This just in, retailers! Ho-ho-hope for a great holiday season

Photo courtesy of morguefile user  chamomile

Photo courtesy of morguefile user chamomile

Looks like retailers finally made Santa’s “nice” list! The National Retail Federation (NRF) is anticipating a great holiday selling season this year, predicting retail sales will increase 4.1 percent, boosting holiday revenues to nearly $617 billion. Online sales are also expected to show a healthy climb of as much as 11 percent, according to research. In fact, according to the National Retail Federation’s Holiday Consumer Spending Survey, the average shopper will make 44 percent of their holiday purchases online – the highest percentage ever reported.

In the way that business and consumer confidence is translated, these two predictions lead industry experts to estimate that 725,000 and 800,000 additional seasonal jobs will be created.

While people will have better odds of finding seasonal work this year, the agency predicts that undifferentiated retail outlets may not have such a cheery forecast: recession-weary shoppers are still going to be very price sensitive, and the NRF suggests that “touting price, value and exclusivity” will differentiate the winners this year. Still, the association predicts the average shopper will spend more dollars this year.

In a press release the NRF says: “The survey found consumers will spend an average of $459.87 on gifts for their family, up 6.5 percent from $432.00 last year, and $80.00 on gifts for friends, up from $75.00 last year. Those celebrating the holidays will also spend more on gifts for their co-workers ($26.23 vs. $24.52 in 2013), and others like their babysitter and even their pets ($30.43 vs. $26.65).” In particular, Nielsen research predicts that Hispanics, African Americans and Asian Americans will show the highest spike in spending compared to last year.

What all of those statistics imply is that retailers will reap almost 20 percent of their total annual sales in these next couple of months. To help you cash in, I asked Total Awards and Promotions President, Donna Gray, recipient of the Sam Walton Award for business excellence, for her advice:

  1. Website construction is key for online purchases
    Is your site (1) high in search rankings; (2) easy to navigate; (3) with specials front and center? Feature high-margin products alongside door-opener specials.

  3. Remember and honor minority cultures and holidays
    Are sales signs also written in Spanish? Does your product line include minority specialty items?

  5. Free shipping and rush shipping
    Options are even more important this year to remain competitive.

  7. Extend store hours
    Consider staying open later and even on (gasp!) Christmas Eve, if you can staff with respect for employee needs.

  9. Hire adequate staff
    Nothing is more annoying than long lines at a register or no clerks on the floor to help with purchase decisions. You can stand out from competitors by offering competent, helpful assistance.

  11. Be creative with special savings
    Forget storewide sales! Pair high-margin products with a social cause or charity to spread holiday cheer; offer targeted, limited sales during otherwise slower traffic times; or offer a cash back gift card for purchases that meet a baseline amount, such as $10 gift card for purchases of $100.

  13. Offer free gift wrapping
    Or wrapping for a minimum donation of $1 (and leave the wrapping to a non-profit agency that staffs wrapping stations with volunteers).

  15. Think ensemble sales
    Pair complimentary items and offer a discount if shoppers buy the 2-3 products as a unit. This is a quick way to cross-sell items at point of decision.

  17. Consider a joint venture with nearby noncompeting retailers
    How can you best make your venue part of a shopping destination? Can you jointly sponsor a holiday performance? Advertising? Joint bundled sales opportunities?

  19. Pass along your holiday spirit
    Small cookies, cider or cocoa samples, special lighting and music, and most important, a verbal welcome to the business and great customer service; these touches can transform a shopper into a buyer.

The numbers favor retailers this year; Both Donna and I wish you all a prosperous retail season and more important, a meaningful and joyful holiday wrap-up to another year in business.

About Jody Glynn Patrick

Jody is President of Glynn Patrick & Associates, which provides management consulting, executive coaching and strategic planning services. She is Publisher Emeritus of In Business magazine, which she published for 17 years. Selected as the “U.S. Business Journalist of the Year” in 2007 in Washington, DC, by the U.S. Small Business Administration, Jody has been a business reporter, editor, radio talk show host , and has won other state and national journalism awards. At the same time, she has helped corporate clients grow their businesses -- the basis for her practical coaching advice here. She also was the 2005 Athena Award recipient for her leadership role in mentoring other professional women. Jody will be talking with you weekly on TDS’ blog to share her insights and tips from the C-Suite perspective. Follow on G+.

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