The holidays are a stressful time for retail. Nobody knows this better than retailers themselves December brings mixed emotions. On the one hand, you have stores full of Customers, merchandise flying off the shelves, and cash registers 'dinging' away. On the other hand, training seasonal employees, preventing shoplifters, and trying to get inventory accounted for in the chaos can be daunting.
We at Shopventory have seen our fair share of this over the past four holiday seasons, so here are some best practices that will serve as a survival guide for this most stressful time of year.
1. Safety First
Your employees and your inventory are the two most valuable and vulnerable things in the store this time of year. Depending on your business, you may even need to invest in some basic crowd control measures to ensure an orderly experience. This can range from hiring some temporary security to something as simple as a rope-line by the registers.
Shoplifting also becomes a problem at this time of year. Oftentimes it's best to keep high-value Items or Items particularly prone to theft behind the counter. You can also invest in some locks for the rack so that Items must be unlocked by an employee before being handed to the Customer.
Seasonal employees can also be a concern. It's best to be cautious about sowing suspicion with your regular workers, but extra vigilance is necessary when dealing with a chaotic crowd. Usually, keeping a very close eye on your inventory numbers will alert you to any suspicious activity. This is where tools like Shopventory can shine by providing detailed inventory and sales information to help you immediately know when something's off. We also wrote a while back about preventing employee theft. The more you know, the more you save.
2. Don't Neglect Your Merchandising
It can be tempting when things get busy to let protocol fall by the wayside and just rush to get things done. If your store looks unkempt and merchandise is strewn around with no one in sight re-fold those shirts or re-stock those shelves, you are sending a message to your Customers that you really can't handle things right now and maybe they should shop elsewhere while you get things sorted out.
It sounds harsh, but when Customers leave stores feeling unimpressed these days, they usually don't come back. It may be well worth bringing on a couple of seasonal part-timers whose sole purpose it is to make things look nice and organized. Customers who walk into a store that looks professional perceive a high-quality operation and feel better about spending high-quality money.
We also wrote an excellent guide to making your customers downright delighted to do business with you. Use those 5 simple tips and we're confident you'll see the difference.
3. Be Rigorous with Your Inventory
If you're going to be a grinch about anything, make it your inventory. Year-end figures can have implications come tax time and a messy, convoluted accounting of your inventory will make a tough process that much tougher for you. It's usually best not to put things off until one gigantic manual count has to be done. Reconciliations should be an ongoing, regular process for any business.
Shopventory makes this easy with our Reconciliation Worksheets that you can use to print out (or put into a spreadsheet) and go through your store to take an accurate physical count of everything on the shelves. All inventory records are also kept historically, which allows you to pull up what was on your shelves at any given time - literally! Even 9:37 AM July 1st. No kidding! Additionally, each Item has its own detailed Item History showing every change to inventory, along with how and when the change occurred.
We're obviously a little biased on this point, but whatever inventory management solution you are using, those features are a must. Same goes for responsive Customer support. We're proud of our Customer Care track record at Shopventory and the fact that everyone who writes in or calls Shopventory gets a response from a human being who can actually help. When a software service offers live support, you know they're serious about helping you succeed.
4. Systematize and Delegate
This is an all-year problem, but it really rears its head around this time of year. It's amazing how a little bit of time invested into creating a flowchart or a simple checklist can turn things around for an organization. Building systems allows you to leverage even the most inexperienced, low-skill seasonal worker with confidence.
Rather than explaining things over and over, write them down and put that writing where everyone in your organization can see it. How do you think food chains across the country manage to deliver the same delicious product regardless of where you are or who's working the kitchen? Systems make it simple.
Delegation is also critical. Once a system is in place, it becomes much easier to say to any employee "please go handle ________" because if they're not sure what to do, they'll know there's a reliable guide on how to do it. This allows you to rise above and look around. Rather than getting bogged down training a seasonal cashier, you can look around and see that help is needed elsewhere or that Customers are tripping over merchandise.
5. Get Into the Holiday Spirit
For all the horror stories, don't let yourself fall into an adversarial mindset. Customers are there to give you money and help you pay your bills. Even the people who are just there to look around are at least IN the store. The impression you give matters to them.
If you give off the sense that holiday shopping is a tense, grinding battle, many of your Customers may just decide to stay home next year and order their gifts online. Never underestimate the value of the experience you want to cultivate.
It should be cultivated not just within your Customers, but also in your employees. It's Christmas! Smile, for heaven's sake! There's a lot to do, but December will end, and things will go back to normal - but right now, you're helping make the Holidays happen. Don't abandon that sense of wonder and purpose. It makes you the kind of business Customers want to visit this time of year.
Make things as fun as you can. If you're doing a year-end inventory count, bring snacks, give breaks, and try to make it social as well as professional. Happy employees are loyal employees who will look out for you and your business.
Here at Shopventory, we take your holidays seriously. Right now, we are offering a full-feature 30-day free trial of Shopventory to prove it. In fact, we even back Shopventory with a 30-day money back guarantee. That means you get a total of 60 days risk-free to simplify, optimize, and maximize your inventory management.
You can start now with no credit card required and if you have questions, our Customer Care team usually responds within an hour. So give us a try and find out why tens of thousands of merchants trust Shopventory to help them manage over a billion dollars worth of inventory.