The holiday season is a fun and exciting time for most people. For many retailers, of course, it's also much, much more. It's the make-or-break moment for the entire year. With all that pressure, it can be a challenge for retailers to step back and come up with effective ways to make the most of their holiday selling opportunities.
To help, AllBusiness.com has come up with a sort of business Advent Calendar for the 12 Days of Christmas. But instead of a piece of candy (or a partridge in pear tree), each day brings a sweet insight or business tip for holiday retailers:On the First Day of Christmas (Tuesday, December 14)
For Twitter Tuesday, use social media like Facebook and Twitter to promote 12 last-minute gift ideas -- one each day. Starting today, offer up a great gift at a discount. Perhaps it's something you have extra inventory of or something that's a standard item you carry. Also tell your fans and followers to check back daily for the latest last-minute gift ideas.
On the Second Day of Christmas (Wednesday, December 15)
Call a storewide meeting with all your employees, and gather everyone's creative ideas on how to make it through the next two weeks -- both in terms of maximizing sales and keeping everyone sane. Have each employee select a product, brand, or gift that they're going to focus on each day and introduce every customer to. Make sure each person chooses something new each day. Track your results, and award a prize to the person who sells the most by Christmas Eve.
On the Third Day of Christmas (Thursday, December 16)
Set up a table of Christmas cookies for customers to nibble on while they shop. Send one employee out to distribute flyers throughout the mall or shopping district advertising your "Snack While You Shop" event -- you may attract customers who never noticed your shop before.
On the Fourth Day of Christmas (Friday, December 17)
Pre-wrap and label your top 10 sellers, and put them on prominent display so shoppers can grab them and go. Make sure you promote your store by using branded wrapping paper or even a simple sticker with your store name. And don't forget to put the price tag on the wrapping paper -- not on the product inside.
On the Fifth Day of Christmas (Saturday, December 18)
Set up a wrapping station to help shoppers. Invite local Girl Scout troops or elementary schools to do the wrapping in return for a donation to their cause. Everybody wins!
On the Sixth Day of Christmas (Sunday, December 19)
The last Sunday before Christmas means it's going to be a big day. Make it extraordinary for your team by offering free lunch and dinner if the store hits specific sales goals by 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.
On the Seventh Day of Christmas (Monday, December 20)
Flush out your inventory. Make sure every item is on the sales floor; you can't sell it if it's sitting in the back room. Plus, you want your store to look full and inviting to shoppers.
On the Eighth Day of Christmas (Tuesday, December 21)
Start offering markdowns on goods that you want gone by Christmas. Don't be afraid to use deep discounts to move excess inventory. Promote the deals with in-store signage, and ask your associates to let customers know about the new markdowns. Another clever approach is to offer an early-bird special to shoppers who come in before noon: Give them an extra 10 to 15 percent off their purchases. Even those who miss the sale will notice your story.
On the Ninth Day of Christmas (Wednesday, December 22)
Invite a therapist or masseuse to give onsite chair massages and/or foot massages. Everyone is getting stressed at this point and needs some relief for those weary package-toting muscles and aching arches. For those that don't like massages, a complimentary glass of bubbly (Champagne or sparkling cider) might be nice.
On the Tenth Day of Christmas (Thursday, December 23)
It's now time -- or past time -- to open earlier and/or stay open later to accommodate all the shoppers who still have a lot of work to do on their list. Promote the event on social media and with an email campaign - and offer free coffee to bolster these early birds and night owls.
On the Eleventh Day of Christmas (Friday, December 24 -- Christmas Eve!)
Things are getting hectic for many shoppers by now. Help them out by scouring the store for all small items under $10, and create a large "stocking stuffer" display table conveniently located next to your gift-wrapping queue, so that customers can peruse it while waiting in line.
On the Twelfth Day of Christmas (Saturday, December 25 -- Christmas Day!)
You're done! This is the day to relax with your family and friends, and to reflect on all your hard work during the holiday season.
Fredric Paul, David Hennessy, and Mike Kraus contributed to this story.