative

2. Review last year’s plan and its results

Ask yourself what you can learn from what you did last year? Did you sell out of a product early? Why? Did you have particular days where the store was swamped with cashed-up customers – when, why? How can you repeat this?  If you made a plan, kept records, or remember what worked last year, employ as many of these ideas as possible again this year. It’s always better to build on a solid foundation.

3. Create a holiday calendar

One of the biggest mistakes small retailers make with marketing is not planning far enough in advance.

You need to take time to think ahead about all the marketing activities you want to carry out this holiday season. Are you thinking an email campaign, special in-store event(s), some special social media distributed offers, a giveaway, special guests, or a great big blowout sale. Whatever you’re thinking, plan them out on your calendar and plan backwards to ensure they’re successful.

4. Staff it up

Staffing is always an important ingredient in the retail mix. And that importance is magnified through the busy holiday season.  If you’ve got staff that just aren’t cutting it, cut them loose as soon as possible. If you need additional staff to ensure you’re well equipped to handle the increase in store traffic, then hire them, train them and give them some hands on experience before the throngs of shoppers arrive. Don’t forget to look to those who you may have hired temporarily throughout the year or last holiday season to help you staff up to optimum levels.

Your goal here is to have the right number and the right people with the right attitude and the right skills to deliver the right in store shopping experience this Christmas.

5. Accommodate special orders

Plan early for promoting and receiving special orders for the holiday season.  Are there gift baskets that you could customise? Are there opportunities to personalise any of your product to make a great gift? Are there bulk orders that customers may want for parties and other festive events? If there are plan early, promote often and ensure you’ve planned enough time and staff to prepare them. And, don’t forget to set and publicise a cut off date for special orders.

6. Follow up on with suppliers

This is the time of year that you can’t afford delays. Get your orders in as early as possible, follow up on any that are delayed, see if there’s any additional supplies of those items you’re finding are already moving quickly off the shelves, and make sure you’ve got the staff available to work to get the products on the shelves as fast as possible after they arrive.

You may even want to investigate the opportunity to do a joint promotion or event with a supplier or two. You won’t know if you don’t ask.

Acting fast will help realise some of the Holiday sales opportunities – sometimes it’s worth the premium you might pay to get the product instore faster as it may be what keeps customers, keeps them coming back or may even be the difference that makes someone’s Christmas.

7. Advertise, advertise, then advertise some more

Whatever your plans are for the Christmas season, make sure you scream them from the rooftops. Advertise those specials, the festive events, the special order details, extended hours, special deals, contests, giveaways and any community involvement.  Advertise through both traditional – newspapers, brochures, local radio/tv, and billboards. And leverage social media channels, digital ads and your own website, blog, and online store if you’ve got one.  And don’t forget the instore opportunities and even advertising opportunities as basic as your “on hold” messaging – people won’t know about all the great stuff you’re doing if you don’t tell them.

8. Watch your reviews

There is tremendous power online to influence and customer comments, reviews and experiences are more transparent now than they’ve ever been.  Online ratings and reviews can help make or break you so do everything you can to create a fabulous in-store experience for every customer. You never know who has huge social influence. And, if you find a bad review, respond to it equally as publicly and offer to make things right. Even if they don’t take you up on your offer, the mere action of offering it, does lots to repair a bad rap.

9. Make it feel like Christmas

Christmas is a feeling and it’s not just about the red and green, the sparkly lights, Santas, and Christmas trees, but they all help!  Try to make a customer’s visit to your store actually feel like Christmas. Invoke all the senses, colours, lighting, Holiday music, a pine or cinnamon wafting through the aisles. Heck maybe you even want to serve up some fresh baked biscuits.

10. Create a memorable experience

Quality is long remembered after price is forgotten. And, the same goes for a memorable experience.  This is a great time to surprise and delight your customers. Appeal to the kid inside and get the adults photos taken with Santa. Have the staff dress up in their best elf costumes. Have a take it or leave it Christmas tree where people can leave gifts for those less fortunate or take a donation card to make a donation to a worthy charity. Hold surprise giveaways or instore specials. Have a personal shopper or gift expert available to help provide gift ideas for those who are stumped. Help people, entertain them, make them feel special and give them great service. This all helps to create a wonderful experience that lasts.

11. Plan for the shoplifters

As wonderful a time of year as it is. It also has a dark side.

Ensure that your whole staff is well trained in Shoplifting Prevention. December is the costliest time for shrinkage.  Too often retailers are unaware of the huge profits that walk out the door during the holiday season and no retail business is immune.

Even a basic amount of preventative measures can go a long way to limiting loss and making it a profitable holiday season.

12. Give back to your community

Remember the reason for the season. It is one of giving and gratitude. Christmas is a wonderful time to be a good community citizen. Perhaps you can do your part to help the needy in your community. Maybe you’d like to sponsor a Christmas initiative, provide some free product, give prizes, or fundraise for a local charity in-store. It’s the communities that we operate within that ultimately decide our store’s fate.

The holidays are the perfect time to find some way to make a difference and to give back to your community.

Isn’t that what the season is all about?

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