Planning ahead for Christmas retail madness

As I write this, there are only 115 days until Christmas.

That’s right. 115 days, or just over 16 weeks.

Just let that sink in.

For most retail managers, Christmas is something of a double-edged sword. On one hand, most stores will see a massive increase in sales (Christmas sales account for around 20% of total sales for the year) during December. On the other hand, if you’re not adequately prepared for this spike in sales, you’re likely to have a very stressful, very unenjoyable season.

A very unmerry Christmas, as it were.

Luckily, with 16 weeks to go, you’ve still got plenty of time to plan ahead. We’ve written a comprehensive list of (almost) everything you’ll need to do in the run-up to Christmas to make this period as smooth and as successful as possible.

September:

  • Brainstorm any seasonal promotions or offers to run during the holiday period to increase traffic to your store
  • If your store is in a centre or mall, check if centre management is planning any promotions that your store can participate in
  • Communicate your Christmas leave policy with all (this will vary from store to store, but a no-leave policy during December is standard practice)
  • Ensure any who have commitments that are non-negotiable (e.g. students who have exams) know to log those unavailabilities as soon as possible

October:

  • If you manage your own stock levels, make sure you have ordered sufficient stock to take you through the lead-up to Christmas, as well as any post-Christmas sales. If your stock levels are managed from a central warehouse, consider asking for extra stock of specific items you know are likely to sell out
  • This should be the very last opportunity for to provide unavailabilities for the Christmas period
  • Assess how many extra team members you’ll need for the Christmas period (or, alternatively, what your budget for extra during this period is)
  • Place ads for Christmas staff. Depending on the size of your business, how you advertise will vary. If your budget is limited, you can advertise on your own website, by placing posters in-store, or free online job boards. If you have more to spend, you can utilise paid ads, both online and in print.

November:

  • Make a shortlist of potential Christmas hires from your pool of applicants, and arrange interviews
  • Conduct interviews, ideally with a floor manager or similarly senior team member.
  • Choose your Christmas hires from the pool of interviewees, making sure they meet your requirements. Take into consideration whether they have full (or near full) availability for the holiday period, some experience in retail and are able to work the required hours
  • Contact referees (given the short timeframe in which you are working, this is essential) and, if everything checks out, offer them the job
  • Run an ‘induction’ session with new hires – ideally, with a floor manager – to educate them all on what they can expect during their employment, what you expect of them during their employment, and any other information you think is important to pass onto your new team members. This should be in addition to, not instead of, your regular on-boarding processes
  • Identify ‘key’ team members – that is, team members who are skilled and reliable in the areas you need your Christmas staff to work in, be it store floor or storeroom. These team members are crucial to getting new trained up
  • Add new hires to your schedule, making sure that a key team member is rostered on with them for their first 3 shifts, at a minimum
  • Outline training points with your key team members, to ensure all bases are covered. If you have formal training paperwork, go over these with your key team members, highlighting any particular points they should focus on when training new hires

December:

  • It’s December, and it’s time to start promoting any pre-Christmas offers you have, and merchandising your store to maximise your holiday sales
  • Check current levels of merchandising and packaging you use regularly, and order any extra supplies you may need over the next few weeks – including bags, tissue paper, pricing stickers, pricing guns, Kimble guns and tags, register rolls, gift cards and signage
  • Organise a Christmas training session for all . Regardless of whether they’ve worked in your store over the Christmas period before, outline what their main challenges will likely be. If your store still has old ‘click-clack’ credit card machines, consider training in how to use them, as it’s not unusual for credit card networks to drop out occasionally during Christmas trade, from the increased usage. Field any questions your team has, and make sure they feel supported and confident to handle Christmas trade
  • If you know that your store does a lot of cash sales in the leadup to Christmas, and you (or a team member) is normally responsible for going to the bank to deposit cash and collect change, consider hiring a security firm to take care of cash pick ups for the holiday period
  • Bear down and get through it – it’s only a few weeks, after all!

Remember – the lead-up to Christmas can be incredibly stressful for retailers – but if you’ve planned ahead, it can also be one of the most lucrative (and honestly, most fun) times of the whole year.

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