Tips for making the busy holiday season smooth sailing for your retail staff

Posted on: December 12th, 2014 by Rob Baumhover


HME Retailers,

This week’s blog comes to us once again from Maria Markusen – VGM Retail’s Director of Operations and Development. Prior to joining the VGM Retail team, Maria spent many years working in both the health care and retail worlds, and has loads of tips and best business practices to share with HME retailers. Read on for Maria’s tips for making the busy holiday season as stress-free as possible for your retail team members.


How to make the busy holiday season smooth sailing for your retail staff
By Maria Markusen – Director of Operations and Development, VGM Retail

“Black Friday is in my blood. I need to get into the stores just to get my ‘retail fix’ every year,” states Rob Baumhover – Director of Retail Services, VGM Retail.

As a group of mostly traditional retailers, the VGM Retail team lives for the holiday season. As crazy as that sounds, the extra foot traffic, the abundance of product, the special holiday merchandising, the freshly decorated spaces, the crowds and higher sales drive adds to our excitement during the holiday season. We love the busy excitement and the energized pace of holiday retail!

However, we know not everyone thrives on the increased pace, longer hours, and often crazed atmosphere that holiday retail can bring. So how do you keep the sales and CSR teams at your stores focused on sales, while creating a festive atmosphere for your shoppers that encourages buying, all while providing a high level of service that brings customers back in the door after the busy season has passed? Here are some very simple changes you can make this time of year to give your employees the extra push and support system so they can perform at their best:

     1. Consistently stock sufficient inventory to sell.

One of the most disappointing experiences for a shopper is arriving at store, only to find out that the item they planned to purchase is out of stock. Lack of product availability is especially difficult for retail employees who face the brunt of these often impatient, stressed and disappointed customers at the point of sale.

•Be sure to prepare your holiday inventory purchases carefully and well in advance.
•Base your buying decisions on past years of buying history.
•Work closely with your product vendors, asking them for the best-selling products for the season, new and innovative products, as well as their knowledge of what other stores of your size are ordering.
•Watch daily inventory levels carefully so that you can easily replenish or reorder when supplies are low.
•Keep stock store rooms organized and products easy to find for your employees.
•Assign a dedicated inventory associate to manage all of the above. This person should be a dedicated team member, familiar with your product mix, store operations and your selling floor.

Managing the inventory process and inventory levels will make the job of your customer service and sales team much more efficient, allowing them to focus on great service.

      2. Institute a regular written or verbal download

Be sure to communicate key information about the selling floor, inventory and key product features during daily or shift staff debriefs. Just as keeping track of inventory will lead to a better selling experience for your employees and customers, so too will a communication process to keep your employees informed make for a better customer communication experience.

•Each day and at all employee shift changes, inform your employees about any changes in the selling environment. Make sure to detail any additional products added to the showroom floor and include a quick training on any unique or specific product features.
•Set a selling goal for each hour, shift or day that focuses on a specific dollar amount or selling a specific number of products. Create some friendly competition and give incentives by encouraging one shift to outsell another. This will motive your team to continue to sell the right products to the right customers.
•Always make your goals achievable and create small awards, pats on the back or simply recognize team members throughout the day for reaching or exceeding specific sales goals. Leave small recognition notes or small rewards for your team from the day or previous shift. This will get them excited for the shift and remind them of the pride of great selling.

     3. Empower your team

Retail moves very fast during the holiday season. Higher than normal foot traffic, busy, impatient customers and high product demand leaves lots of open questions and a need for quick decision making to please your customers.

•During this busy time, give your employees permission within ranges of difficult situations to make decisions on the spot, without going through layers of management.
•Allow them some clear, organized flexibility to discount or substitute product and to solve problems at the point of purchase.

Empowering your employees will make your customers happier. Issues will be resolved quickly and your employees can focus on selling quickly and efficiently.

Happy Holidays, and Happy Selling!