A couple of weeks ago, in part one of Confessions of a Store Manager, I chatted about what retail looks like during the start of the holiday season. It’s all preparation, stock, and Black Friday hustle and bustle. But, as I mentioned… everything gets easier after holiday preparation and Black Friday is over. For the rest of the holidays, most of the hard work is behind you. The biggest challenges throughout the peak of the holiday season are the changing customer demographic, staffing concerns, and post-holiday wrap-up.
New Customers Mean New Possibilities
We all know understanding your shopper is critical. During the year, you get to know who your regular shoppers are and what they want. During the holidays, your shopper changes and you have to pay attention.
On any given day of the year, the question you get asked most often is “Where’s your bathroom?” The people who ask this do not know your store. During the holidays, you get asked this question significantly more. And these new shoppers have a different traffic pattern and different product interests. As a store manager, it was important for me to understand and adjust to these changing demographics.
Since your customer demographics change during the holidays—and you’re dealing with higher traffic—performance metrics become even more important and change at a faster rate. By 11am, store managers are looking at their sales numbers, projecting daily performance and re-checking every half hour. It really helps if you can compare your sales to others in your region to see how well you’re doing versus your peers.
Holiday Staffing Headaches
The other big change that is noticeable during the holidays is staffing. During most of November and December, as a store manager, my number one task was making sure the right amount of staff showed up and that we were having fun conversations. Building a relationship with new, seasonal associates is key on day one. This team is only going to be around for a couple of months, and you need them to show up to work for every scheduled shift.
In order to handle the increase in traffic, we temporarily promoted internally and hired temporary holiday staff—around 40% more staffing than normal. In order to get new employees on the floor faster, we would condense training—shrinking training from 15 hours to 10 hours. It was important to successfully integrate new staff into your store… but not always easy.
Your holiday team isn’t necessarily as connected to your company as your long-term staff. So, sometimes they don’t show for their shifts. When they don’t show up, everyone else has to work extra hard to cover their absence. You have to estimate the appropriate amount of staff on your big days, and keep your work environment positive. For me, if you develop great relationships, your employees walk into the store wanting to work for you and the company.
The End of Holiday Blues
As good as your store morale may be, everyone gets tested the week after Christmas. The customers are frustrated. Some customers walk in expecting an argument over returns while others are upset because the item they want to exchange their gift for isn’t in stock. Stock is running low, and the store is a mess with piles of returned items at the front. To add to the fun, your staffing resources are running low, and you can’t give your hard-working employees the time-off they deserve.
At our store, we worked really hard to accept all returns and make exchanges as easy as possible. We also prioritized store cleanliness. If your store looks nice, then customers and employees treat your store differently. We did a really good job of these two tasks during my last couple of years as store manager, and it made this hard week a little easier.
After New Year’s your holiday season is mostly over. You’ll still see increased returns and exchanges in January, but the majority of the season is behind you. At least… that holiday season is behind you. In January, your company is already thinking about the next holiday season. You do a post-mortem of the holiday season and start planning immediately. It’s definitely important to learn what can boost your store performance, and then you’re on to the next holiday shopping season.
How can you get a jump on better store performance for the holidays? CoEFFICIENT® lets you easily visualize your store numbers and compare them to your peers during peak holiday traffic. The entire Store Relationship Management (SRM) platform creates tangible change for your store. And when it’s important to focus on priorities including employee training and retention, store morale and store presentation. CoEFFICIENT improves communication, identifies store opportunities, and lets you focus on accountability. Read more about CoEFFICIENT to learn how our SRM can help your company.