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Five Lessons Learned for Increasing Holiday Sales This Year

Guest Blog by Shelley E. Kohan

Many of us have been retailers for a long time. Once upon a time, we wrote sales checks (yes, with a pen) and calculated labor hours using manual time sheets. But what has always set us apart has been our unique, innate ability for instinct and intuition. We have remained in the business successfully by making decisions based on our experiences in the field.

We are retail warriors. Occasionally, we will back up our decisions with data. Having jumped on the technology bandwagon for the past decade, I am surprised to find that what we know and what we do about it may sometimes be very different. A case in point is the following post-2011 holiday analysis, which reveals some staggering insights from retail warriors across the United States.

As we enter the 2012 holiday season, here are some insights to help deploy your resources more effectively for increased sales to drive this year’s performance. After analyzing more than 40 U.S. retail store chains’ performance and examining the in-store behaviors of more than 20 million shoppers between Thanksgiving weekend and Dec. 31, 2011, here’s what we found:

1.     Don’t Underestimate First Weekends in November.

Retailers are missing early season traffic by not having enough staff the first two weekends in November. Many retailers extend their existing staff first before hiring new associates, or new hires start but do not hit the selling floor until the third week of November. Hired, trained sales associates need to be on the floor and ready to sell by the first Saturday of November.

2.     The Post-Christmas Sale Is No Joke.

The time after the Christmas holiday remains a great opportunity for most retailers. Shoppers continues to hit the stores only to find the holiday help is gone! Obviously, conversion drops due to returns, making it difficult to maximize sales and service. However, the store traffic still represent a “selling opportunity” − especially with the escalating trend of gift cards as holiday gifts.

Am I crazy to suggest one and two above? Do I get that payrolls are tight and stores simply cannot add expense? (Of course I do, I’m a retail warrior.) In-store analytics extract the details from the data and provide you with the knowledge to maximize the nuggets of information you discover. Simply adding staff will not give you a full return on investment for the suggestions above. Instead, do the following:

3.     Shift Staffing Hours.

Move hours out of the middle of the week when most retailers are over-staffed. Also, hire in shifts or increments to accommodate the high weekend traffic in November. By looking at the by-hour and by-day traffic-to-conversion comparison, there will be opportunities to shift staffing to when you need it most.

4.     Treat Dec. 26 Like Black Friday. 

Most retailers experience similar traffic on Dec. 26 as they do on Black Friday. Make it all-hands-on-deck. (We think we do, but it’s worth double-checking staff hours for this day.)

5.     The New Year’s Eve Holiday is Marketing’s Best-Kept Secret.

Shoppers are still out in the stores and want to shop. Give them incentives to buy! Create events in the store to drive traffic and conversion.

The overwhelming majority of holiday buying still occurs in brick-and-mortar stores – 95.5 percent of it, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. To all the retail warriors out there, let’s decide to make it an even bigger 2012 – armed with our killer instincts and the supporting data.

Shelley E. Kohan is vice president of retail consulting at RetailNext and has more than 20 years of experience in the retail industry, focused on luxury brands within the department and specialty store sector. She also is an instructor at the Fashion Institute of Technology of the State University of New York in the fashion merchandising management program. She can be reached at shelley@bviretailnext.com.

Retail Merchandiser magazine is pleased to present the points of view of many different industry stakeholders. If you would like to contribute your own guest blog to our site, please contact the editor at russ.gager@phoenixmediacorp.com.




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