December is a critical month for retailers – and even more so this year given the disruption of COVID-19. With four weeks to go, now is the perfect time to assess your store’s readiness – particularly if you have been closed or limited trading, writes DAVID BROWN.
By the same token, a successful December trading period can depend as much on the actions you take before December 1 as the results you achieve during December.
This not only applies to the product you buy in but the other actions you take to prepare for your busiest month of the year.
Indeed, there are multiple different elements of your business that need to needs to be evaluated and optimised in order to make the most of the holiday shopping season.
None of this is news, of course. Yet many retailers still seem to arrive at December almost by accident.
The pressing demands of running a business – particularly in an unusual and challenging year, full of unexpected hurdles and changing regulations – can result in many decisions being made only at the point of no return.
That is, when things ‘must’ be done, rather than ahead of time when they can be dealt with most effectively.
Often, the strategy can be implemented too late to gain the full benefit that earlier decision-making and planning would have provided.
Hopefully you’ve put much of your planning into place – but if not, here’s a checklist of things that you should deal with now before time starts to work against you.
- Inventory levels – How much product will you need to operate effectively over this period?
- Deadlines – What is the cut-off date for reorders and special customer orders?
- Spares – What extras will you need of fast selling product so you don’t run out?
- Merchandising – How will the store look over the holiday season? What product will be placed where? When will you change it?
- Pricing – Do you need to reprice any product to reflect current replacement cost given the increase in gold and silver prices?
- Roster – Have you determined who will be working when? Do you have your best staff on the most important product counters and at your most profitable times?
- Training – Is there any additional sales training you need to put in place? Are your staff aware of any new items or items you plan to promote?
- Meetings – When will you have staff meetings? What is the agenda? How will you keep your staff focused during this month?
- Marketing budget – How much will you spend on promotion? Where will this money be spent? What product and offers will you use to bring in customers?
- Targeting – Not all customers are equal. How will you be targeting your best customers to get them to spend this year? Will you be running any special promotions or evenings for them?
- Packaging – Have you ensured you have sufficient packaging, wrapping paper and other essentials to get you through this holiday period?
- Repairs – If repairs are an important part of your business, have you set a deadline for when you won’t promise completion before December 25th?
- Cashflow – This time of year can be a drag on bank balances. Have you planned when receipts will come in and when payments for December product will have to be made?
- Cleaning – This is important for both product and the store. Likewise, lightbulbs need to be fresh to show off items, signage and tickets need to look their best, decorations need to be in place and your music needs to reflect the season.
- Product – The best laid plans can still have problems. What contingency plans do you have if popular items aren’t delivered or customer orders get delayed?
- COVID-19 – Do you have a plan in place should there be an outbreak? Would customers feel more comfortable knowing you are prepared for every eventuality?
- Illness – What if something happens to a staff member? What if you are unable to go into work yourself? Do you have a back-up plan to cover for this eventuality?
A successful December starts with successful preparation.
The better you are organised, the less stressful and more profitable your December trading period will be.