Christmas is coming

It’s September already and for most people this signifies that autumn is just around the corner and that the weather is turning a little colder, but if you’re a retailer, you know this means that it’s time to prepare and plan for Christmas.

The Christmas season is the biggest shopping event of the year, and for some retailers, sales during the festive season can account for up to 30 percent of their annual revenue. Of course, all retailers will be working hard to attract customers and generate sales during the biggest holiday shopping period of the year, so you need to work extra hard to compete.

The real key to success is planning ahead and implementing steps to prepare for the upcoming seasonal rush and be ready to maximise the potential. And to help you achieve this, there are several key tasks you should complete long before the Christmas season is upon us.

Plan your displays
Make sure that your window displays, instore displays and shop layouts can really grab attention and encourage and entice people to buy. Start planning the products that you will showcase now and work up exactly how you will present these through your displays.

You should also ensure that you have the necessary materials ready to set up stunning displays. This could include investing in good lighting that bring your displays to life. Be sure to focus on the festive season, don’t use generic props but use props that are holiday specific. You should also ensure that your signage is seasonal and creative, try to include unique messages and signs to get the attention of Christmas shoppers.

Order seasonal merchandise now
If you are planning on selling special gift items, gift packs or seasonal merchandise, you should place those orders as soon as possible. You should complete your Christmas inventory planning and order merchandise by the end of the month at the latest to ensure that you’re able to stock up on in demand seasonal items.

The same applies to gift cards, you should order seasonal Christmas gift cards and plan out and implement how you’re going to promote them. Gift cards are extremely popular during the Christmas season and are hugely profitable for retailers and hospitality businesses.

Ensure your website is ‘on season’
You must make sure that your website reflects the season. For example, you should start to plan and prepare the Christmas themed banners that you’ll display. You should also create special gift sections or categories such as by age, gender, by value and so on. By creating gift-centred categories like this for Christmas, makes it easy for customers to shop for presents. And if you’re running seasonal promotions, ensure that your website visitors can also access and redeem your offers easily.

Hire seasonal staff
If you need to hire additional staff for the festive season, now is the time to start looking. Start to advertise by posting on job boards, re-hiring previous employees, and asking for referrals.

Stock up on store supplies
The run up to Christmas will be hectic and running out of store supplies when the season is in full swing could spell disaster. Prepare for supplies now, so you won’t have to worry about them at this busy and important time.

Here are a few items you may want to stock up on:

  • Cash desk supplies including bags, pens, till tape, staplers, hold tags, etc
  • Payment terminal paper
  • Receipt paper
  • Gift cards
  • Gift boxes
  • Hangers
  • Cleaning supplies

Tighten up on security
The festive season brings more traffic, but this can also mean more opportunities for theft. Get your loss prevention tactics prepared now long before the Christmas season arrive.

Set and update the user permissions on your EPoS system, this will allow you to set user permissions to enable or restrict staff members from doing certain tasks. Review your user permissions to make sure you know exactly what your staff can see and do with your point of sale. A big mistake many retailers make is applying the same permissions for all users.

You should also be vigilant when it comes to who can process voided sales, as this is a very easy way to steal stock.

You should also invest in loss prevention solutions, there are many tools and technologies in the market that can help improve store security including signage, mirrors, cameras, RFID and even foot traffic technologies.

You should consider conducting partial inventory counts instead of doing full inventory counts. Cycle counting means physically counting just certain portions of inventory on a daily or weekly basis, so you won’t have to do a full inventory count anymore. In doing so, you’re able to identify stock discrepancies and theft sooner rather than later. Not to mention, cycle counting helps you stay on top of inventory without disrupting regular store hours.

Confirm your holiday policies
You may want to implement special policies for the holidays. For example, some retailers are more lenient with returns and exchanges when it comes to products that were purchased during the holidays so they can accommodate purchases that were made early in the season.

You should also be clear about how you’ll process returns. Will you issue cash refunds or store credit? Will you allow shoppers to return items without a receipt? These are just some of the matters you’ll need to address.

Whatever you decide though, communicate it clearly with your staff, and ensure your policies are consistent across all your stores.

Have a fulfilment plan
Order fulfilment is always important, but during the festive season, it is a make or break factor. The smallest difference in postage costs or delivery dates can be a deciding factor for consumers, so you should optimise fulfilment as much as you can.

The first step to implementing a more efficient fulfilment process is to gain real-time visibility across your sales channels. You and your staff should always know what products you have in stock and where they are, so you can provide accurate availability and fulfilment information to your customers.

Additionally, knowing where products are stocked can help you map out fulfilment routes and improve decision making when it comes where to stock up and when.

Ensure your solutions can handle the rush
Having a strategy for the festive season is brilliant but you must also have the technology to support your plans and vision. Before implementing your activity, make certain that your systems can handle the rush.

It’s vitally important that you take this step before the seasonal crowds descend, holidays are the worst time to deal with tech issues and the last thing you want is to have problems with your technology when you have holiday shoppers at your doorstep. Now is the time to ensure that your systems are up to the task.

Are you planning to upgrade your software or implement new software for the holidays or the new year? Perhaps you’ve outgrown your stock control system. Or maybe you want to run special promotions but need a new platform to do it. Whatever the case, figure out the systems you need and get them all set up long before the holidays. This means everything should be installed correctly, and all your data should be migrated to the new platform.

You might need to install additional hardware, you should try to anticipate the amount of extra traffic that you’ll get this season and arrange any other equipment you’ll need to accommodate this. For example, you should look at your EPoS system, retailers often require additional registers for the festive season, and if this applies to you, now is the time to set everything up. If you need extra tablets or computers to ring up sales, get them into your store ASAP.

See to it that your website can handle the extra traffic and if you’re running online marketing campaigns and driving traffic to your ecommerce store, then make sure your site can handle it.

Test the speed of your website and have a chat with your hosting provider to ensure that things run smoothly when people visit your online store in the coming months.

Conclusion
Whilst the festive shopping season might not be in full swing for a couple of months, this is definitely the time of year to start preparing for it. The actions that you take now will undoubtedly determine how well your business will do during the 2019 Christmas season.

We hope that this article has provided you with some useful and practical advice that you can implement straightaway in preparation for this hugely important shopping season. Of course, many of you will already have some of these systems and tactics in place already but please remember as a leading supplier of retail and hospitality technology solutions, RMS can provide you with the technology and services that you will need to maximise your retail potential.

From Epos systems, specialist software and management services, we have a track record of delivering the retail solutions that work for you, both at Christmas and beyond! Please don’t hesitate to give me a call to discuss how RMS can make a difference to you and your business.

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