BrainTrust Query: Creating Success During the Holiday Lull

Discussion
Dec 05, 2011
Doug Fleener

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from Retail Contrarian, the blog of the Dynamic Experiences Group.

Last Monday I was in a store and asked a few employees who were standing around how business was. Well, I really wanted to ask why they were standing around talking among themselves, but I restrained myself.

The employees said they had been pretty busy over the weekend, but now they were "just waiting to get busy again." I totally get it. The first full week of the holiday season is always a bit maddening. At times, it doesn’t even seem like it’s the holiday, and then — bam! — you get slammed for a while. Then it’s back to slow again.

You can approach the next couple of weeks in two different ways. You can wait for success or you can create it. Don’t miss the opportunities that are before you because you’re waiting for future opportunities to show up.

The slower periods offer an incredible opportunity to get to know your customers better and deliver an experience that is second to none. As matter of fact, these slower times should allow you to greatly increase your average sales and units per transaction.

When not with customers, I would be on the phone or on e-mail inviting customers to come into the store. Work off a short script that gives your customer three benefits to coming in soon:

  1. During the early part of the holiday it is more relaxing to shop in the store.
  2. You are able to spend more time helping them find the perfect gift and/or items for themselves.
  3. More products are in stock. You especially want to share this if you have a gift with purchase that is in limited supply.

Don’t wait for success to find you this holiday … create it!

Discussion Questions: How should retailers and store managers approach the slower shopping weeks after the Black Friday weekend rush? What other ways can stores engage customers in between the holiday traffic rushes?

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12 Comments on "BrainTrust Query: Creating Success During the Holiday Lull"


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Ronnie Perchik
Guest
Ronnie Perchik
9 years 5 months ago

Marketers should look to nontraditional marketing strategies and tactics to stay top-of-mind during the slow weeks. What about a pop-up store with special offers to bring normally idle consumers in?

It’s all about day-parting and timing. Launch a couponing campaign with discounts only available during those slow weeks. Look to online and social media, and ramp up hard to engage consumers on Facebook, YouTube, blogs, etc., around those times. The possibilities are endless with creativity, and careful activation.

Nontraditional media can assist in revamping a marketing message to really grab eyes, as long as it’s done properly. Searching out a partner vendor to assist with activation is surely a best bet.

Dick Seesel
Guest
9 years 5 months ago

In larger department and big-box stores, the post-Thanksgiving lull provides a good opportunity to manage inventory effectively. Assuming there is little or no additional incoming merchandise, it’s the perfect time to “recover” the sales floor and to flush as much seasonal inventory out of stockrooms and onto fixtures as possible. (It’s a cliche with some truth to it: You can’t sell goods from the stockroom.) And if managers have the discretion to “break the planogram,” they can also remerchandise the sales floor. Consolidating pockets of low inventory in order to bulk out well-priced overstocks is a smart idea.

Bob Phibbs
Guest
9 years 5 months ago

Great points to be customer-centric during the lulls Doug! I find the bored employees are straightening and cleaning when they could be talking to shoppers. Of course, that probably goes back to who you hire and what you focus on them delivering but that’s another post….

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
9 years 5 months ago

There appears to be two general classes of Christmas buyers: those addicted only to Black Friday/Cyber Monday “panacea purchases” and those not infatuated with getting items at deep-deep discounts.

The big sales events capture the former group’s wallets and the latter group’s are open for grabs. So engage those who still have a jingle in their jeans in every non-irritating way possible.

Also cut back on those “employee help hours” that are utilized too much for chit chatting with each other.

Bill Emerson
Guest
Bill Emerson
9 years 5 months ago

All good points. I’d add the following to the checklist: back rooms need to be emptied, features reset and/or changed based on inventory levels, vendors called to explore fill-ins and overstocks for promotional pricing, hourly schedules reviewed for fine-tuning. Also, now is the time to look at item sell-throughs. Slow seller/heavy inventories need price reductions NOW, not after the holiday selling has passed. This markdown will cost far less than what it will take after the holiday.

David Slavick
Guest
David Slavick
9 years 5 months ago

Right on Doug — great tips. Pick slowest days based on historical post Black Friday “bump” and create excitement with in-store events. Start off with an event plan that is in select stores that have “best” customer service orientation and layer in the key ingredients — free gift for first x number who arrive at the start of the event, food and beverage (coffee, hot chocolate, water), personal shoppers, curb side assistance, free gift wrapping. In advance, outbound calls with personal invitation to best-of-best customers, special credit card offer/discounts for existing customers and new card apps. This package yields a Black Friday-like event/metrics in the middle of the week — pretty awesome. And, sales associates get pumped with positive feedback from customers in feeling appreciated plus being selected for this unique event — during a lull period — especially this week in fact (first week of December) based on historical in retail/specialty retail.

Roger Saunders
Guest
9 years 5 months ago

Marketing and merchandising are done. Allocation is turning around inventories. Now it is time for store operations to shine.

Store managers have to exercise a prudent amount of “Walking around Management.” They have to positively interface with each and every one of their associates, listen to them, help them hold the focus of the season, share the positive stories and customer views, and thank them for making the store a success.

It’s tough. Store traffic swings from organized chaos to somber silence. But this is the time of year at the store operations level, when strong leaders stand out. In the process, they create stronger associates, as they help bring out the best in them.

The best store level managers outperform their mediocre brethern by +10% to +15%

Steve Montgomery
Guest
9 years 5 months ago

Part of the approach certainly has to do with the target consumer. In most cases we’re dealing with customers whose identities may or may not be known to us. I recently spent some time with a person who works at a very high-end jewelry store. She informed me that they don’t have customers, they have clients (am sure the same is true for other high-end shops).

They spend this time contacting their clients alerting them to things that they might be interested in viewing, new items that have some in to the locations, writing (hand written) thank yous for their patronage during the past year, and purchasing gifts for key clients, etc.

Hayes Minor
Guest
Hayes Minor
9 years 5 months ago

It’s like the old saying “he who hesitates is lost.” Right now is the prime opportunity for retailers to be driving shoppers into their stores via smart targeting and thoughtful marketing efforts. Deals, checklists, specials, expanding coupons, retailtainment, experiences — whatever it takes to get feet in the aisles and (hopefully) goods in the cart. After all, if retailers collectively wait until the last minute to speak to shoppers and encourage sales, the proverbial last minute noise will drown out all efforts. Period.

Tony Orlando
Guest
9 years 5 months ago

Have a holiday sales event, invitation only, to showcase the unique product offerings you have for the holidays. Rent out a small hall, and offer some food from a local caterer, and make it a personal shopping experience, with discounts if they order that day. The sales generated, will more than pay for the effort, if it is done correctly, and make it an annual tradition. This is something Amazon can not do, and we need to take advantage of the opportunity to shine.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
9 years 5 months ago

The simplest, yet most difficult thing to try is to get the employees to talk to every customer who is actually in the store. Ensure each one leaves with everything on their shopping list. Cross-sell and upsell each one. That has to be instilled as part of the store’s culture. Each employee needs to be driven to capture every sales opportunity. However, we all know that is rarely the case in practice.

Also, advertise higher service levels. “Premier”-level checkout terminals for large orders. Shopping concierge. Differentiate… and COPY the good competitive ideas!

Glenda Kirkiridis
Guest
Glenda Kirkiridis
9 years 5 months ago

For the life of me, I don’t know why retailers don’t make more use of demonstrators — especially in large retail outlets.

I have seen demonstrators, and lots of them, at work in Hamley’s toy store in London all year round and it’s those demonstrators who are responsible for the increased sales volume.

If you have a product that is not moving, create a song and a dance about it and demonstrate the thing. It’s guaranteed to move the produce out the door.

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