Holiday Countdown

Are you ready for the holidays or are you ready for some football? Most people can relate to the second part of that sentence with a big smile and the knowledge that Monday night football games always started with that question. It meant a continuation of the weekend with food in front of the TV and bleary eyes at work the next morning.

But ask people, especially retailers, if they are ready for the holidays and that question is usually followed by a groan or skepticism at best. It’s almost like this season of the year creeps up and catches people by surprise.

I often think that people visiting the U.S. must think we are a strange group of people as they shop in our stores in September and October and see ghosts and goblins, and then in November and December, angels and baby Jesus in the same seasonal aisles.

Do retailers rush the season? That question has always been up for debate. I believe retailers are gamblers. Many live by the motto of, "I can always pull the year out at the holidays!" That’s like saying, "I probably can lose weight if I tape my mouth shut," but it isn’t very healthy. Neither is waiting till the last quarter of the year hoping that the holiday season will make your registers ring off the wall.

Let me share my six critical questions business owners should be asking themselves about their business, any time of the year!

When I taught college level retail marketing classes, I always required my students to memorize the "Six Rights of Merchandising." I don’t remember the reference, but I only know I wish I came up with it. Instead, I share it with you and hope you will learn it as well:

1. The Right Merchandise: Having the "right" merchandise is the foundation of business success. Having the "right" merchandise means that you know your customer’s wants and needs and you buy accordingly. I have consulted with many clients over the years that have a hard time understanding that buying what they like is not necessarily what the customer likes.

Can you describe your average customer in depth? Do you know specifically what they buy, why they buy it, what they like about it, how often they shop, what they would like more of and if you could find it, what one thing would they wish you would carry?

I believe that businesses can exceed sales plans if they would just encourage employees to increase UPTs, or Units Per Transaction. In order to do that, a business must have merchandise that complements each other. Rarely should a customer ever leave your business after purchasing only one item. If an employee is sharp, they can anticipate another item that the customer could use, if they just think about it.

I know these sounds elementary but how many times have you come to a check out and the employee says,""Did you find everything OK?" I really shocked my local grocery store person and responded, "Why, did you lose something?" If the employee is sharp, they can glance at what the customer is purchasing and make a quick recommendation of something the customer might have missed...

To read the rest of this article, please contact us to buy this issue or for a subscription.

Originally posted Saturday, Apr. 7, 2007