As of Thursday, December 10, 2015
Retail sales are forecast to spike a week before Christmas, but until then many retailers face a period of doldrums waiting for consumers to show up at physical stores or online.
A couple of retail consultants gave some survival tips for the dog days of the holiday retail season.
The way to attract shoppers into a store, even during relatively dry periods, is to observe the three “H”s, said Lyn Chin, a buyer for Global Purchasing Companies, a retail and fashion business consultancy in New York.
The three “H”s are “happy,” “helpful” and “homemade.” Producing a festive, happy environment in a store is crucial, Chin said. Make a place that looks inviting and fun. Maybe produce an event such as a “blind gift-wrapping” party, where consumers are blindfolded and attempt to gift-wrap a present.
“It’s the time of year where people are supposed to be having fun,” Chin said. Consumers seek out places where they can partake in some holiday cheer.
Offering homemade treats at a boutique is another way to add holiday cheer, Chin said.
Being helpful also attracts a lot of customers. Suggesting what kind of gifts to buy, or offering gift-wrapping or perhaps adding time to the store’s typical gift-return policy will attract more consumers to a store, she said. These initiatives also can serve as an alternative to offering discounts.
“It is offering a service as opposed to discounting product. … Not everyone is looking for a discount,” Chin said.
To boost sales during slow periods and after the holidays, retailers should develop gift-card programs, according to Tom Niedbalski, vice president of First Data Corp.’s Transaction Wireless. First Data is a payments-technology company headquartered in Atlanta. In July, the company acquired the San Diego–based Transaction Wireless Inc., a digital gift-card distribution platform.
“Black Friday is no longer a one-day event. It is a cyber month,” Niedbalski said, adding that consumer engagement increases with digital gift cards.
First Data recently released its 2015 Prepaid Consumer Insights Report, which finds that physical and e-gift cards can boost sales. Almost two-thirds of gift-card recipients spent more than the value of the gift cards.
Gift cards also can drive foot traffic. The report found that 40 percent of those surveyed, because of a gift card they received, patronized stores that they otherwise would not have visited.