Christian Retailing

Sales Development: Anticipating retail’s ‘starting over’ season Print Email
Written by Scott Etheridge   
Wednesday, 07 October 2015 10:16 AM America/New_York

How 4 key building blocks can maximize New Year revenue

Scott-EtheridgeThe beginning of a new year is critical to maintaining the momentum established during the Christmas season. Consumers are looking for fresh starts to the previous year in categories such as finance, health, Bible knowledge and spiritual growth. The question is: How does the Christian retailer capitalize on this momentum while at the same time building a repeat customer base during the busiest holiday season of the year?

Here are four key building blocks that can help you grow your business, build repeat customers and increase your store efficiencies:

• Order placement
• Sales execution plan
• Staffing
• Follow-up

Order placement is the beginning stage for any promotional period. It requires a combination of the research provided by your POS system and sales consultants, intimate knowledge of your consumer base and an awareness of the buying trends for the upcoming season. While time-consuming on the front end, an organized, systematic order placement strategy will help to ensure you have what you need when you need it.

A sales execution plan is essential to building your store into a destination point for repeat business. Your plan needs to include the following agenda items:

1. Design a floor plan. Most large retailers have programmers to lay out where their products should go. While this is helpful, it does not include the local store owner’s input. As a store owner, you have an advantage over a larger retailer because you can customize your floor plan to fit your unique consumer-traffic patterns.

2. Train section leaders. To be successful, any business needs employees who take ownership of their jobs. You can achieve this easily by including your team in the planning process. Asking questions such as “Where is the best place to display these products?” and “If this were your store, how would you arrange the promotional tables?” encourages your employees to take ownership of their jobs, which helps increase revenue for your store.

3. Engage your customers. A customer who enters your store and is not properly greeted usually will not return. Employees should feel comfortable engaging your customers through personal experiences with promoted products throughout the store. If your employees are not familiar, knowledgeable and enthusiastic about promotional items, they cannot help your customers become excited about the items either!

4. Do not overlook the cash wrap area. Place items priced at $9.99 or below in this area as a “value add” to your customers, and watch your register rings increase. Train your frontline staff to mention add-on items with each purchase.

5. Gift cards are a wonderful way to build repeat business. Simple, yet effective for adding value to any gift, gift cards are useful as a “little something else” gesture. Keep preprinted $10 gift certificates ready at the register, and train your staff to suggest gift cards as value adds as well.

Staffing is just as critical as your sales execution plan. Without proper staffing, especially during key business hours, you cannot succeed, nor will you turn your store into a destination point for consumers. Think back to last year’s New Year time frame and ask yourself these questions: “Did I have the correct personnel on duty at the proper times? Did I have enough personnel on duty at the proper times?”

A few years ago, I experienced a prime example of the critical importance of proper staffing. Normally, I receive wonderful service at the Verizon store in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee. They know me as a regular customer, and the store is always properly staffed. However, on this day, I visited a Verizon store in a neighboring community. To say I was disappointed with the service is an understatement. The manager walked by me several times without making eye contact, and none of the employees greeted me. I left after 10 minutes without being spoken to or served. Thankfully, Verizon has a great social media presence and responded to my tweet regarding negative customer service. Long story short, my questions were answered, and I was properly served. However, I have never returned to the neighboring store again, nor will I.

Follow up with customers. Create an organized order placement strategy so you have what you need when you need it; customize your floor plan to fit your unique consumer-traffic patterns; train enthusiastic, knowledgeable employees who take ownership of their jobs; and don’t miss following up with your customers.

Scott Etheridge serves as manager of sales development at HarperCollins Christian Publishing and is responsible for promotions and sales analysis. Connect with him on Twitter at @scottetheridge.