10 tips to put a winning retail year-end game plan in place

In basketball they have “crunch time.” In baseball, they have “the bottom of the ninth.” In football they have the “hail Mary.”

In retail – and related industries – we have the holiday shopping season. We’re all quite well aware of the fact that for stores, it’s “make-or-break” time. It determines whether retailers will finish the year in the black, or have to live with the financial legacy of a “losing season.”

To keep with our sports analogies, let’s call a time out, huddle up, and go over the important things to remember during this yearly two-minute drill:

  • Review how your holiday season went last year. Refresh your team’s memory on what went well and where you feel you dropped the ball. Get suggestions and buy-in on fixes.
  • If you’re going to change hours and be closed on certain days, be sure to update those listings everywhere they are published: Internet, ads, phone system, email signatures, etc.
  • Be sure your inventory records are accurate and kept accurate so employees in your location can have good information and so your website tells the truth to customers.
  • Decide on shipping policies. Set your “drop dead” dates and make sure they are well communicated to your customers and your team.
  • Prepare your team to deal politely and tactfully with customers who are likely to be under more stress than usual. Stressed out employees dealing with stressed out customers is a recipe for customer service and brand image disaster.
  • Review important policies, such as returns and exchanges, to be sure that everyone is reading from the same rule book.
  • Deal with all online reviews and comments quickly. Use systems in place on sites like Yelp and Amazon to handle complaints.
  • Make a special effort to keep your premises tidy and well organized. Sometimes it feels like shoppers can do as much damage as a Category Two hurricane.
  • Take care of all staff scheduling questions early.
  • Understand where your bottlenecks usually occur and take special steps to alleviate those problems.

Finally, if prognosticators are even close to correct, retail should be booming. This means that you and your team should be expecting heavier traffic, and consequently more challenges to the systems you have place, your training, and – to put it frankly – your patience and endurance.