Business journalists around the country have been writing sentences like this one from Brad Tuttle's Time magazine piece: “Gazing into Santa’s crystal ball, the retail experts point to the strong likelihood of weak sales during the rapidly approaching holiday shopping season.” However, the National Retail Federation actually projects a 4 percent year-over-year increase in holiday sales.
I wish I could say I was shocked, but I’m not. Why? Take a look at some examples of what "retail experts" were saying in last year's articles:
- An October 2010 Accenture consumer survey found that “83 percent of respondents expected to spend the same or less on holiday gifts compared to 2009.”
- In November 2010, Archstone Consulting predicted that holiday sales would increase by only 1.5 percent in 2010, attributing the “anemic performance to consumers’ stagnant wages and limited purchasing power.”
- On Nov. 28, 2010, ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin was quoted in a Wall Street Journal article about low holiday sales as saying "The American shopper has adapted to the economic climate over the last couple of years and is possibly spending more wisely as the holiday season begins."
When the dust all cleared, the National Retail Federation reported that holiday sales rose 5.7 percent, outperforming their own forecast of a 2.3 percent gain. It was the biggest percentage increase since 2004.
Imagine all those merchants who read the doom and gloom stories and didn’t hire smarter, didn’t buy more merchandise, didn’t stay open longer…Opportunity lost. Forever.
Currently, we have the same predictions that retail sales will not perform well. If it were something new, I’d be concerned. But when I examined the past 11 years, the stories were the same, but were only right just once. That’s right. Once. And we'll see similar headlines this year.
So prepare yourself with these five ways to have a profitable holiday season:
1. Set holiday ground rules
Set your rules for the holidays now, so everyone knows there are no vacations or excuses during the final two weeks before Christmas. You can't count on loyalty alone to motivate people.
2. Get rid of Scrooge employees
A happy store is a selling store. If someone has a negative attitude now, get them off the floor. If they have it more than once in a while, get them out of your store prior to the holidays. You know who I mean, the one who never lets a depressing thought, a negative attitude or cynical comment go unsaid. Most people can be swayed one way or the other, but if they have to get stuck working with Bitter Betty, they can become just like her.
3. Provide proper sales training
Focus on your people, not on your discounts. Yes, you can pay people to shop with you by discounting, but in this climate so can anyone. Furthermore, those who just bargain hunt for discounts will cherry-pick your best items to death. That’s why you need to teach your staff how to sell in a way that will allow you to raise (not lower) your average ticket.
4. Make your store the most festive one in town
Last year, I saw a black and white illustration of a wreath copied on an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of copier paper and stuck on the entry door. That doesn’t engender a “ho, ho, ho” from shoppers. People shop where people are happy. Who wouldn’t be happy surrounded by lights and decorations? Get the energy right so customers will shop. Your employees will also be happier working in a fun environment.
5. Craft a happy holiday attitude
Have your team start the day by visualizing everything working smoothly with shoppers and the store exceeding daily goals. If you don’t work on attitude daily, the stresses of the holiday season can leave workers feeling like each day is "another day in hell.” Customers can smell that a mile away!
Decide how you’ll make this holiday season bright. That means you need to expect the holidays to produce the sales you want, instead of allowing yourself to be sucked into the black hole of fear.
For more tips, snag your copy of my free whitepaper on how to increase holiday retail sales.
(Get more tips on having a successful holiday season.)
OPEN Cardmember Bob Phibbs, the Retail Doctor, is a retail expert, entrepreneur, speaker, author and marketing and branding expert for MSNBC. He is author of The Retail Doctor’s Guide to Growing Your Business, You Can Compete: Double Sales Without Discounting and Groupon: Why Deep Discounts are Bad for Business.