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WOW, it seems like we just finished with last Holiday season, and now it’s that time again!  Many retailers are well into the implementation of their plans for this important time of the year.  With the-Back-to-School rush over, you will see Holiday merchandise and décor beginning to appear in many department and specialty stores.  It goes without saying that the last quarter of the year is critical for many retailers.  Most will generate a significant percentage of sales and profits in the last two months.  So, my question to all of you is: where are you in the pre-planning for the Holidays?  Do you have a plan, and if not, should you still put a plan together?

To assist you, we have put together a checklist of things to remember to do in preparation for the busy Holiday season.  First, have your re-reviewed your cash goals for the season as measured against current sales trends, current inventory and on order and projected operating expenses?  Will you be on track to hit your goal?  If not, you should adjust now while there is still time.

Secondly, consider the following suggestions with the thought that everything mentioned can impact your cash and taking steps now will ensure that your goals are achieved or exceeded.  If establishing cash goals presents a challenge for you, contact your RMSA merchandising analyst for assistance.

  • Review your on order, by month and by classification – are you still confident in your original assortment plans or should you be adjusting to the current trends?
  • Have you followed your OTB faithfully? What are the risks and opportunities?
  • Do you have a plan in the event that sales exceed or missed projections? For example: promotions, sales incentives to associates, etc.?
  • How will you monitor sales performance frequently during the season so that you can adjust quickly to trends, good or bad?
  • Review merchandise receiving carefully for errors – too much, too little, short shipped key merchandise, etc.
  • Have you allowed for an easy transition for the customer from the sales floor to check out?
  • Have you scheduled Holiday events and activities such as fashion shows, trunk shows, vendor promotions and introductions, etc?
  • Have you prepared a floor plan for how and when you will present your Holiday merchandise to your customers?
  • How have you planned to merchandise your store taking advantage of key Holiday classifications?
  • Have you placed orders for extra supplies such as boxes, bags, tissue, tape, etc?
  • Have you anticipated and prepared for the potential for inventory shrinkage and taken appropriate action?

With the uncertain economy, many of your customers may be unwilling to spend as much this Holiday.  This presents both challenges and opportunities for you as a retailer.  You will need to be more creative in your product mix, visual merchandising, advertising efforts, and customer service.  You will also need to be more focused in your inventory assortment and item selection.  The more you know and listen to your customers, the greater advantage you’ll have in attracting them and keeping them in your store.

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