Flat wages and shaky consumer confidence will likely dampen the holiday sales surge for most retailers this year. With Deloitte forecasting a 4% increase in sales this holiday season, versus 5.2% last year, the domino effect is bound to hit seasonal staffing as well. According to Deloitte and a number of other research firms, several large retailers are planning to keep hiring flat or even slightly below last year’s levels. It’s a trend that I’m starting to see as well.
Keeping an eye on the forecast and responding by moderating or limiting your seasonal hiring is a good business decision but not one without consequences. Here are just a few of the issues you need to be aware of and be prepared for as we enter the 2015 holiday shopping season.
- Multiple customers per salesperson: Providing great service during high-traffic times is one of the biggest challenges in retail selling. With store sales still expected to be up 4% this holiday shopping season, a leaner staff means the interpersonal skills of your salespeople will have to be sharper than ever—whether they’re working in the fitting room, over the phone, or on the floor.
- More perishable sales moments: As the holidays approach (and they could be arriving sooner than you expect), those fleeting opportunities to sell value, validate choices, build rapport, and create the right mood will be even more critical. Your salespeople not only have to be on their toes and able to juggle multiple customers and their needs, they have to be able to capture attention and convert in the moment.
- The floor supervision factor: When staffing levels are stretched and customers are somewhat reluctant to spend money, effective floor supervision is key. Store leaders have to be able to connect customers to the team, read and respond to cues, and make every move count. They also have to be able to coach in real time to ensure salespeople are delivering value to an ever-more-informed customer base.
- Online’s effect in the store. While technology is playing an increasingly large role in the customer shopping journey, it’s not necessarily coming at the expense of in-store sales. In fact, Deloitte has found that conversions increase 40% when customers head online before and after they head to the store. But it takes an integrated approach to be successful. From the home office to the buyers to the leadership to the knowledge and experience demonstrated on the floor, all have to be aligned behind a clear set of values and expectations.
Take the steps now to equip your staff and supervisors with the kind of interpersonal behavioral skills that could very well make or break your 2015 holiday shopping season—and beyond.
What are the biggest challenges you’re anticipating this holiday season? Share in the comments or tweet us @mohrretail.