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Thanksgiving, the traditional beginning of the holiday season, is right around the corner.  Are you ready?  “Black Friday” is not the day to start thinking about hiring extra help.  If you use temporary employees during the holiday season they should be in place now so they will be fully trained before your store gets really busy.  Customers lose patience very quickly when sales staff and cashiers do not know how to handle transactions, both common every day transactions and those that occur just occasionally. 

Now is also the time to review your procedures to make sure they are all operating as they should.  It does no good to have a good written procedure on how to handle a task if no one is following it.  Now is especially the time to review all the store's policies and procedures for the sales floor.  Review the following to make sure your policies are up to date:

  • Cash acceptance (how to spot counterfeit bills)                    
  • Check acceptance
  • Charge Sales and Returns (if you have in-house charge accounts)
  • Layaways (if you offer them)
  • Cash Refunds
  • Sale and Redemption of Gift Cards
  • Sale and Redemption of Gift Certificates
  • Issuing and Redeeming Merchandise Credits or Due Bills
  • Bankcard Sales, Returns, Rejections & Fraud
  • Customer Mail-Outs
  • Store Gift Wrapping Policy

Schedule training meetings if needed to go over these transactions to ensure your employees are comfortable handling them.   Most POS terminals have a training mode so your employees can practice.

The holiday season usually counts for 20-25% of a retail store’s total annual volume so it is important that everything is working well.  You want to maximize your opportunities for generating profitable sales.

The sooner you make your plans the smoother everything will go for you and your customers.  A couple of suggestions for promotions are:

* A “men’s only night” for a womens store  or ‘women’s only night” for a menswear store

Make sure you include refreshments.  Be sure you have all the size, brand, style information for your customers so you can help select an appropriate gift.  You may want to ask your regular customers to complete a ‘wish list’ card with all this information about a week before the event.  If you do not want to do a ‘women’s or men’s only night’ you could do a mailing to the spouses, children, etc. of those completing the cards to let them know that your customer is ‘registered’ at your store.

* Open House with refreshments and special discounts one night during the season

* Reward your customers for shopping at your store. Have a drawing on December 24 for a gift (dinner at a local restaurant is one suggestion) or gift certificate to your store. Give customers an entry form each time they make a purchase between Thanksgiving and Christmas so the more often they shop the better their chances of winning.

Also, do not forget your employees this time of year. They are working hard, too. Make sure they know you appreciate them by providing supper or snacks on those nights during the season when the store is open later than usual. This may be a good time to have some fun contests. There could be a contest for the highest number of items on a single sales ticket each week, or for the highest sale. 

The period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is normally the retailers highest sales volume period.  Don’t just hope that it will be a good holiday season - - take positive steps now to plan for it to be a great sales season.