In such a tough and competitive market, if you build it, they don’t necessarily come… Consumers may be more cautious at the moment, tending towards lower value items and cheaper alternatives or delaying high ticket purchases. This worries business leaders and their businesses to commonly preserve or downsize rather than try to grow, resulting in business development, innovation and marketing being minimised.
For the entrepreneurial spirited though, this also creates opportunity. As competitors reduce their activities, consumers become more engaged in finding real perceived value and a strategy for business growth is put in place you become poised to snatch opportunities as they arise.
A couple of ideas to get you going and lure the shoppers in…
1. Don’t just discount
When it’s a tough market and people are looking at saving every cent they can, it’s a real value proposition. Customers don’t just want a discount; they want the best they can get for their money. Discounting alone is dangerous at any rate. It’s far better to add value on the way through – package things up, offer free gift-wrapping, provide an Australia-wide freight charge (eg for wine) or supply something to keep kids happy while you’re shopping.
2. Move people from online to in line
Unless you’re a solely online seller, use your website at Christmas to get people to your physical door. For example, promote specials that are “instore only”. Securing a sale online comes down to a picture of the product and a price, whereas in store you can give people the touch-and-feel factor, ambience, added value, upselling and a customer service that will bring them back again.
3. Wrap yourself in tinsel
Cultural debates aside, there is still a push to theme stores in a festive way at Christmas, so don’t fight it. Embrace it. Shoppers in the Christmas spirit tend to open their purse strings more, and it’s also a nice morale boost for your staff – provided those carols aren’t too loud.
4. Train the newbies
Most retailers take on casual staff during this time of year – and you may well lose a few along the way and have to rehire quickly. In a perfect world, casual staff would hit the ground running during the busy Christmas period, but keep in mind that in terms of your store and your products, they’re completely clean and unprepared. You can’t expect miracles, but you can accelerate their learning by providing some pre-start training and helpful training top-ups along the way.
5. Keep taking the temperature
At the end of each busy day, don’t just look at sales by day but also by the hour. This helps get your staff levels right throughout the day, which is pivotal to succeeding in retail. Getting it wrong even a couple of days in a row, with staff standing around polishing your sales counter for the 50th time, can really blow your margins.
6. And … breathe
It’s been a tough year for WA businesses and many may be counting on a busy Christmas period to even up the ledger. It’s tough to keep a positive mindset when you’re holding on tight, but desperation has an unwelcome feel about it, especially to shoppers. Don’t let customers feel your fear – work hard to stay positive and project a relaxed air. And take some assurance from the latest signs that confidence is turning the corner in the WA economy.