In retail, Christmas just isn’t what it used to be. The predictable December days of shopper-packed stores followed by the clamour for Boxing Day bargains has evolved.
Now, consumers spread out their spending, expect discounts in the run-up to the big day and rely on devices to swipe through products and purchase items on their shopping lists.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics reveal that retail sales in December 2017 were 1.5% lower than November while footfall was down by 3.5% in the final month of the year, the biggest decline since March 2013.
And with Black Friday tempting people with irresistible November deals, the dynamic of how and when people shop has significantly changed.
As Chris Love, Chief Alliances Officer at REPL, explains: “Retailers are faced with a much more complicated Christmas picture than ever before. Black Friday has become an event in itself so they now have to prepare for two seasonal peaks, spread out over a longer period of time.
“Understanding and reacting to this new Christmas landscape is crucial: planning and execution has to be more precise and more detailed.”
Here we explore how to meet these festive challenges head-on with cutting-edge technology products that boost productivity and deliver a very happy Christmas.
Challenge #1: Meeting Demand
From turkeys and tinsel to Echos and eReaders, demand for products reaches a crescendo in the final two months of the year. Demand for staff delivering the very best experience of your brand also peaks, as does the number of people you need on the shop floor.
Together, they create a perfect storm of potential headaches if you don’t deliver a seamless service. One that meets and exceeds customer and employee expectations.
Dealing effectively with this demand involves:
● Aligning staff availability with shifting patterns of demand
● Modelling periods of time effectively based on accurate data
● Motivating and scheduling temporary staff
● Streamlining in-store stock with warehouse availability
● Capitalising on existing data from previous Christmases
Solution #1: ADAPT
Your historical Christmas data is becoming obsolete. Based on shopping habits and footfall patterns that are changing rapidly, insights from five or even two years ago will become less and less relevant over time.
The answer is to introduce cutting-edge software that processes enormous amounts of data and equips you with the detailed insight you need to shine.
REPL’s ADAPT is a full suite of products designed to predict demand, forecast with unprecedented accuracy and precisely manage tasks.
Harnessing the power of artificial intelligence, and specifically machine learning, ADAPT produces unprecedented granular insights and exceptional forecasting accuracy.
ADAPT will arm you with the powerful data you need to cope with the two major peaks of the season. It will also meet the demands of not just millennials but Gen Z who will increasingly make up the majority of your staff and customers.
This ultimate labour modelling solution will transform your Christmas operations and profits for years to come.
Challenge #2: Sorting Schedules
Who, when and where is always important to your store. In November and December, it’s even more critical. You have more staff, longer opening hours and increased stock levels.
In addition, this is the holiday season after all and your employees won’t want to miss out on their slice of the festive action.
Managing holiday requests, especially on busy Bank Holidays and during late night opening, and matching those to the demands of the business is an extra job to juggle.
And what about the morning after the night before? If your office party is on Mad Friday, do you know who’s most likely to call in sick on the busiest Saturday of the season?
Get it wrong and you’ll be left with dissatisfied staff, disgruntled customers and distracted managers.
Solution #2: WFM Connect
The best software allows you to schedule with confidence and puts power back into managers’ hands.
REPL’s WFM Connect gives you control over every aspect of scheduling from viewing and editing timesheets to seeing demand for specific roles.
And if you do find yourself five team members down on that crucial Saturday morning, you can quickly access information, swap shifts and contact employees via your mobile to get numbers back up again.
By creating custom workflows, WFM Connect improves decision-making, boosts employee satisfaction and facilitates great customer service.
Empowered by having control over their schedules, staff will be driven to work more productively and perhaps be less tempted to give in to that hangover.
Challenge #3: Streamlining Stock
Keeping on top of stock at the busiest time of year is almost impossible if done manually.
Error-prone, time-consuming and a chore that diverts your attention away from the rest of the business.
It’s a common conundrum: that the time you need to focus more on inventory is the exact time you have fewer hours available to do it.
This is especially true within the hospitality business when pubs, bars and restaurants have to maintain stock levels to cope with the influx of office parties, family gatherings and festive knees-ups. Balancing efficient stock administration with exemplary customer service is a seasonal tradition the industry could do without.
And if you don’t know precisely what stock you’ve got, implementing your discount strategy will be plagued with extra difficulties. Poor stock data will compound an already-complex decision-making process.
“When retailers discount has changed recently,” adds Chris Love. “No longer is Boxing Day or December 27th the first day of the sales. Instead, there’s often a battle between retailers and consumers: stores hang on for as long as demand is there, trying not to lose their nerve.
“If you have a clear view of what stock you have to shift, your sales strategy will be significantly easier.”
Solution #3: ESO Connect
The days of relying on outdated stock control and manual recording are over. No forward-thinking retailer can count on inefficient systems that compromise productivity and profitability.
REPL’s ESO Connect introduces seamless stock management to your operations, creating a fluent connection between departments.
It transforms stock counts by using tools such as real-time functionality, barcode scanning and mobile flexibility to ensure entries are error-free.
Its efficiency leads to fewer out-of-stocks as you can order and replenish items swiftly and accurately. The result? Fewer disappointed customers leaving your premises empty-handed, more sales and more profit.
Challenge #4: Tracking Time
With usual shift patterns turned on their heads and temporary staff hours to account for, keeping an accurate record of time attendance is another Christmas complication.
Extended opening hours will add overtime figures, Bank Holiday working will change pay rates and, if you offer flexi-time, employees will be making the most of their stored hours.
The admin burden of accounting for all these atypical shifts can easily eat into time you need to assess stock, deal with staff issues and meet customers on the shop floor.
Solution #4: RTA Clocks
You can take control of time with the latest physical and mobile clocking solutions. REPL’s RTA Clocks range incorporates cutting-edge tech to speed up capturing punches and improve clocking flexibility.
Operated centrally and mobile-friendly, you can easily access all employees’ time records to monitor attendance and compliance. Updating to RTA Clocks can simplify an unavoidable task, saving time, and improve data accuracy, saving money.
Challenge #5: Engaging Employees
Existing employees may have worked in retail over Christmas once before or several dozen times. However familiar they are with what lies ahead, keeping them engaged and their morale high is important.
Alongside listening to their shift preferences, you need to ensure they’re fully bought-in to your brand’s Christmas ranges, marketing messages and promotions.
Well-informed, enthusiastic staff on the shop floor will translate to satisfied customers. Customers who’ll be more likely to purchase from a friendly human than to leave and place an online order with a competitor.
Solution #5: Gloodoo
Communication is key here. REPL’s Gloodoo allows you to create a community for your workforce.
You can update the team on seasonal products via Gloodoo’s feed, encourage idea-swapping in secure chat rooms and share important documents in the cloud, such as updates for the switch from Christmas to sales trading.
Accessed by their mobile device, Gloodoo strengthens personal connections across the store and is especially useful for engaging temporary staff with your brand.
The flexible task management function can be used to incentivise task completion, boosting productivity.
Invested in your brand, your team will take pride in their work resulting in exceptional customer service over the critical Christmas period.
By the end of 2017, online purchases accounted for one in every five pounds spent. When the Christmas craziness calms down, the online onslaught will continue.
Future-proof your business now with game-changing tech and you’ll be one step closer to competing with and outshining the competition. You’ll be reaping the benefits all year round, not just at Christmas.