How To Have “Happy Holidays” In Retail

How To Have Happy Holidays In #Retail

This is “go time” in Retail and it truly is the most wonderful time of the year. The pace increases, daily sales increase, foot traffic increases, you have seasonal team members to infuse some new perspectives and excitement into the business! If the Store Managers in the field are truly behind the metrics – hourly reads are taken and shared with the team and everyone in the store is aligned with crushing plans and LY’s! It can be seriously exhilarating!

In order to have a truly smooth and productive holiday season though, there needs to be a partnership between the field and corporate teams. I have been involved holiday seasons that were flawless and holiday seasons that were, literally, deranged. The flawless version is much more conducive to a happy, profitable retail holiday!

Here are some things that, over the years, I have seen that are essential to a rewarding holiday season:

(1) Marketing Calendar/Schedule With Collateral Directives
These must be scheduled – providing stores with a marketing calendar for the holidays for store marketing changes will ensure that:
(a) Stores have the marketing collateral needed to effect the change prior to holiday
(b) Using a structured marketing calendar ensures that stores are prepared and staffing is ensured to execute the updates on-time
(c) Stores are always ready for change but keep the schedule as true to the calendar as possible
(d) Collateral checklist – have a Monday checklist to ensure that collateral that should be out is still in place after the holiday weekend

(2) Manageable Shipments
Most smaller retailers do not have dedicated “stock teams” and would prefer smaller frequent shipments as opposed to larger shipments once or twice a week
(a) During holidays it is reasonable to have shipments out, for the most part, by closing the day of receipt but when the shipments are very heavy – it is a challenge with payroll constraints and sales plans to make (not to mention the customers that the teams in stores have to greet and wow with service)
(b) Consider implementing stocking parties and/or visual parties
-Bringing in a team of three or four people at closing once or twice a week for two to four hours can help get shipments to the floor, restock and reset the selling floor to perfection
-Making this investment in payroll will benefit the selling culture by allowing more time to focus on the customer during business hours

(3) Minimize Email & Phone Calls To The Stores
Home office can easily schedule emails to go out to stores during certain hours. This will help keep the stores leadership focused on the selling floor and metrics within their four walls during the majority of the day
-Schedule emails to go out during certain windows of time
-Communicate to the stores teams that you don’t want them on email except during X-X times, two or three times per day, and the peak traffic/sales times should be dedicated to nothing but selling (no tasking or operations) – by the way, this is a good year round practice too…just sayin’
-Corporate – no matter how urgent you think your need is – stay to the schedule and don’t interrupt the store with a call. Contact the District Manager if you feel your need is urgent and they can get you the information you need.
-Minimize conference calls during holiday – if you can send newsletter out in lieu of a conference call, consider it

(4) Communicate Schedule Anomalies In Advance
Have a “no surprises” policy on schedules with your team. Based on LY business for comp stores you can see if they were busy, when their peak was, what events were in their malls/lifestyle centers that drove traffic, etc. use this information to craft reasonable holiday schedules
-You don’t have to schedule 6-day work weeks in your business if they are not necessary (or just because other retailers do it)
-Some stores may not need to have 6-day manager work weeks (for example: Las Vegas stores on “The Strip” that have year round holiday hours. It is likely to be business as usual for them)
-Not every retail store/company is created equally and you don’t have to treat them the same
-In a past retail life our teams were told to hire 4-5 seasonal part-time associates but only given 20 extra hours per week for holiday hours…that didn’t make sense to give 5 seasonal team members 4 hours per week so we hired one seasonal person per store and then gave the hours to the permanent team members who so desperately wanted more hours – be realistic…if you are going to ask your team to hire seasonal team, give hours and payroll to support this initiative
-Several cities and retailers have eliminated on-call scheduling and I would avoid this practice if at all possible

(5) Don’t Send Out Corporate Schedules To Stores
Holidays are frenzied in the stores and the teams are, if the business is managed correctly, exhausted. The last email that the teams want to see as they are gearing up for their 18 hour (or longer) Black Friday marathon is that the home office is closing early on Thanksgiving Eve and will be closed on Thanksgiving.
-The teams get it – they know what they are in for and they signed on to work in retail (including the crazy holidays) but they don’t need to know that their corporate partners are comfy cozy at home, enjoying time with their families when they are trying to figure out how they can make the most of the holiday food fest or quality time with their families, so please be sensitive to that

(6) Make Time To Celebrate With Your Teams
Provide a budget for the stores to have time to celebrate the holidays with their work family! Celebrate and recognize business successes.
-This is a great time of year in retail and the teams feed off the increased business but the teams should be encouraged to have an in-store party or the team should be able to go to dinner on the company during the holiday season
-Business will be interesting this year based on this article from “Retail Customer Experience”
-With ecommerce promotions and “free shipping” offers being so compelling during holiday, store traffic and sales are impacted. That means when stores crush it – CELEBRATE!!! It will keep the teams engaged and invigorated for the 28 days of true holiday shopping this year
-Ensure that even with the increased pace of business the company is still encouraging use of peer-to-peer recognition programs that are tied into the company values & vision and that executives are recognizing truly strong performance results by individuals and teams – finding time to do this shows that we value our employees and appreciate their commitment to the business

Every retailer can make the holidays fun and flawless for their teams. This helps focus the field on Customer Experience and driving results through service. This is the time of year that most of us are most excited by and the way the company handles a various components of the business can make or break the experience for the employees. Make sure that your culture continues to show value and appreciation to your teams throughout the busy holiday season. Understand that the employees in the stores go home tired and spent from their work day and encourage balance during this time of year.

Special Message To Store Leadership

We are going into another holiday season and you store is up against the company’s online business as well as the competition’s. DON’T let that get in your way!
(A) Have a “No Excuses” practice on your team and explain that your team will need to beat LY comp and plan numbers (whichever your company focuses on)
-If traffic is down – you will need to focus on your other metrics to make up for that decrease (selling more units or higher priced product to the customer)
-If you had one or two amazing days last year that you are nervous about hitting this year – make a plan to capture $200-$300 more on your peak shopping days
-NO EXCUSES! We were up against online sales and Cyber-Black Friday and Cyber-Monday last year too, we aren’t dealing with anything new so…strategize your most challenging (aka scariest) days that you have in your LY sales and make a plan to capture that business elsewhere in the season (before the day you are up against comes)
(B) Review schedules with your team for the holiday season now
-You know who your flakiest employee are when it comes to attendance – review the time and attendance policy of the company specifically with them- explain to them that you need them to be extra-responsible and reliable for the next 60 days to ensure that they don’t impose any hardships on their coworkers or the business
-Find out who, on your team, wants extra hours by seniority and let them know that if anyone calls in for their shift they will be the first to be called to pick up those extra hours
-If you or your team is sick – stay home…sickness can cripple your team with coverage challenges during the holidays – it’s best to call-in and get well (or at least not spread your cooties while you’re contagious) than to pass your germs onto coworkers
(C) Talk with your DM now about building in stock out parties into your business during critical weeks
-Sunday nights work well for this
-Know who you will have working these – how many hours you want to allot and why you think it will benefit your store and the business to build a case for this
(D) Always have a “Plan B”
-During critical moment of your holiday season (you know what these are) always have a back-up plan
-Be proactive and prepare ahead of time to ensure you have all the tools necessary to execute all directives and let your DM know what your needs are before it is an urgent issue
(E) Find time to celebrate with your team
-Plan contests now for the holiday (schedule them)
-Make sure that you take time to celebrate, not only your team’s success, but your own
-When your team makes the day and/or the metric targets – celebrate it and give yourself a pat on the back!
-Have fun!

I hope everyone and every retailer that has made it this far in the ever evolving retail landscape has an extremely successful, happy, healthy and FUN holiday season!


Founder and Editor in Chief of Excellence In Retail and 18 year retailer. I am a passionate and creative leader and coach committed to inspiring thought, action, truth-telling, solution-seeking, and dialog about how to maximize talent through identifying and creating a process around critical success factors, workplace culture, signature leadership practices, productivity, profitability, alignment of employees and company vision & values, and workplace happiness inside all retail organizations. I help create healthy, vibrant, high-performing, and highly-productive organizations that are talent magnets and focused on delivering the highest level of customer experience that will differentiate them from competition and result in long-term growth and sustainability.

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