Is Your Retail Store Ready for Black Friday?

Black Friday and Small Business Saturday are right around the corner. The first thing that comes to mind for most businesses and customers is, of course, the big discounts during this notorious shopping weekend!

Sales and promotions are hard to execute to their full potential when they’re planned last minute. If you haven’t already, start bringing your strategies to life now so that this Black Friday is your store’s best yet.

Are you an ecommerce merchant? Click here for specific tips to prep your online store.

Choose Black Friday Deals

Whether it’s a blanket discount like “25% off all items in store,” a BOGO offer, a doorbuster deal to space out the crowds, extra points or other rewards for members of your loyalty program, having a deal that draws attention is a must!

Not sure where to start? It’s never a bad idea to scope out what your competitors are offering. You’ll want to be in the same price range, but also come up with something unique and catchy to act as a tipping point for customers to choose your store over others.

Customers love the idea of getting something for free. If you sell homemade desserts, for example, consider giving out free samples outside your store. It could provide an opportunity for employees to let customers know about the deals inside if they miss your visual advertising. And of course, the proof will be in the pudding!

Aside from your top sellers, a bargain table is great place for products that haven’t sold well, products that were returned in slightly worse shape, products that are missing a part (with disclosure of the missing part and the manufacturer who supplies it), and other overflow that’s been difficult to get rid of.

Invest in Good Advertising

Email and text marketing, window banners, referral programs, social media, compelling ad copy, and other fresh material can help spread your promotions to more customers. If you and your employees are already swamped, and feel like you have no time to spruce up your regular advertising, consider hiring a temporary consultant to spearhead a marketing campaign in the months leading up to the holidays. It’s a business investment that’s bound to pay off.

If your budget is unbendable, you could offer an unpaid, seasonal internship to local marketing students. Sure, it might not guarantee a success, but you’ll always have the power of veto. Having an extra set of hands or two can’t hurt. In many cases, students can receive college credits for unpaid internships. And you never know—an intern could end up becoming a great, pre-trained employee post grad.

Schedule Back Up Staff

Ideally, your employees have already given you their availability for Thanksgiving week. You might already have a fully staffed week…on paper. But you can never be too prepared! Last minute calling out, especially by new employees, is more common than some new business owners realize. Sick days and emergencies can always throw a wrench in staffing, too.

So if you think you have enough staff for Black Friday and the weekend, schedule more! Hiring some seasonal part-time employees is a good way to keep all your bases covered without getting stuck with too many come New Year. It also allows you to give your regular employees the breaks they need. Now would be the time to make sure your temporary employee training is in full swing.

It’s always better to be overstaffed to handle the holiday rush than risk being understaffed at any point. Plus, hiring temporary workers costs less than paying regular employees a lot of overtime in a pinch. Aside from your sales team, it’s particularly important to make sure all hands are on deck in customer service so customers can reach your business and make returns or exchanges easily (and help you avoid chargebacks!).

Stock Inventory and Store Supplies

Making sure you have enough inventory seems like an obvious tip. But on the other side of the coin, too much overstock can bring its own kind of trouble. If you have too much product, and aren’t seeing enough sales over Thanksgiving week, you may end up having to slash prices more than you would have leading up to Christmas in an attempt to clear the shelves. This is a daunting task if you’re selling holiday-specific products.

It’s useful to look at the online reporting feature of your credit card processing solution to see what last year and even previous years have looked like volume-wise. Prepare for some growth, of course, but don’t go so crazy overstocking that you end up with excessive holding costs and depreciating products (for example, ones that might go out of style quickly, or are perishable).

Limited time offers are a good way to clear your shelves without having to cut prices more than you planned. Don’t display all of your inventory all at once, and use timers or creative promotions to create a sense of urgency in shoppers. Frantic or rushed shoppers are more likely to grab a product if it looks like there aren’t many left (“That must be popular!”) and there’s a timer ticking on its availability. As noted above, a surplus of employees to restock would be important here.

Sometimes business owners will be so focused on what they’re selling that they overlook the supplies behind the counter. Do you have more than enough thermal paper rolls for your terminal? Enough cleaning supplies? This is the kind of inventory you don’t have to worry about overstocking, if you plan to stay in business for long.

Expect the unexpected! Big rushes can leave your store extra messy and prone to accidents that will require fast cleanup (Consider the crowds, Google “Black Friday accidents”, then let your imagination run wild…). Adding security to your team to compensate for the big influx of customers is also a good insurance policy.

Power Up Your POS

Have you ever had to troubleshoot a faulty credit card terminal? It may be time for a new one if this is a common occurrence. Talk to your merchant account provider to see what your options are. Investing in a new terminal if you have a very old one is a wise investment, not only for speed and reliability but also for security.

Or, have you been putting off that software update? Now is the time to get it done! Consider adding another terminal to your checkout brigade. Imagine your line getting longer and longer as customers fill in faster than you can check them out. Arm one of your best sales reps with a handheld wireless terminal or even a pocket-sized mobile card reader. Both should be able to accept EMV chips and NFC payments like Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Android Pay for the most security and convenience. The mobile checkout station could ring up customers on the spot and offset the line.

Integrate as much as possible with your payment system—accounting, invoicing, inventory tracking, loyalty software—there are so many compatible applications that, when integrated, decrease your task load significantly.

Both credit card machines would link to the same merchant account and online reporting feature, so you’d have one comprehensive platform to track all your sales. Having an extra terminal also serves as a great back up if something goes wrong with your main squeeze.

Communicate with Your Merchant Account Provider

If you look at last year’s Black Friday numbers to see that your sales dramatically increased, maybe even doubled, and you have since switched merchant account providers, be sure to give your new provider a head’s up about your expected volumes. The last thing you want is for the heavy sales to look suspicious and lead to an inconvenient hold on funds, or an account freeze.

Both scenarios are a means of protection in the case of real fraud, but a serious hindrance during the holidays. When you keep the lines of communication open, your merchant account will be able to keep up with your business’s gangbuster week.

Set the Stage

Are you so caught up in the products you’re trying to sell that you’ve forgotten about that chipped paint on the wall? The bathroom that’s overdue for a makeover? Dull signage? That one light that’s been flickering for a month? Now is the time to make every inch of your store look new and inviting. Anticipate what might need to be updated soon so you don’t have any last minute projects before the big week.

Set your big-ticket items up in a nice display. Give customers plenty of space so they don’t feel cramped. And clean, clean, clean! Your sales funnel includes all aspects of your store, from the entrance to the impulse aisle.

Gauge Customer Satisfaction

We get it, you’ll probably want to recover for a couple of days after the first big holiday week. However, it’s also the time to gear up for the next holidays. Do you have an email list? Members who have agreed to SMS messages to stay in the know about your deals? After promoting your sales with email and text marketing (for example, sneak peeks of upcoming promotions) consider using it to send customers a follow up survey.

You’ll certainly have your hands full during Thanksgiving week, so setting this survey up in far in advance will help you distribute it with one click after Black Friday. By measuring customer satisfaction and reading their suggestions, you may notice patterns and gain some insight about how to adjust your strategy leading up to Christmas.