By Mary West

As retail sales are most robust during the holiday shopping season, you’ll want to prepare your store to make the most of this profitable time. This season encompasses Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa; so your plans should include measures to encourage purchases for each occasion. Use a multifaceted approach that involves marketing strategies, security measures and much more. Here are some guidelines to help get your business ready and enable you to compete with your fellow merchants.

Gear Up for Halloween and Thanksgiving

Taking measures to impart a cozy fall ambiance in your store can lead to sales of seasonal merchandise. Decorate your store’s windows and interior with a harvest theme, using elements such as colored leaves and cornucopias. Infusing the area with a pumpkin scent will make your establishment an inviting place where patrons will want to linger and browse. Prominently display products people could use in their homes during these holidays, such as fall wreaths and centerpieces, along with scented candles and tins of spice tea.

black-friday-615x410Brace Up for Black Friday

Since Black Friday can be wild and crazy, brace up for this frenzied day. Space out sale items in different parts of the store to prevent traffic congestion. If you’re expecting a tremendous surge of customers, station a security guard at the door to allow only a limited number of shoppers inside at a time. This is one time when you’ll want to be sure and let people know about your deals and discounts, so advertise through multiple channels that include newspaper ads, emails and social media.

Get Customers in the Holiday Spirit

Fill your store with the sights and sounds of the season to get customers in the mood and encourage purchases. This can be accomplished by decorating and playing holiday music as well as arranging for staff to wear Santa hats. You could also set up a seating area around a table, where patrons can rest while helping themselves to holiday cookies.

Increase Staff

Anticipate the need for extra staff by hiring temporary salespeople and customer service representatives. This will save patrons the frustration of having to wait in long lines, a problem that can make them feel unappreciated. Attempts to skimp on your budget in this area would not be good for business.

Train Employees to Be Helpful

Instruct employees in how to make the shopping experience pleasant. When a customer asks the location of certain merchandise, the staff should take them to the items rather than merely tell them where to find them. Warm, friendly service can make a difference.

Supermarket ShoppingStock Adequate Inventory

Stocking enough inventory can be tricky because sometimes the demand can be impossible to predict. Do your homework by keeping a watch on which items are trending and expected to be hot. Goods that are released just in time for the holiday season should also do well.

Develop a Marketing Plan

Decide on what promotions and discounts you will offer and how you will get out the word. Your marketing plan can include an array of modalities such as newspaper advertising, email blasts and post cards. Use a marketing calendar to keep track of actions needed to meet deadlines, says Small Business Trends.

Offer Gift Cards

Gift cards are very popular with recipients, and they make shopping a snap for the givers. Instore suggests prominently displaying the cards near cash registers to remind customers of this option. Last-minute shoppers may particularly like the convenience of these gifts.

Create Gift Baskets

Intuit advocates creating gift baskets with your merchandise to entice shoppers looking for gift ideas. If you package them attractively, they can bring in sales. The baskets are good revenue-makers because they can often be sold at a higher price than the sum of their contents.

Display Themed Gifts

Set up displays of themed gifts, such as gifts for teachers and gifts for babies. These groupings are helpful, as they make gift selection easy. Have them prewrapped because this perk can motivate tired shoppers to grab for items that are ready to give.

Beef Up Security

Since the holiday season is a peak time for theft, employ extra security measures to minimize loss. Do background checks on employees, and make them aware that an inventory tracking system is in place. A report in the International Council of Shopping Centers also recommends training staff to notice behavior that is characteristic of a potential shoplifter, such as appearing nervous, avoiding eye contact and spending a lot of time in the store without buying.

Shopping OnlineConsider Going Mobile

The use of cells phones to make purchases in one of the major shopping trends in today’s world. According to LegalZoom, making your store mobile accessible is essential for growing your business. They advise optimizing your website for tablets and mobile devices along with ensuring that the checkout process is quick.

Boost Sales with Social Media

Set up a Facebook page and Twitter account for your store, since social media is a free but effective way to engage with customers and encourage sales. You can use Facebook to post holiday offers, limited-time specials, and pictures of popular products. In addition, it’s a good venue for conducting holiday-themed contests to win prizes. Twitter can also be used to notify followers of a holiday offer, linking to a sales page on your website.

Watch Your Expenditures

Although the holiday season can bring in more income, it can also involve more expenditures. You’ll be spending more on staff and perhaps more on marketing, so be careful not to exceed your budget. If funds are tight, choose economical alternatives for an expense whenever possible.