Here are 8 tips to help you prepare for these extra-busy sales days, without spending a lot on adding temporary staff and loading up on inventory.
1. Develop and follow a time-and-action calendar. Create a timeline with actions from now to the anticipated extra-busy sales days. Assure prep work is completed for functions such as these:
- Product development and approvals
- Order placement, production and shipment to your facility
- Deployment and testing of new systems and features
- Development of marketing messages, in-store signage and website landing pages
Consider lead times of your vendors and employees as well as dialogue between these teams.
2. Pin down policies. Define policies for sales events to avoid confusion on the sales floor. If you are driving sales through promotional pricing or the launch of a new product, then you may want to create event-specific policies. Communicate policies that deviate from standard rules before and during the sales event.
- Product limits. Can customers buy an unlimited quantity of products?
- Rain checks. Are sale prices limited to in-stock merchandise only?
- Loyalty cards. Will sales of heavily discounted items count toward rewards?
- Returns and exchanges. Are all sales final?
3. Eliminate bottlenecks. Consider potential bottlenecks in the following areas:
- Pricing. Is there any confusion about pricing that causes delays in completing transactions accurately? Do cashiers have to manually calculate discounts?
- Customer interactions. Do customers require extra attention? What types of concerns tend to slow things down?
- Sales floor. Does your staff spend an excessive amount of time bringing product from the backroom to the sales floor? Can you and your customers easily find what they need?
4. Ask your staff what they think. If you are trying to figure out what new products will perform best, ask your front-line team members for their insights. After a few iterations of getting input, you’ll learn which employees are most adept at recognizing trends and predicting hot sellers. Make sure you have the inventory in place to meet demand, or have a contingency plan for re-orders or alternative product recommendations.
5. Plan the check-out process. Customers may be excited about getting a deal or being the first to buy new fashion items. But waiting in line can sabotage this otherwise positive experience. Most people don’t mind waiting but get frustrated with free-for-alls in check-out lines. Make the path clear (and orderly) from selection to purchase.
6. Stock up on supplies. You may be so focused on product inventory and staffing that supplies are forgotten. Make sure you have the materials needed—register tapes, bags, boxes, packing items, gift wrap—to complete transactions smoothly.
7. Capitalize on your experiences. Conduct a post-event critique, and discuss and document issues, like customer questions you didn’t expect.
Realize that certain issues may not be reflected in financial data. For example, a sales history may indicate that a certain item was a top seller, but what it doesn't show is that prices were deeply discounted on this item, unseasonable weather drove its sales, or a big customer snapped up most of your inventory. Record such data so you remember, and can use it to plan for the next big sales data.
8. Make contingency plans. Consider potential problems and develop contingency plans to assure that you complete sales, collect payments and deliver products flawlessly.
For example, one of your key employees may be critical to customer consultations on product selection. If the employee gets sick, what should you do? You might arrange for the staff member to train a colleague or develop client profiles for reference by other sales associates.
Also consider pulling in your management team to assist on busy days even if all of your regular staff is ready and available. Your leadership group has the product knowledge to respond to questions from customers about design specifications, features and functionality. Plus, they’ll see the craziness firsthand, which can inform future decisions on getting ready next time.Julie Rains is a senior writer at Wise Bread, a leading personal finance community dedicated to helping people get the most out of their money. Get daily money tips by following Wise Bread on Facebook or Twitter.
Read tips for boosting your holiday sales.
Photo: Stan Honda / AFP / Getty Images