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Indy Stores Reveal 10 Secrets to Maximize Holiday Profits

Updated: Apr 15

Simple strategies executed in minutes with bottom line results. Finish this season far better than you imagined.

Holiday shoppers are out and about (rather than ordering online) because they want to shop, to discover, to be inspired... They want to viscerally feel the magic of the season. They want to find that perfect, insightful gift. And then they'll buy it.

Independents are the perfect place for holiday magic and you're wanting to make the season really count for your store. We've been watching the most successful among you for decades and here are a few things we've learned:

1. Give them a spot to breathe, collect themselves and get intrigued.

Avoid the temptation to overwhelm with merchandise at the door. People rush in. Ignore the window (rushing through the traffic, the rain, the snow, the cold, the wind...). They arrive and adjust their purse, their child, their coat.

And then they stop for just a second and look. Just like a home needs a good arrival spot, your store needs a welcoming entrance that says "you can breathe here, take your time, settle in... no one is going to poke you in the side or push you along. You'll be inspired here." It takes a few seconds for their minds and spirits to catch up with their bodies -- to arrive. When that happens, make sure your invitations are clear. "Now walk... this way..."

2. Give them a landing strip. Move your baskets and signs 10 feet in, rather than next to the door.

Ask them "May I help you?" the moment they walk in and they'll say "No, thanks." nearly every time. Put fliers or shopping baskets next to the door and they will miss them. Move them in 10 feet and they'll disappear. Pay attention to this transition zone and get your most intriguing merchandise on the inside of it -- not in the space of the customer's transition from outside to inside.

3. Amenability and profitability are entwined. Take care of the former and the latter will follow.

Instead of a barrage of before-its-time helpfulness, a welcoming and warm greeting that reminds them -- somehow -- of where they are is helpful. A simple "Hello!" will do. And then your shelves can continue the conversation. Warm, welcoming, centered -- that's your store experience evidenced in thousands of little friendly ways.

4. Give them two hands.

How often do you have the luxury of having both hands free? And yet, we don't think a lot about helping shoppers lighten the load. Where can they tuck their purse or things while they look for a book? Once they've picked up five or six things, how can they continue? Does your staff help them by putting back a few of their "maybes" like a good dress shop starts a dressing room? Scatter baskets throughout the store and examine the placement of your fixtures and merchandise. Create some landing spaces to make it easy to stand and shop.

5. Shelf Talkers: If they're in a bookstore, it's a decent bet that they like to read. Let's give them something to read as they shop.

Shelf talkers look messy. But real. And if a real person just said hello, there's a good shot that nice person wrote this shelf talker. It's rather like reading a bit of their diary. Intriguing. Perhaps I'll pick that up... and if I touch it, I'm 73% more likely to buy it.

6. Leverage the Silent Sales Force: Your Fixtures

Your fixtures are going to interact with every customer. With shelf talkers, "Blind Date Books," signage and book placement, they're going to be "hand selling" for you. You can make gorgeous displays that, like flowers, make an impression. But concentrate on the interaction and experience that each fixture gives your customer: an open book, a hand-written note, a personal recommendation -- "My 15 year old, incredibly intelligent niece LOVED this book"-- Sally These go a long way in creating those sales.

7. Think Zones and Simple Signs. Think Burma Shave.

Remember the Burma Shave signs? One at a time, unveiling the message. That was effective. If you have a complex message, break it up, let it unfold. The best sign is one that can be read fast and positioned so that you can read while moving.

And zones help people orient: The kid's zone, architecture, something weird. It's like a compass giving a directional path that can be chosen with discoveries along the way. Simple, visual cues with color and lighting draw them like bees to flowers...

8. Engage the senses: Touch, See, Discuss, Recognize... and let me score a bargain too!

We're a tactile-deprived society and shopping is one of our few chances to experience the material world. Encourage touch. Use Feature Face-out shelves, T-shelves, Wall tables, nesting tables to bring books and things within reach.

Add some mirrors (but not too many) -- people like seeing themselves. And stop. And find merchandise.

Discuss: create an atmosphere that fosters dialogue and interaction among customers and between staff and customers.

Recognize: People will buy where they feel wanted, where they find the familiar, and pay a little more for the privilege of being "at home" -- you can do this with merchandise, décor or any contact that makes customers feel truly special.

Bargain... create the buzz around a stack of this or that... the space where it gets a bit crowded and we should grab it now... and then go shop the rest of the store with a bit of room for thought.

9. Use Wisely the Wonderful Wall Table

If yours has a slatwall back, some t-shelves and a waist high table, you've got a very versatile sales tool on your hands. For the shoppers who need a bit of guidance, this is the perfect place to combine books and other merchandise thematically. A busy Mom can gather what she needs on her way to a baby shower: a plush, a book, a remembrance and an early scholastic toy all in one stop. A guy looking for gift inspiration can find a book on dogs, a set of playing cards with dog faces, a dog toy and a t-shirt -- all in one nicely merchandised, wonderful wall table.

10. Plan for purchase lines (and their elimination) and gift wrap...

If you don't have one, an extra, modular counter on wheels is a great investment. You can split the line or move gift wrapping to a secondary location. If people perceive a long line at the moment they want to exit, well, you know what you might do. They'll do that too. Set up a temporary and rapid "additional lane" for checkout, move pick up orders to a different location... see what you can do to eliminate the perception of waiting.

And (bonus) -- set yourself up for the real leap in the new year with opportunities for in-store engagement and personal connection. Consider new double shelves with casters that can easily rearrange for events.

Engage and profit this holiday season, making a magical difference while you're at it.

updated 3-2024

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