As fall begins to turn the weather a bit colder, attention and focus is put on the upcoming holiday selling season. While the season itself is bright and buzzing with excitement, planning for holiday selling can be daunting as store owners and managers need to tackle everything from personnel to product trends.
GOURMET INSIDER® spoke to Becky Moore, store manager of Murphy’s Department Store in Stillwater, OK, as well as Jill Foucré, owner of Glen Ellyn, IL-based Marcel’s Culinary Experience, about the products, processes and procedures that make the holiday season a success.
When To Hire
Moore said that she begins putting out advertisements for part-time help in August. She explains that this allows her the time to analyze the qualifications of each applicant as well as give them time to get up-to-speed on the store’s operations once hired. “After they are hired, I make them shadow me for a week or so because the more they know, the better they are going to do. And it gives me time to learn about them and their strengths and weaknesses,” explained Moore.
She said she takes care to teach them all of the important holiday procedures, like which receipts the store keeps and how to wrap gifts. But, she said, the most important thing she does is put them in front of the customers right away so that they are seasoned in customer interaction by the time the fourth quarter rolls around.
Product Planning Processes
Both Moore and Foucré explained that proper planning for holiday product is key. However, each have different ways to prepare for the intake of goods. Moore said that she makes sure to have orders already written for staple fourth-quarter goods, like baking sheets and roasters, and places one around September and the other in November. This way, she knows those goods will be fully stocked for customers. Special holiday products, though, require a different type of tactic.
“We start in January at the markets and we look at what is trending for that year — is it snowman? Is it woodland? — and then once we identify the trend, we start making our decisions on holiday products. A lot of the vendors that have holiday lines, you need to order early anyway,” she said.
Foucré, however, has implemented a different tactic. While she does go to market to trendspot and see what’s new, she said she doesn’t make a purchase until she has time to thoroughly go through all of the lines from her vendors.
“Sometimes you walk into a showroom and you love everything, so you buy it. Then you walk into the next showroom and you love something more. So, now I sit down with all of my catalogues after I get back from market and really look at everything. I want to make sure that it’s not only a good fit for us, but it’s a good fit for our customers.”
Foucré said that it’s not only product mix that is important to her, but it’s also product price point. She said that having holiday products that cover a range of price points has worked for Marcel’s Culinary Experience and that’s also something she takes into consideration when planning for holiday product orders. Additionally, Foucré urges other retailers to have an easy system for keeping track of what has already been ordered as well as past boons or busts.
Making Merchandising Bright
Once product is in-store, it’s time to create the holiday magic that drives customers to the retail outlet during the season. One of Moore’s best practices when developing her merchandising displays for the season is to pull together themes.
“Every year, we have a primary theme and a secondary theme. As we begin to buy, I think about how to decorate a tree around it and how to build a display table for it. Once we figure out what the themes are, then I can start developing a plan, since we have the room for it. I may put tableware set on a table and then pull over a hutch for other products, sometimes I swap the fixtures in and out,” she said.
However, in creating displays, she realized that the most important thing is to inspire her customers. “I make the displays as realistic as I can. I want the customers to be able to look at these displays as if it was already in their home. We also buy a few holiday items and decorative pieces that we mix in with everyday products. It lets the customer know that they can achieve a look with only a few pieces. People need inspiration. They want it to be easy, simple and look great,” said Moore.
Foucré said that she employs color and texture to create merchandising displays and pays attention to these trends, even if they aren’t traditional holiday looks. “This year, we are seeing a lot of nontraditional holiday colors in holiday merchandise. There are a lot more purples and blues. So, we use products from the store that blend well into these themes in combination with holiday products. It adds some dimension and if something doesn’t sell, it just goes back on the shelve when the season is over,” she said.
Marcel’s also ties one of its main window displays into the theme of the year in order to get customers excited about what they will see inside the store.