museums&MORE Winter 2016
Your Fall To-Do List

5 things to do now to make sure your store has a great holiday season

Fall is a time of reflection. As the light gets shorter and shorter each day, our attention goes from the outside to the inside. Before you sit down with a cup of tea to gaze out the window at the changing leaves as thoughts of summer play back, take a moment to plan how you can have the best holiday season ever.

Don’t worry, I’m right here to help you because in all my years in retail, it seemed once October hit, there just wasn’t time to reset my priorities.

Use these five things to do now as your guide, understanding you probably have more, but if you got these five things accomplished you’d be well on your way to higher sales.

  1. Review all of your employees with a written evaluation.

I always start with your employees for one simple reason: your marketing, word-of-mouth, social media shares — all of it — stops at the front doors to your shop. Your brand morphs into whomever you left in charge while you went on a break. And in that moment, you are judged as a competent, engaging retailer with great product or as an also-ran warehouse of stuff.

Many retailers proudly tell me they have staff that has been with them for years, yet those employees have never been given a review.

Believe me when I tell you, all employees crave knowing what they are doing right and wrong. When you give these reviews every three or four months, they’ll know it is just part of a conversation, and is not meant to justify an immediate raise or termination.

Be sure you set goals at the end of each review and start the next review with a check of those goals to see if they have been accomplished.

  1. Create engaging displays now, then photograph and make a display schedule.

Displays are your silent salespeople. With literally hundreds of SKUs in your store all saying “buy me, buy me,” you have to focus a shopper’s attention so they do not get overwhelmed and leave empty-handed.

One of the best ways to do this is to create a display with the biggest add-on sale you can imagine. If you are a party store, you want everything someone might need for a great dinner party for eight, or for a kid’s birthday party with a zoo theme, or for mom and dad’s 50th anniversary.

In each case, the care you put in creating the display will translate into higher sales. You need to carefully consider how you’ll use additional signage with various heights, lighting and creative color choices to accent the products. That takes time.

Look at the merchandise you’ve ordered for the holiday season. Create one display for each week now through Christmas. Get everything just right, and take a picture of each.

Then, draw your store layout on a piece of paper and segment it into nine sections. Label the areas with No. 1 being at the middle front of your store, No. 2 being to its right, etc. Use this as a working map of how you will place displays in your store each week. Starting week one, place your new display at the front of your store in the No. 1 position. At the start of week two, move the No. 1 display to the No. 2 position, and put a new display in position No. 1 — you get the idea.

Have a list of each display you came up with and which date it should go to No. 1. You can give this project to an employee to do which removes your need to think of it all in the heat of the holidays.

  1. Create memorable content, write emails and schedule send dates.

Email is still most retailers’ top choice for communicating with their best customers. And it is free.

Examine your email list. Is it growing? When was the last time you sent out a newsletter? Did you get much response?

Here’s a little secret if you’re up for it: write a blog post or an article like, “10 Things Any Dad Can Do To Make His Daughter Feel Special.” Put it on your website, on your blog or on both.

Next, create a short email with a picture and copy that encourages readers to click the link to your full post or article. This way you can track how much interest you created in your readers to read on. It isn’t about open rates as much as click-through rates.

So many retailers think email is simply a vehicle to deliver yet another 20 percent off discount, friends and family coupon, weekend sale or other way of begging people to come in. When you can help your customers in other ways, they’ll come into your brick-and-mortar store because you’ve shown you are a trusted advisor, not just another store looking for their money.

When you have at least one of these creative articles already written per month, plan out your email marketing and schedule so you don’t have to come up with copy on the day a big shipment arrives or an employee calls in sick.

Don’t think you can write? Come up with your title and bullet points, and hire someone at or to write it for you. No excuses, you can do this.

  1. Train your crew on how to sell your merchandise, not just clerk it.

You are coming into the money months that will either make or break you. You’ve ordered the merchandise, but it can’t sell itself. Train your employees on how to properly greet a customer with “Good morning.” Teach them how to build rapport.

Show them how to present additional items. Role-play when it is slow so they have confidence. If you need help, check out my online sales training platform at

  1. Create your holiday schedule now and post it so employees can make plans.

Malls post their holiday hours early because they know retailers need to plan. If you have a street store, take time now to look at the calendar and establish your holiday hours. Note there are only three Saturdays prior to Christmas this year, so you’ll have to extend your hours for panicked shoppers.

In sum

You’ll notice almost all of tips revolve around planning. That’s what you need to do to have higher holiday sales.

In January, return to your plans and note what worked and what you wish you’d done better to prepare for the following holiday season.

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