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Get an attitude

Your store is what you think it is

“Why does your business have a drop in sales during November and December?”

This was a question being asked of the two owners of a store my family was considering buying. While they knew our family had been retailers since the early 1920’s, they looked at us as if we lacked common sense.

Their answer was that people go to the mall to do their Christmas shopping during this time. They had decided to eliminate their advertising, decrease staff and their inventory, and just “lay low” until spring arrived.

This did not make sense to us. We had experienced, as most dealers do, the occasion where someone comes into the shop looking for a birthday present for a friend or relative. This person gets it; any retailer can be a gift store. It just takes the customer having the right attitude.

A retailer that wants to build their business would look at this and ask, “Why don’t more customers think this way?”

To which the best answer is, “We need to help more customers think like this person.”

You budget, plan and execute. The merchandising aspect comes first. Who is going to be the gift recipient and who is going to be the shopper? You likely know who the recipient is as they are already your customer; you know the dollar range they are willing to spend for most every item they like.

The shopper is different. It could be a spouse who is going to spend a bit more to express their love; it could be their sibling who is buying a token something because the family does a gift exchange; it could be a child that has $10 to spend on a parent.

If each of these are to be your customer, you have to have merchandise in the price range they want to spend.

The next step is that your store has to look like the gift store your customer expects to see. Think about the five senses; see, hear, taste, touch and smell. How many of the senses can you appeal to?

You can decorate the store; play some holiday music; offer refreshments; have air freshners that have the balsam and cedar scent sprayed in the store; and you have covered four of the senses.

Getting the customer to touch merchandise is getting them to make a purchase. We took key items and displayed one of them on end counters. We took additional quantities of the items and gift wrapped them. This said to the customer that we had made it very easy for them to shop. All they had to do was pick up the gift package and pay for it.

With items for children, there is one additional consideration. If they have $10 to spend, the price has to include sales tax. They don’t need the surprise of getting a $9.99 item to the counter and finding out the final price is over $10. And you don’t need your staff having to take the time of explaining how that works. Simply determine your price so that the total is less than $10.

Variety end counters also work well. Make it a, “take your choice $20” selection. Gift wrapping these offerings also helps to make the sale. Of course, you have the issue with multiple items of not knowing which item is inside the gift wrap. This was solved by attaching to the gift wrap various colors of sticker dots to show both customer and salesperson which item was inside.

You continue the festivities by having the staff get into the spirit. Our tradition began on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving as we had a party for employees and their families after hours. Together we decorated the store for Christmas and encouraged each employee to bring their favorite holiday food to share with their co-workers. The evening was topped by our having a gift for each employee as well as one for each of their children in attendance. It was also at this event that we passed out the Santa caps that we all wore through the holidays.

During the holidays we had multiple open house events which also featured special products being offered as well as refreshments. This is where your having a mailing list comes in handy.

We also had a “special sales tool”. It was the size of two business cards attached to each other along the long side. When stood on a counter it looked like a tent. One of the outer sides said, “here’s a hint, honey”. The other outer side has the contact information for the store. The message inside was partially preprinted while partially requiring some personalization.

“While I was shopping at [your store], I saw a (fill in the blank with item) that I would really enjoy having. The person waiting on me was (fill in the blank). Their contact information is on the back.”
Teach your staff how to use these and your store becomes Christmas gift store headquarters.

Are you a Christmas gift store? What about Valentine’s or mother’s day or father’s day?
By the way, our first December with that store was not only the best December the store had ever had, it was the best month the store had that year; far beating out the traditional big peak that was traditional.
Apparently it is a matter of attitude.

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This article is copyrighted by Tom Shay and Profits Plus Solutions, who can be reached at: PO Box 1577, St. Petersburg, Fl. 33731. Phone 727-464-2182. It may be printed for an individual to read, but not duplicated or distributed without expressed written consent of the copyright owner.
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PO Box 1577
St. Petersburg, Fl 33731
(727) 464-2182
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