As Christian retailers, we have a unique agenda this Christmas season. We are blessed to guide, motivate, inspire, equip and encourage people to grow in their faith through the products we sell. As we approach the upcoming holidays, we have a special opportunity to live out our calling, and to be havens of Christ’s love offering meaningful gifts that can truly impact lives.
This year, there are 29 days between Black Friday and Christmas – that’s 3 more days than last year and every day counts! With the increased traffic and busyness of the Christmas season, we want to encourage you to prepare early.
Remembering the One we’re representing and the “reason for the season,” here are some tips and reminders for you as you prepare for a prosperous ministry and business season.
Choose a holiday theme
Our 2015 Christmas theme is Good News of Great Joy for the retailers we serve. Whatever store décor theme you choose, go for it! Incorporate your theme in signage, promotions and messaging. Your over-the-top Christmas displays have a job to do: Put customers in a joyous mood to shop and spend. So, set your windows to sell. Play Christmas music. You may also want to holiday-ize your dress code to set a festive tone.
Plan your in-store events
We encourage you to host several major and minor events throughout November and December. Customers love the out-of-the-ordinary and special little “somethings” that stores offer during Christmas. They enjoy feeling as if the entire season is a celebration. Whether it’s “Hot Cider Saturday” every Saturday following Thanksgiving, carolers from various local churches entertaining customers once a week, a scavenger hunt youth-event around your store, an Operation Christmas Child Packing Party, or an invite-only VIP evening celebration of festivity, fun and shopping, customers love to be a part of stores that celebrate Christmas. Make your store a place where there’s always something coming up that’s special, fun, and exciting.
Perfect your local presence & watch your reviews
Customers went mobile-mad last year, using their smartphones like never before to research products, compare prices and find stores. Make sure your store is listed on local search directories like Local.com, Yelp.com, Google+ Local.com (etc.) and that your business listings are updated and optimized with things customers want to know – like driving directions, store hours and a phone number.
When customers find you on a search site, they might also see customer ratings of your store. If you’ve got two stars while your competitor has four, you might lose some business. Pay special attention to online reviews of your store this time of year and encourage your customers to post a review! If any negative feedback has driven your ratings down, deal with it now so your score rises before the Christmas shopping season starts in earnest. If you need help navigating or managing your online presence, contact Jeff Bruenning at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 805-543-2644.
Commit to constant training and partner each new hire with a seasoned sales associate who can mentor them throughout the holiday season. Remember, training is not something you do once in a while – it’s a constant part of a retail store. Be sure to keep your most experienced staff scheduled on the sales floor, and delegate the more routine tasks and maintenance to seasonal temporary employees. This is the time when quality customer engagement will bring the most benefit to your customer and your business. Hold regular meetings with all your sales associates and be sure your systems, values, goals and expectations are clear to all.
In the calm before the storm
- Repair, repaint and replace and finish everything on your store’s to-do list now. You want everything crossed off your list soon. You don’t need the hassle of fixing a leaky sink in the women’s restroom one week before Christmas.
- Take a physical inventoryof your store supplies. Review items that would be an absolute disaster if you were to run out on a busy Saturday, such as bags and gift cards, register tape, cleaning supplies, toilet paper and back-room supplies. Delegate the responsibility to a sales associate to refresh and replenish these regularly throughout the season.
- Create yourtop 10 lists of not-to-be-missed Christmas gifts available from your store. Make your lists by product category, age, gender – whatever will help your customers the most while they shop. Your lists also help sales associates make smart gift recommendations. Make sure to have plenty of copies on hand and place them throughout your store. Feature your lists on your social media, in your store newsletter and on bag-stuffers. The goal is to make it easy for your customers to buy the perfect gift this year!
- Monitor inventory closely through Q4. Begin mid-November to run work-orders and to-be-ordered lists daily. Do whatever it takes to avoid stockouts on promoted and best-selling stock. And, short discounts may be in order to help move lines that are not selling as you planned. Marking down holiday items to 25% off before Christmas is better than having to discount them to 50% after Christmas.
- Be prepared well before December 26with a plan to clear leftover holiday products. Decide now what products are candidates to be marked down, how much they will be discounted and how they will be displayed on the sales floor. Create the necessary signage now.
- Develop a plan to staff for high-traffic times. Staffing for traffic is important all year, but critical at Christmas time – especially during the golden window between noon and 4pm. People like to shop on their lunch hours and before the kids get home from school – the very time your staff is enjoying their lunch break. You’ll want to develop a solution for this problem.
- Prepare Your Backroom. As more products are stored in the back room, it can be a challenge to keep on top of them! Try using a laminated floor plan noting where product lines and categories are stored – use a wipe pen so the plan can be easily updated as backroom inventory changes throughout the Christmas season. Use a white board or chalk board in the backroom to post important updates, highlight new products, and note key products that are out of stock along with the expected back-in-stock date. Also, note the daily sales goals, special offers and promotions as well as significant staffing or schedule changes.
Set your sales floor to encourage Christmas sales
Make a list of these key areas and check them daily:
- Clear the Decompression Zone. Customers will miss anything you place in the first 5-10 feet just inside your store’s front door, so leave it empty. Instead, be sure customers can get an overall orientation to your whole store from this space. This is where their “first impression” is formed. Just beyond the Decompression Zone is where the shopping begins.
- Load Speed Bump Displays with irresistible products front and center, just beyond your Decompression Zone. These display tables stop busy shoppers in their tracks and redirect their focus to your merchandise. Each display table should feature one product or a limited range of related merchandise – but plenty of it! Keep them full and change your Speed Bump Displays at least once a week.
- Keep shoppers hands-free. Research shows that customers who shop with a cart or a basket spend 25% more and stay up to 15 minutes longer in the store. Place your baskets just past the Decompression Zone and throughout the store. Keep an eye open for customers carrying product and get them a basket ASAP. People tend to stop shopping when hands are full.
- Stock national bestsellers. Bestsellers are always more critical during busy seasons – make sure you never run out! You’ll also want to stock all the titles of bestselling authors, even though the older ones might not be performing well for you. Keep at least one on-hand during the holidays. Go beyond your POS data. Check industry bestseller reports such as CROSS:Scan powered by Parable bestseller lists for current data. Bring in products that are selling well elsewhere, but were maybe skipped over by your store.
- Set up signage. Merchandising kits are very effective in guiding, inspiring and encouraging people. The right sign can motivate and change behavior. Use in-store signage to encourage your customers to “shop local.” Or set up signage to help customers easily find Bible journaling supplies – the latest buzzed about trend. We all want to get involved where God is working in changing lives. The right sign can help us accomplish our mission. The graphic design of your signage should be consistent with your holiday theme and your mailed and digital promotions. Your in-store merchandising ties it all together.
- Stock impulse products at the cash wrap. Your cash wrap should display a select few key impulse products customers just can’t pass up. Keep it uncluttered and reset it often. Focus on key items to up-sell to customers each week, such as a Christmas CD at a great sale price. Set a striking display of gifts on the wall behind your cash wrap so customers never stop thinking about your merchandise. Also, place displays of cool product within reach of the cash wrap, so customers can continue to shop while they wait in line to pay for their purchases. You might even pre-wrap some of them – you know, for the guy-shoppers.
- Encourage gift card sales. Studies show that 80% of customers spend more than the face value of a gift card, and 40% of customers spend more than twice the face value of a gift card! Be sure they’re available in several locations around your store this Christmas! Try to have a gift card display for every 1000 square feet of shopping space. And remember – a gift card stuffed in an envelope doesn’t look like much, but a gift card that’s placed in tissue paper and wrapped in a pretty gift box or a hand-quilted pouch is something special. Your gift card packaging builds a perception about your store in the customer’s mind when she opens it. Don’t skip this step and miss the payoff.
Reach out to customers. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
What could be more important for your business this Christmas than getting customers in your door and compelling them to buy life-changing products? Review your marketing strategy from last year. What worked and what didn’t? Determine what you should do more of and less of this year. The goal is to get repeat visits from your customers throughout the Christmas season.
- Solidify print promotions. Catalogs along with a successful direct-mail strategy, are an essential component in a cohesive, multi-faceted marketing strategy. Catalogs present your store to your customer, increasing your visibility and bringing what you offer to the forefront of your customers’ minds. In short, catalogs are the foundation of a successful promotion strategy and drive customers to your store. Plus, shoppers who have received a catalog are likely to spend more than those who didn’t.
- Increase your number of email blasts. Customers expect extra offers during the holidays. And remember, not every email has to include a deal. Offer gift suggestions, a shopping guide, holiday décor ideas, a recipe from a cookbook you carry and more. We also encourage you to send targeted emails to segmented customer lists which you can pull from your POS.
We’ve loaded SnapRetail with tons of Christmas-themed, ready-to-send emails and email templates created specifically for Christian retailers. Be sure to take advantage of the Planning Calendar in SnapRetail. It allows you to set up your entire season’s digital marketing program well in advance of your busiest days. Need that extra holiday help? This will do it for you. Contact Kristel Regusci at email@example.com or by phone at 805-543-2644 to hear more.
- Work your social media. Social networking builds word of mouth which brings new customers to your store. Give it some extra oomph this Christmas season.
- Relationship: Use a personal, human voice when communicating viasocial media. Research shows that levels of trust, commitment, and satisfaction from friends and followers appear to be positively affected by the use of the human voice. Use names and images of your staff, too.
- Urgency: Post photos and videos to represent your store and to stand out on a busy newsfeed. Communicate that there’s a limited time or quantity of products to compel a consumer to act.
- Exclusivity: Offer coupons and inside deals that are only available through your social media. If someone is not a friend or follower they miss out. Encourage customers to join your social media, email blasts and newsletters.
- Reciprocation: Offer incentives for customers to perform a desired action.
- Wear a Christmas sweater to get 15% off
- Sing a Christmas carol to get 15% off
- Buy 3, get 1 free
- Spend $50, receive a free gift
- Social Proof: Customers often seek out decisions and opinions of others when considering a purchase. So, help them out by sharing helpful info.
- Here’s our most popular
- Staff favorites
- See what’s trending
- Customer reviewed
- Place radio ads, Facebook ads or online display ads. Advertising on the radio is a good way to reach potential new consumers and a ready audience. After all, people listen to radio in the mornings, at lunch, during work and in their cars to and from work.
With economical Facebook ads and online display advertising, you have the ability to reach people wherever they are – ads appear on web, tablet and mobile devices. You can target your desired local market and even target Christians specifically with the right ad-serving partner. If you are interested in hearing more, contact Laura Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 805-543-2644 ext. 531.
- Reach out to local press. Send news and information about your store and Christmas events to newspapers and other local media via press releases. Identify the person who edits the newspaper’s calendar section, and make sure to send announcements about your store events at least three weeks in advance. Press releases aren’t limited to news. Think of ways to tie your business into local or national events or causes (ex. Shop Small Business Saturday, Operation Christmas Child, Pastor Appreciation, National Bible Week).
When Christmas is over make note of what worked and what did not, and what you wish you would have done differently. Your notes will be important when it’s time to plan Christmas 2016.
May the Lord lead us this Christmas season. May He lead us to recommit our stores to His purpose. Let’s serve Him by serving His people and to pray for a bright and exciting future for all in Christian retail. To God be the glory.
We are all praying for your success. If you get stuck for ideas, give us a call. We’re always happy to help!