Gearing up for a busy 2014 holiday season

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Merchants large and small should be excited about the recent news from the National Retail Foundation. The organization predicted a significant increase in sales for this year's winter holiday season. The NRF anticipates a 4.1 increase in overall retail sales in the U.S. during the fourth quarter of 2014, which translates into a total of $616.9 billion to be spent by consumers, according to Reuters. This predicted growth is strong and outperforms the gains made from 2012 to 2013. Reuters reported that the year-to-year gain in that time period was 3.1 percent, which slightly outperformed the average growth of 2.9 percent during the past decade. Of course, in this instance the word slightly refers to billions of dollars.

Retailers that want to have greater success during the upcoming holiday season have to make sure their stores are optimized for customer interaction. Having engaging displays, products that are easily within reach and a quick, efficient checkout path and process are all important components needed to handle the increased volume of customers and, if things go right, of sales as well. Although there are many different changes that business owners can make as the holiday season approaches, here are a few of the biggest ones that retailers need to make well ahead of time.

  • Showcases: Having products in a well-defined display area is one of the most basic concepts of effective visual merchandising. Businesses that don't already have a showcase in place – or only have fixtures that have seen better days – need to have a way to securely display their most desirable and interesting products. Showcases offer a balance between visibility and safety, creating an environment where customers can look at the products in the showcases but not touch them. Some signage directing shoppers to an area where they can actually purchase the items completes the display.
  • Signage: Signs allow businesses to efficiently share information with customers and are especially valuable during times when there's increased customer volume throughout a store. Although they aren't big-ticket items like showcases, signs help keep operations organized during busy periods in a store. Having some blank signage on hand helps when it's time for a last-minute sale or customers need to be alerted to the impending arrival of a new shipment of a popular product.
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