It was the most wonderful time of the year. Just about everyone was spending money during November and December. Online commerce was busy, retail storefronts were a zoo, commissioned employees held their breath with each last-minute walk-up purchase, and inventory was all over the place. And for those who work in retail, it was a marathon.
But now we’re in the dark days of January (unless you’re living in Hawaii, in which case I feel less sorry for you). The snow is brown, the shoppers are staying home, the magic is seemingly turned off like a switch. It’s a retail slump, and it’s not fun — especially for those working the sales floor.
But fewer customers doesn’t have to mean fewer sales. For those retailers who have “been there, done that” they understand the new year can bring new opportunity for retail experiences. We asked some of the best retail pros we know to share their advice on how to avoid the stagnant sales that often plague the new year.
1 - Be an experience, not a destination
Sometimes retail locations need to create their own foot traffic to get people in the door, and the best way to do that isn’t always by running a sale or promotion, but by giving consumers a reason to be excited to walk in the door and stay.
Too often, retailers focus their time and energy in the new year merchandising or cleaning up operational protocol, but they fail to prioritize the customers in the store. “More thoughtful, genuine interactions,” emphasizes outdoor guide and associate at Red Mountain Outfitters Chris Schlieter. “Give each associate the opportunity to flex their relationship selling muscles in their customer interactions.”
2 - Take advantage of new merchandise hitting your stores
Many brands replenish the holiday craze with new seasonal lines which can create newfound interest from those looking to redeem their gift cards, or buying themselves the gift they wanted but didn’t get.
Hunting expert and veteran retail sales associate Casey Ebert likes to use this as a way to draw people in. “In the hunting industry a lot of the new products start to roll out in January,” Lee says. “We do product reviews and have pro days with customers coming and talking one-on-one with professionals.”
The most experienced retailers use the post-holiday downtime to provide meaningful product demonstrations and experiences for shoppers. Beauty expert and counter manager Adonna Connell recommends choosing the newest and most purchased items for in-store demos. When consumers have the opportunity to see best- selling products put to the test, their confidence increases, and so does their likelihood to buy.
Camping expert and floor manager Adam Higinbothom echoes this and recommends “events and in-store clinics or demos to keep people coming through the door and engaging with a well-trained and prepared staff.”
3 - Turn returns into an exchange
Even the most thoughtful gift-givers don’t get it right 100% of the time. Nearly everyone receives a gift that necessitates a return, and while saving the sale through an exchange is standard practice, turning it into an even bigger sale helps with incremental lift.
Be sure to show your shoppers the latest arrival or the most recently slashed price to showcase your commitment to great service. Fitness expert and Atmosphère associate Mike Newman understands the importance of great service and the impact it can have on sales performance, “meaningful customer service will help turn a return into an exchange.” Not only will you save the initial sale, but many times you will create an upsell opportunity for your store.
4 - Take advantage of people redeeming gift cards
Gift cards have been the most requested item on holiday wish lists for nine years in a row, and approximately 60 percent of consumers would prefer a gift card over clothing, electronics, or other entertainment media.
Not surprisingly, the vast majority — 90 percent to be exact — of gift cards are redeemed within 60 days. But more importantly, approximately 72 percent of consumers will spend at least 20 percent more than the face value of the gift card. “Shoppers want to pick up the items they didn’t receive under the tree, and they enjoy the process of exploring their options; their level of consideration increases, as does their willingness to spend more money per item,” says specialty retail veteran Ben Sutton.
5 - Don’t get hung up on only selling clearance items
Do more with every person who walks in the door. Hiking expert and sales associate Mark Christensen says to “maximize your opportunities,” and to build a relationship with every person. By building a relationship, you’re able to “suggest add-on items to go with already purchased items.”
When retailers are prepared for the next customer who walks in the door, the odds of turning the browser into a buyer increases. Schlieter shares, “it also helps to be ready with 2-3 suggested things to look at or consider when someone gives you the chance to play tour guide in your own store.”
- Update your merchandising. By merchandising products — even ones on the floor during the holidays — the store feels new and full when many stores are stretched thin on product assortment.
- Share on social media to keep your consumers engaged and wanting to participate in the fun of the new year’s items. This doesn’t just come from corporate. Retail associates can highlight the latest deals or the newest products to help drive traffic and interest.
- Create in-store events to generate hype and bring attention to your store. Take detailed notes of what works and what doesn’t. And if retailers are really looking to have some fun, host a trivia day. “We have a sandwich board with fun artwork and trivia questions that brings people in,” says bike expert and High Country Outfitters associate Chad Boone.
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