Like it or not, 4th quarter is upon us. If you’re like most retailers, you’re grateful to have made it this far into the year. If you’re not like most retailers, you’re going to develop a strategic plan for how to not only survive – but also thrive – this holiday shopping season.
This year more than ever, it is important to go into the next 90 days proactive, organized and ready to deliver. This is not the year to “wait and see and hope for the best”. Take some time to plan and take charge.
Here are 9 Steps to a Rockin’ Q4:
- Get Organized. Create a rollout calendar of when and where you’re going to display your holiday and winter merchandise. Decide now when (and if) you’re going to mark things down. Schedule and develop one or two special events you can hold for your customers to help bring them into your store and open their wallets.
- Get Social (Media, That Is). If you don’t have a Facebook page yet, set one up today. It’s FREE and you’re wrong if you think your store doesn’t need one. Be sure to put a sign next to your register announcing your page and invite people to “Like” you. Even if you only update once a month, use the Q4 foot traffic through your store to build your Fan list.
- Live to Serve. Schedule a staff breakfast or lunch and have a discussion about what great customer service and a can-do attitude looks like. As a store-owner, have a responsibility here too. Take some time to prepare by investing in a good customer service book such as Customer Service Training 101 or Customer Service for Dummies. There’s no shame in getting some help or inspiration from an outside source. Create some sales incentive programs for your staff too. Contests and weekly sales goals can be a great way to jump-start some selling enthusiasm. Just be sure the prizes are cool… like an iPad… or cash rewards. Lame prizes don’t do much to motivate anyone.
- Go Virtual. Look at and do some updates to your website. If you don’t have a website for your store yet, set one up today. You are living in the dark ages if you think your store doesn’t need one. Your site doesn’t have to be fancy to start. A simple one page with a picture of your store, your address, phone number and hours will be perfectly fine! You can buy a domain at Go Daddy or 1and1.com or through your internet service provider.
- Fix It and Forget It. Plan out your Facebook updates through the end of the year. Be sure to include featured products, events and promotions. This can, literally, be a list on a piece of paper or typed into a word processing document. Then, sign up for a Hootsuite account. This super cool site will allow you to enter and schedule social media updates in advance! Load it up and walk away. Again, if this is intimidating, get someone to help you, including your staff.
- Put Some Flair Into It. Offer a free giftwrapping service. Figure out where you’re going to set up a wrapping station and offer to wrap any item purchased in your store between November 1 and December 24th. Yep, even those little $5.00 items, if that’s what the customer wants. Maybe even offer to wrap stuff not purchased in your store for $10. Make shopping in your store easy, fun, and most importantly, convenient. Big Box can’t compete with that. Order a big ream of gift wrap, 6 pairs of scissors and a dozen rolls of tape today. The return on investment will be worth it, especially when your customers post pictures of that beautifully wrapped gift on Facebook for all of their 589 friends to see.
- Keep It Fresh. Visual merchandising is extra important this year. By moving or rotating your inventory, your store will look like it always has something new (even if your incoming new merchandise has stopped). Create theme tables, price point tables, new feature tables, whatever gets you going. Shoppers want to see something new. They want a unique experience each time they come in. There’s a reason the big guys reset their end caps and features weekly. Pay attention and learn from them.
- Make It Easy. Create a grab and go table of under $10 and under $20 gifts. Everyone is on a budget this year so the easier make it to shop for everyone from Uncle Bobby to that Secret Santa girl in accounting, the more they’ll love you and the better your bottom line will look. If you’ve got the room and the merchandise, create a build it yourself gift basket station. Customers can grab a basket and pick any four items for $25 (gift wrap included) or whatever configuration makes sense for you. You may need to lower your margin just a bit, but it might be a fun and easy way to move a lot of low price point items.
- Self Care. No matter what happens, make self-care a priority over the next 90 days. Pack a healthy lunch and snacks the night before… and remember to take them, and eat them. Invest in a crockpot and discover the joys of coming home to a ready to eat meal. Drink lots of water, consider vitamins, turn off the TV and make sure you get at least 7 hours sleep a night. This is prime time and you need to be sharp.
Even if you pick only one or two of these steps, you’ll still be on the right track to a great season. This isn’t an all or nothing proposition, plus these steps easily convert to a 2011 monthly strategy guide for your store. Remember, it’s about progress, not perfection… all the way to the bank.
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