The COVID-19 shutdown put retailers at a disadvantage and now everyone is playing catch up. In addition to keeping associates and customers safe via the guidelines imposed buy your state and community, you still have a store to run. It’s important to keep your eye on the future. We will still have a Black Friday and Holiday 2020 and you have to be prepared. Here are some of the areas to keep at the top of your To-Do List:
You have Two Stores Now. If you sold online, via Facebook Live and other socials medias during the COVID-19 shutdown your brick and mortar store You can’t stop because you have customers in both places now. Remember, if you run an event in your physical location carry that same event over to online store as well.
Plan In-Store Events & Promotions: You have brick and mortar stores, online retailers, TV, catalogs, and more coming at you from all sides, all vying for the customers’ attention. As we head into summer and fall, be ready with one major and one to two minor events locked and loaded on your promotional calendar. And then follow through with the same amount of events scheduled for every week of this year and next.
Plan each event, buy featured product, and get your team involved. Remember, in-store events do not always automatically equate to running a sale, although that’s a smart option. You can do makit & takits, demos, seminars, vendor days – your options are endless.
Hire and Train Your Team. You can’t do everything by yourself; you need a team of strong associates backing you up.
Be specific about the kind of people you are looking for, and be upfront about what is required to do the job. You can teach about product, and how to deliver exemplary customer service, but you can’t teach nice so start there. Once you have new hires on board commit to a training schedule that lasts all year long. You’ll also want to adopt our Buddy System and partner each new hire with a seasoned associate who can mentor them as they learn about the store and the products you sell.
Create a Never Out List. Every retailer needs a “Never Out” list of the things you need to have in stock one hundred percent of the time. During peak times of the year this list takes on an even bigger significance. Being out of one of these items can literally make or break a sale. Your POS system will likely create this list for you, but make sure to do frequent physical counts to make sure your list is correct.
Sell, Sell, SELL Gift Cards. Gift cards are your secret weapon. Notice we said gift CARDS. That’s because a recent study found that retailers who switch from paper gift certificates to plastic gift cards increase gift card sales from 35 percent to 50 percent.
There’s more: 55 percent of gift card recipients require more than one shopping trip to the store to spend the balance of their card – that’s good news for you. Here’s the thing: A gift card or certificate that’s presented in a boring paper sleeve or envelope doesn’t look like much, even if it’s for big bucks. You’ll want to package your gift cards with a look that’s unique to what you sell.
Create a Weekly Bag Stuffer. Bag stuffers are easy-to-create ads you make on your own computer. You can use your most recent email blast, vendor produced POP materials stamped with your store’s information or create a bag stuffer you specifically design to bring customers back to shop with you again. Now, if you merely stuff them into bags you’re wasting paper and an opportunity. It makes more sense to hand your bag stuffers to customers while explaining what’s on them. Consider it a one-on-one 30 second commercial.
Make Sure Your Return Policy is Competitive. If every one of your competitors accepts returns and exchanges but your policy screams NO! NO! NO! customers will go some place else to shop. If you don’t have a return policy here’s a good place to start: “Returns and exchanges gladly accepted within ______ days. Your receipt guarantees it.” You’ll save more sales if you train all your associates to politely offer an exchange or a gift card before offering a refund.
Be Prepared for Markdowns. A markdown strategy for every piece of merchandise that you purchase is a smart idea. You will need to determine which merchandise will be discounted, how much it will be discounted, how it will be signed (numbers work better than percentages), and where it will displayed on the sales floor. Unless you are having a big sale, display clearance merchandise near the back of the store so shoppers have to pass through new product displays to get to it.
You’re exhausted just reading this, right? Being a retailer means long hours, juggling tasks, and putting out fires. Make it easier on yourself by setting a solid game plan. If you haven’t already begun, start planning NOW!
Visit the Retail Adventures blog to learn more about bouncing back from COVID-19 closures and check out Kizer & Bender's webinar replay on store reopenings!