Retail is predictable in many ways. The same predictable, negative, retail holiday sales stories pop up about bricks-and-mortar retailers every year.
I’ve studied these Christmas retail headlines each year and there is a pattern…
Whether you are a big-box retailer, a C-level executive of a retail store, or you work in a shop, you’ll read these same four stories.
It never fails…
1 - The morning after the Black Friday weekend, expect headlines like Disastrous Results For the Holiday Shopping Season (Fill in blank of retailer) to announce that foot traffic was down in retail stores across the nation and that extreme marketing tactics and Friday deals failed to get shoppers to loosen their wallets. Also expect something like Store Sales Drop By Millions to herald that Black Friday sales were disappointing, signaling serious trouble for the holiday season while online sites enjoyed fantastic increases, especially on Cyber Monday.
2. During the second week of December, headlines like Wait For The Best Deals - Retailers Will Reward You will announce that shoppers are waiting on the sidelines for more bargains to appear, and retailers will be forced to cut prices to move merchandise.
3. During the week prior to Christmas, headlines like Brick-And-Mortar Retailers Get Lump Of Coal For Christmas will announce that shoppers are staying away and those who venture in will find big bargains.
4. During the week after Christmas Day, headlines will announce that holiday sales have – once again – disappointed retailers. Even with free overnight shipping, online stores too will find it difficult to point to a profitable holiday season. While some of the big retailers definitely have a make-or-break holiday season, the tale will be all retailers lost out.
Here’s the kicker to all these stories, in 11 out of 12 years – expert predictions of a dire holiday season didn’t materialize when the final numbers were in, sometime in January.
But by January, we'll have moved on to the next distraction...
The reality is Black Friday has been killed by online retailers like Amazon and their counterparts Walmart and Target who offer deals that used to only be available one day days, weeks, and even months ahead of time. The day after Thanksgiving has become just a Friday and Thanksgiving has become for many, just a Thursday to shop.
And that's not a crisis, it's just reality.
Here are 5 Ways How to Deal With Dire Predictions of Holiday Sales Collapse
1) Understand rotten sells. Let's be honest here, why are these stories recycled year after year? Because they get eyeballs. The reporters are not on your side to paint a rosy picture ... ever. Why? Because you won't turn on your TV, click your smartphone, or forward to a friend unless headlines are hyperbolic. If you get interviewed, make sure your brand is positive whether you are one of the struggling fashion retailers or a neighborhood restaurant.
2) Give it the sniff test. Sniff around for where dramatic increases from online brands come from, and you'll most likely discover they are created by PR companies looking to create buzz. They may have increases but are still not profitable. And let's not forget the wireless providers who get a cut from every mobile sale. Again, consider the source.
3) Control what you can control.You're only as good as the person you leave on the sales floor for 15 minutes. If it is OK to have Bitter Betty at the cash wrap, Rotten Robert as a greeter, or Distracted Demi behind your counter...you are indeed sunk. That's your choice - not the news media or your holiday shoppers. Even if there are dire results by some retailers and there will be, it doesn't have to be your holiday season story. Pay attention. A clean, well-organized store with great displays, signage, decorations, and lighting doesn't just happen. A continuous social media presence is still your responsibility to goose Christmas shopping in your store. You still have to do the work. You still have to earn every dollar by executing a brilliant customer experience every time, not just to the people who know you. There is no free pass or killer marketing campaign.
4) Understand shoppers have gotten smarter. While you used to tout such a deal as a way to get bodies in the door, you can only fool some of them; the race to the bottom is becoming simply a race to lower-quality items. The only profitable way to win at retail is to use retail sales training to enable your employees to be able to compare and contrast and talk up the premium items. You get what you pay for has never been truer than today in terms of employees' performance and customers' wallets.
5) What you focus on becomes reality. Think the holidays are bad, every shopper's cheap, and your help is worthless? Guess what? You're right! But when you envision creating a holiday shopping season that turns mission shoppers into browsers who find the perfect gift when you go out of your way to create an exceptional experience for your employees so they will create an exceptional one for your shoppers, you see how you can have a blow-out holiday shopping season ... you know what? You're well on your way to making it happen.
Your only thought right now should be how to get shoppers to buy from you and encourage impulse buying. You don't have time to fret.