Gearing Up for the Holidays

This week kicks off the fourth quarter for sales here in the United States, and that can mean different things to different retailers. Hopefully, for most of you it means a strong push to the finish and ending the year in the black.

While many large retail stores have come under fire in the press and social media for displaying their holiday decorations too early again this year, that is no reason for you not to start planning now for the wonderful sales opportunities that await your store.

Here is a mini-checklist of eight things you can do now to prepare for the holiday sales rush that should be hitting your stores soon. If you have never experienced an increase in sales over the holidays, maybe you haven’t educated your customer base enough to think of you as a holiday shopping destination yet.

You cannot sell it if you do not have it. Start calling your suppliers and your sales representatives and get your orders in. Ask them what they predict will be the best sellers from their lines, or what has performed in the past for them. Certain items are more gift-oriented than others and you need to make sure you have them in stock to sell. Rod and reel combos, tackle boxes, reels, apparel, sunglasses, footwear and various fishing accessories all make excellent gifts for anglers, and should be in stock to sell. Ask your suppliers if there are any special packages you can order that are being packaged for the holiday shoppers.

Get to work on your own list
Start deciding now what sales you will run and when. Plot out your holiday work schedule and decide if you need to increase your staff. While you do not need to start assigning hours yet, figuring out the number of staff you will need on hand and when can help you decide on your staffing needs.

When should your new inventory be arriving in your store? Your suppliers are trying to fill all orders for various retailers in the next few weeks. Keeping up on when certain products are due in will help you insure you have the products you need when you need them.

Get your site ready
If you are selling items on your website, is your website prepared for Cyber Monday? More online sales are made that day than any other day throughout the shopping season. Start working on your site now and deciding what products will be for sale online and who is responsible for filling all of the orders and watching inventory numbers as products are sold.

Get More Social
As we enter yet another holiday season with social media and the madness it can create, start making more posts now to get your followers to think of your store for their shopping needs. If you have never held a Black Friday sale, try one this year and promote the heck out of it on your social media outlets. Run sales throughout the day on key products and see what the results are. It may be the best sales day of your holiday or it could be a bust. How you promote it and what you offer for sale can be the difference-maker. Look at what mass merchants are doing – they have almost perfected the Black Friday hysteria. Take cues from them and refine their ideas for your store.

Get On Board Locally
When are the other stores in your area planning on decorating for the holidays? Being the first is not always the best and could bring you negative publicity as well. Being the last to get on board may seem as though you do not care about the holiday shopping season. Attend your local business group meetings and find out what others are doing to ensure you are part of the community. Will there be local events during the holidays, such as a town tree lighting ceremony or party that you can become involved in? Being seen during these social events will help remind customers that your store may be a great place to shop for that hard-to-buy-for relative.

See if your fellow local merchants would consider creating a “shop main street” event during the holidays to help bring more customers to the local stores. It may be just one night or one weekend, but can be a great opportunity for you to meet and sell to a new customer base.

Train Your Staff
Now more than ever you need to be sure your staff is ready for customers who may know little to nothing about fishing. These are all not only potential customers you can introduce to fishing, but also great sales opportunities. They have all come to your store because they feel they can cross at least one name off of their shopping list here. Don’t let them leave without buying something. If needed, sell them a gift card for that hard-to-buy-for person. Remind your staff also that their job is to not only sell product, they are also there to spread holiday cheer.

Plan Some More
Even though you may have thought of everything, something will go overlooked. By the beginning of next month you should have your holiday plan in action. Between now and then take a few moments to go back over your holiday sales plan and come up with backup plans. Weather and inventory issues can throw a plan off track overnight. Come up with a few ideas on how you will deal with these issues if they arise.

Start contacting your advertising outlets now to lock in the best rates possible. Internet, newspaper, magazines, television and radio ad space can sell out quickly, especially the prime spots. Contact your representatives now and ensure there will be space for your ads. Go back to co-op ads and see what money you have available and maximize your ad dollars. Start laying out your ads now while you are not as busy and make sure they meet your standards and your co-op advertising needs. The longer you wait, the less time you will have if you need to modify them.

The holidays are months away, yet the savvy business owner knows that now is the time to start preparing for them. When do you start planning for the holiday rush your business will hopefully experience? What tips can you share with your fellow retailers on maximizing those few short weeks of the holiday rush? Share your opinions and thoughts with us all on our Facebook page and in our LinkedIn group.