Santa loading forklift

5 Tips for Surviving Holiday Store Change-Outs

The holiday season is a big deal—gift purchases have increased every year for the past decade, and the season now accounts for up to 30 percent of annual sales, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). Retailers need to do all they can to stand out and attract customers, and the best way to draw them in is with enticing seasonal decorations.

To make the cash register ring, you need to change your window and store decorations as the season progresses, signaling to customers that you’re adding new holiday products. But it’s tough to know when to put your decorations up, where to store them, where to set space for your holiday goods, and how to find seasonal items when you need them. Here are some tips for managing decorations and holiday inventory during the frantic shopping season.

1. Phase in seasonal displays & merchandise

Some 40 percent of people begin their shopping before Halloween, according to the NRF. But while they may like to buy early, most people don’t want to see wreaths, lights, and Christmas decorations in September. Some react with anger and panic if Christmas trees go up before Halloween, according to a marketing professor who studied the subject, and spoke to the BBC.

To avoid alienating your customers with Christmas creep, gradually phase in your decorations and holiday merchandise. Walk through your store and plan space for your displays in advance.

wrapped holiday gifts

In September and October, catch entering customers’ eyes with a front display table featuring one or two of your fall products—a turkey platter, a jug of cider, or a Halloween costume—surrounded by pumpkins, autumn leaves, and Indian corn. Anything customers can touch or taste will increase engagement. Farther back in the store, set up a single display for a winter or Christmas item. Holiday cards are a good choice, since people have to send them in advance.

As the holiday shopping season moves into full swing, create a wintery scene in your front window and replace your fall display table with Christmas-time best-sellers. As you fill your shelves with winter merchandise that could serve as gifts, expand your holiday promotions with end caps and additional display tables. Offer slices of chocolates and gingerbread. Free goodies not only get people in the holiday spirit, they increase sales and loyalty long after the season is done, the Deseret News reported.

2. Tag holiday items in your software system

Reindeer sweaters, Christmas linens, and other winter inventory with an obvious holiday theme should be tagged separately in your online merchandise-tracking system. If there’s a run on a particular item, you’ll spot it immediately and may be able to order more before the season ends. Tracking holiday items will also help you order the right quantities when ordering for next year. Holiday items have a short shelf life. Overstocking means you’ll have to pay extra for storage all year—for stuff that probably won’t sell next year, either. While it’s impossible to forecast demand perfectly, tagging your holiday goods will put you in better shape for the year’s most important season.

3. Create a plan for storing & distributing holiday merchandise

As the holiday season progresses, you need to change your merchandise and decorations quickly, with as little down time as possible in order to maximize your availability to holiday shoppers. You may not have room to store everything in your back room, but keeping goods at a distant warehouse isn’t convenient, especially during your busiest time. With everything wrapped in plastic or packed in identical boxes, it’s hard to know what’s where.

Family holiday shopping

Managing holiday inventory is much simpler with PODS’ flexible storage containers. You can order all of your merchandise in advance, before the frantic shopping rush begins, and store it securely in a convenient location near your store. Using separate containers no bigger than a parking space makes it easy to find exactly what you want when you need it, instead of searching through a giant off-site warehouse.

As fall turns to winter and your shelf mix changes, it’s easy to unload containers on eat a time, taking out holiday products and reloading the containers with your fall merchandise and decorations. In January, you can use the containers to move your remaining seasonal merchandise to a storage facility, across town or across the country.

4. Plan ahead for extra holiday services

Offering customers special orders, home delivery, price matching, and returns during the busy holiday season requires detailed planning. Create your policies in advance and set aside time to train staff in your procedures, especially seasonal workers. Customers who hear one thing from one representative and something else from another may get angry and ask to speak to the manager, creating ill will and wasting everyone’s time.

To go the extra mile and rev up the holiday spirit, consider offering gift wrapping.The practice has declined in recent years due to costs, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. But stores that do offer it differentiate themselves and delight customers with the extra holiday touch. If you buy supplies in bulk and teach your staff how to wrap quickly, making their corners sharp, you could earn loyalty that exceed your outlay.

5. Set a timeline for post-holiday sales & markdowns

All is not lost if you haven’t sold all of your holiday inventory by December 25. According to Google, 20 percent of December store traffic happens in the six days after Christmas as shoppers search for sales, redeem gift cards, make exchanges, or reward themselves for dealing with holiday stress.

Ideally, you can discount prices enough to spur sales without killing your margins. Move large, space-hogging holiday products into storage and use your end caps and display tables to flaunt discounts for the rest. Keeping careful track of markdowns will help you do a better job of timing next year’s sales better.

For retailers, the holidays bring tremendous opportunities, but also challenges with merchandising and logistics. Creating a comprehensive plan for holiday changes well in advance of the season will make the holidays more joyful former chants and customers alike.

For more information, tips, tricks, and hints on how to best manage your holiday inventory, visit PODS for Business or call 877-BIZ-PODS today.

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