christmas shopping resize

Black Friday, the day after American Thanksgiving, is the official opening of the holiday shopping season. U.S. big-box retailers open their doors before sunrise, as do many Canadian retailers, including Toronto’s Eaton Centre, which opens at 6 a.m. for its first centre-wide Black Friday event.

“We have quite an extensive list of participating retailers and we’re really excited about it,” Meredith Vlitas, Eaton Centre’s senior marketing director says. “A lot of our large retailers are in on it, as are The Bay and Sears, which have both been doing Black Friday for years.”

Despite the deep discounts offered by big retailers, many consumers will choose independent retailers this holiday season, says Barbara Crowhurst, CEO of Toronto-based retail consultancy and business coaching firm Retailmakeover. “Independent retailers can provide a retail experience that customers will never find in a Target store,” she says.

Read: 12 Ways To Sell What’s Not Selling

To enhance your customer experiences and increase sales this holiday season, Crowhurst offers five tips:

Your window display is your ultimate marketing tool: “Independent retailers should own the Christmas holidays,” says Crowhurst. She recommends refreshing your window and in-store displays a minimum of every two weeks by adding new items to draw customers through your doors and signal that you’re ready for the holidays.

Set daily sales targets and share them with your staff: “Owners who don’t want to share that information with their staff need to get over it,” says Crowhurst. “Staff should come into work knowing their sales goals.” Once you’ve set a target, divide it by your average sale. For example, if your sales target is $3,000 and your average sale is $50, then you need a minimum of 60 sales to meet your target. If you have six staff members, make each responsible for 10 sales.

Read: How To Sell More, More, More

Know your conversion rate, or visitors-to-sales ratio: “If you’re not counting the number of people coming into your store and checking it against the number of sales at the till, then you’re missing one of the most valuable pieces of information a retailer can have,” says Crowhurst. You don’t need an electronic counter, just pen and paper. If your conversion rate is low, say, 40% to 50%, observe how your customers shop, watching for roadblocks, to identify why they leave without a purchase.

Identify your power hours: The high-traffic periods of the day may actually be your lowest sales periods of the day, because long till lines and busy associates discourage buying. Align your staff schedule to your store’s traffic flow and you’ll convert more customers, says Crowhurst. Beef up your product knowledge: Ensure that all staff, even seasonal staff, can name one to three features and benefits of every product in the store, says Crowhurst, so they’re ready to help before the customer even comes in.

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