Never Too Early For Holiday Planning...

International Perspectives
As we all get ready to round the clubhouse turn for the 2020 stretch run into Q4, thoughts begin to turn to the crucial holiday selling season. And during this particularly bizarre year, those thoughts may have become a bit scrambled. After all, with a pandemic, civil unrest and an election right around the corner, you can be excused if there’s been a boatload of things on your mind of late. However, making sure you have all your holiday ducks in a row will be more important this year than perhaps ever before. And as consumer behavior and sentiments continue to change, a business-as-usual approach isn’t going to cut it in 2020. For starters, you’re still going to be dealing with inventory, labor, pricing and P&L challenges, along with an unemployment rate that could be north of 8%.
That being said, we’ve been chatting with our readers and scouring various reports, and one thing has become abundantly clear: the little things are going to take center stage this time around.
For instance: Your in-store layout and flow process: It is going to be monumentally important that customers entering your location to shop know you have a complete understanding of the rush they’ll be in, the mood they’ll be in and the mission they’ll be on. Any interruption here, and they will be gone. You need to make sure they know they are safe, will be handled by an understanding and knowledgeable staff and are taken care of promptly and courteously.
Mike McEnaney Editorial Director
This may seem obvious, but this year there are some new wrinkles to consider as pandemic-weary consumers will be attempting to end 2020 on some kind of a positive note. Make sure you help them do exactly that.  Speaking of staff: With curbside pickup and BOPIS undoubtedly a much bigger part of the equation this year, the hiring of extra staff takes on a new level of importance. Start thinking about this now, as businesses in many sectors will soon be hiring for the holiday surge and the college crowd will be home from school to stay, prior to Thanksgiving this year. Whether it’s shopping assistants, curbside product runners, BOPIS counter/carry-out help, etc., you’ll need all hands on deck – and the sooner you put a plan for this in place, the better. Answer this question now: What role can you make sure your brick-and-mortar location plays in supporting what will likely be greater online sales? Simply stated, make sure you have the resources to cover, pack and ship what could be a large-percentage increase in cyber sales. It’s probably a good idea to section off an area dedicated to BOPIS, as for some smaller locations this could easily become overwhelming.  Return-O-Rama: With the increase in online purchases, less customers will have had the chance to physically hold and test out products in-store. This will inevitably lead to what could be a major increase in return rates. This pandemic could very well still be raging post-holiday, so prepare accordingly – and carefully, based on your area’s COVID protocol. Handling returns in a timely, orderly fashion can help in getting 2021 off to a good start. Above all, stay positive. The pandemic has been creating odd little opportunities, as categories like home entertainment, home networking and computer accessories have all enjoyed a solid sales year thus far. And as discretionary spending on dining out, vacations and apparel have declined, consumers may very well spend some of those dollars on CE items as holiday gifts.