|Preparing your store for spring|
|Written by Amelia Nizynski|
|Wednesday, 04 February 2015 04:23 PM America/New_York|
Season’s holidays mark big moments and sales opportunities
The spring holiday selling season is quickly approaching. With customers planning their Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and graduation celebrations, as a Christian retailer, you need to prepare your store for each of these opportunities.
Your customers will be searching for products to help focus their Easter celebrations on Jesus and the resurrection and then returning to find meaningful gifts for the moms, dads and grads in their lives.
Focusing on your two most important assets—people and products—will help prepare your store to maximize the spring holiday selling season. Your store’s “people” comprise your staff as well as your customers. Having the products that meet your customers’ needs is an essential part of your store’s ministry any time of year, and there are several key steps to help ensure you have the items to meet those needs for each of the upcoming holidays.
OLD AND NEW
Review what you sold last year in the weeks prior to each of the key spring holidays—Easter, Confirmation, First Communion, Mother’s Day, graduation and Father’s Day. What were the key items and trends last year for each department? What were the key price points? After you identify these for each area in the store, consider what items and trends can be repeated and which need to be replaced. Even for seasonal sales, there are core items that can be repeated. These are the items your customers expect to find in your store, like Resurrection Eggs for Easter. There are also key price points that need to be repeated, such as under-$15 graduation gifts for churches to honor their students.
Ask your frontline staff what items and types of products customers were requesting last year that you did not have in stock. What types of items are they asking for now? Are there items that your store special-orders for your customers regularly? Compile this information and look to see if there are some opportunities for new products or new categories. Ask your sales reps what is working well for other retailers. This can also help you spot a new line or trend for your community.
Now that you have reviewed the previous season’s sales to see what should be repeated or replaced, it is time to explore the new. Use the data from your review to help navigate through the vast sea of new products. Even “new releases” have some commonality with product your store has sold in the past. Use your store’s history and what you know about your customers to sift through all the new releases to find the gems for your market.
Not all market trends will resonate with your customers. The current gold-tone trend in fashion jewelry may not be one your customers want or will embrace. They may respond better to a refreshed assortment of silver-tone jewelry. Take advantage of new trends in the market, but don’t try to force a trend on your customers.
Remember your core, occasion-driven gift products. Although seasonal inventory will drive a significant portion of your sales dollars this spring, wedding, anniversary and new-baby products are key.
Many weddings take place during the spring and summer months—and babies are born every day! These are occasions when people think of giving Christian inspirational gifts. Use the same inventory-review method for the products in these sections as you do for the seasonal items. Spring is a wonderful time to refresh your store’s wedding, anniversary and baby areas.
PLANS AND PRICE POINTS
Once you decide on your store’s key trends for each of the upcoming spring gift-giving occasions, including wedding and baby, begin creating your merchandising plan. Using your store’s floor plan, map out your seasonal displays. Decide on a key trend or theme for each display. Once the themes are decided and space for the feature is determined, it is time to plan the product for each feature.
As you begin to build the assortment for each display, remember your key price points. It is important to make sure that all your customers can participate. Also, a variety of price points can encourage add-on purchases. The customer might add a small plaque to go with an angel figurine or a mug to accompany a new devotional book. The displays may include products from across the store’s departments or just one department. They can feature multiple vendors with similar colors/styles or may all be from one vendor. Clear, bold, full displays will impact your store’s appearance and sales. Customers’ eyes are drawn to full displays. When they see that you have said this is important with your inventory dollars, they will most likely stop, shop and buy.
Create strategic displays for the upcoming seasons to remind your customers to shop your store for that holiday too. Although Mother’s Day is not until May, don’t miss the opportunity to show a sneak peak of your store’s Mother’s Day assortment to your customers when they shop for their Easter-basket goodies or Confirmation gifts in late March and early April. During the rush of Mother’s Day, show them some of the great items you found for Father’s Day. Some customers will go ahead and purchase, and others will make a mental note to return.
STAFF AND SALES
Encourage your frontline staff to talk about some of the upcoming new releases for the next holiday. Their excitement can be contagious. At the register, have your frontline staff remind your customers of upcoming holidays. Often Easter, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day sneak up on people, so it truly is a service to remind them of an important upcoming occasion. Make the most of every customer’s visit to your store. Imagine the incremental sales increase you could achieve with one more purchase from each of your best customers.
Communicate your merchandising plan and the store’s goals for each season to your staff. Walk through the store and review each display. Share with your staff the theme and key products on each display. These items were purchased with a particular end user in mind. This information will help your staff direct your customers to the right displays and products.
Many customers will walk into your store with a specific product in mind, and others will have a general idea of what they are looking for. However, there will be many customers who will be relying on you and your staff to help guide them to the right gift. Encourage your frontline staff to ask open-ended questions when helping your customers find the perfect gift. What types of books do they enjoy reading? What do they like to listen to? What colors do they typically wear? What does their house look like? These will give clues as to where to direct your customers in your store.
Watch your inventory. As sales increase in the weeks and days before the holidays, look to see if there are any holes in your seasonal displays. Work with your vendors to replenish those fast sellers so you don’t miss out on sales during the peak selling days. If it’s not possible to replenish a particular item, look for a similar item to add to the assortment. Make the most of each of these opportunities.
Don’t forget to have fun with your staff and your customers. With all the preparation that goes into each of these holiday events, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with the details. The store’s displays are constantly being moved and reset for the next event. If you are only task-focused, you could forget the joy of the ministry to which you are called. During what is often a long, gray winter, we all look forward with hope and anticipation for the first buds of spring. What a wonderful reminder of the hope we have in Christ. Enjoy sharing this “Hope” with your customers and staff this spring.
Amelia Nizynski is creative and design director at Lighthouse Christian Products Co. Nizynski worked in retail through college, and afterward managed several stores for LifeWay Christian Stores. She later worked in merchandising and concluded her time at LifeWay as the chain’s senior gift buyer.