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2016 Holiday Preview: Calendar shifts could benefit retailers


It’s no secret that online shopping and changing consumer preferences continue to impact physical retail traffic. Despite the shifting landscape, retail sales remain largely intact and, more importantly, are expected to increase year-over-year this holiday season.

November and December (NRF weeks 40 – 48) are known as primetime for physical retailers. Sales generated during this period immediately impact a brands’ bottom line, and they set the stage for either success or struggle in the first quarter of the following year.

In order to succeed this holiday, retailers should prepare for upcoming calendar nuances and thoughtfully approach their store operations.

Calendar Shifts

This year, Hanukkah begins 18 days later than it did in 2015 (i.e., Saturday, December 24, 2016, versus Sunday, December 6, 2015). This represents a significant opportunity to generate meaningful sales during the latter half of December – an opportunity not typically afforded to retailers.

To capitalize on the added window, it is essential for retailers to ensure product availability and reduce out-of-stock merchandise. And doing so requires a stringent watch over the supply chain and a heavy focus on inventory management.

Christmas falls on a Sunday this year, as opposed to a Friday in 2015. The added time will further enable shoppers with a penchant for pushing off their trips (not just men!) to engage in last-minute trips.

It could also serve to the advantage of physical retailers, as weekend shipping is often limited and more expensive. Brick-and-mortar retailers should plan their hours and staffing levels accordingly.

Staffing: More Than Bodies on the Floor

With the right store model, physical retailers can create an insatiable appetite for their products — all rooted in the in-store experience. Examples of this success include Apple, Warby Parker, and Lululemon. In order to do so, however, retailers need to recognize that staff members are not interchangeable and simply having a certain number of associates on the floor doesn’t ensure that service will be adequate.

Associate levels and staff mix are particularly important during the holiday season since retailers depend heavily on the effectiveness of part-time and seasonal staff in order to generate revenue.

Store managers should leverage traffic data to understand their store’s performance, recognize power hours, and optimize scheduling efforts.

Additional metrics such as shopper-to-associate ratio and sales per shopper illustrate service execution on a store-by-store basis and also allow managers to assess their staff’s strengths and weaknesses. From there, mangers can re-tool schedules, alter task assignments and determine where re-training may be necessary.

Store Offerings Trump Web Stores

And don’t forget the idea of “shoppertainment” – a technique through which mall and retail owners drive shoppers in store by offering unique, entertaining activities. This is especially relevant during the holidays and can significantly increase a retailer’s traffic and sales. For example, some large-scale malls integrate water slides or roller coasters into the retail environment. And on a smaller scale, they re-create the North Pole and offer pictures with Santa.

During the holiday season, individual retailers should implement engaging, brand-specific activities that drive shoppers into their store. Offerings can range from in-store classes to fashion shows, product demos, and stores within a store. The key is to differentiate in a way that makes sense for your brand, budget and shopper. By weaving experiences into the store, physical retailers can drive differentiation from online, as well as their competition.

Ultimately, brick-and-mortar retailers need to spotlight their greatest assets – the physical store and retail associates – and implement tactics that drive revenue this holiday season and extend far beyond.

Bill McCarthy is general manager of ShopperTrak Americas.

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