In retail, the holidays start way earlier than it does for most people. We all groan when we see the Christmas trees go up in stores as early as September, but holiday prep means so much more than this. It isn’t November and December that are the hardest during the holiday season, it’s the months of holiday preparation leading up to November.

Holiday preparation revolves around the rev in sales that we see during the holiday season. One day of sales in November is equal to one week in March. High sales means high volume of product, and that amount of volume is challenging. You have to get the store prepared to accept double or triple the merchandise, take in and store that merchandise, and work around that merchandise. Setting up and getting product into a store is just…super challenging.

Although you prep and plan for the holidays all year long, the holidays become real when you start taking in five 18-wheelers worth of stock as opposed to one or two. The sheer amount of stock is the biggest adjustment this time of year.

Not only is it physically exhausting moving that much stock around, but it’s also just hard to work in a more crowded environment. The stock rooms get full. Your aisles get more crowded. And your shoppers act differently in this now more hectic store. A good store, with a strong leadership team has a good plan, great communication, and a willing team during this prep period.

By November, most of the hard work is done… except Black Friday. It’s the beast. Most stores haven’t had a major sale in the time leading up to Black Friday, and all you’re doing for two weeks is setting up and getting products on your floor. The two biggest concerns are 1) putting the right items out for your customer demographic and 2) maximizing every square inch of your store.

When it comes to products, the buyers in the corporate office make 95% of those decisions, but the store manager are responsible for where that product lands in their store. We knew our customers, and we knew what they wanted. So we could make product and display decisions based on our customer preferences.

Let’s take a quick look at what it’s like: At our store, inexpensive junior clothes was a huge seller. We had 15 different types of shoes and 3500 units of each type. You look at that amount of stock, and think that getting that many units on the floor is an impossible task. But you’ve gotta do it. Those skus represent 3 million dollars in Black Friday sales around the country.

The shoes are just one example of hundreds. You open your doors, your customers run to find the right product. Your store is a mess in five minutes, the line at the cash register forms immediately, and it stays like that for 10 hours.

So how do stores deal? Your store and corporate level need strong communication and trust, and your stores need as much data as possible to make performance-driving decisions. The rest is keeping employees and customers in a good mood.

By the time the Thursday and Friday of Thanksgiving are over, you’ve hopefully sold through your Black Friday specific product, then you’re thinking through “What’s going to go on that table on Friday night and Saturday morning?” And you’re asking that question for multiple tables across multiple departments in your store.

But really… after Black Friday, everything gets so much easier. There are still the long hours and high customer expectations to meet; however, the bulk of the prep work is over. Everything tends to run smoothly… until the day after Christmas. That day is the start of one of the hardest and longest weeks of the year.  Stay tuned for part two of our series to hear more about the holidays and why retail is so hard right after Christmas.

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So how do stores deal during the holidays? Your store and corporate level needs strong communication and trust, and your store needs as much data as possible to make performance-driving decisions. The rest is keeping employees and customers in a good mood. Square Root is determined to improve the way retail stores perform and make it easier on everybody with our Store Relationship Management platform, CoEFFICIENT®.

The entire platform creates real change in stores. CoEFFICIENT Metrics helps keeps everyone focused on a core set of information during the holiday season. With a huge holiday to-do list (that just keeps growing), having the right data in one place keeps everyone aligned on priorities during the most critical time.  Read more about about our platform and how we can help set your company up for success in 2017.

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