Holiday Preparation, Step 1: Forecasting and Communication

by Brian Field on 07-29-16

Introducing: ShopperTrak’s Holiday Prep Series

1st Installment: Forecasting and Communication

Welcome to ShopperTrak’s Holiday Prep Series, a series of regular posts that aims to guide retailers through the busy holiday season by offering advice, best practices, and timelines for all things holiday. We’ll be here from now through January, writing articles, holding webinars, and producing great content that will help retailers keep their priorities in order as the holiday season approaches. 

This week, we’re looking more closely at what retailers should be doing right now to get on track for a profitable holiday season. Check out our advice below on the importance of Forecasting and Communicating in July.

 Steps to Holiday Success, A Retailer’s Guide
Step 1: Forecasting and Communication

In the world of retail, the phrase “Christmas in July” is no laughing matter. Though sunny July days may put thoughts of the holiday out of mind, the month marks the beginning of a new period during which every member of a retail organization should, if they haven’t already, begin preparing for the upcoming holiday season.

The end of July is the ideal time for all retailers to prioritize their holiday initiatives, and make sure that everyone else does, too. Making a point to forecast major projects and communicate expectations cross-functionally in advance will save time and headaches as the season amps up and the inherent pandemonium of it all pulls attention and resources in all directions.

The ultimate goal of holiday prep is to enable a streamlined, data-backed approach to maximizing profit potential during the season. To achieve this, leverage the functionally specific advice on holiday preparation that follows. This way, you’ll gain a better understanding of what to expect from members of each function as holiday preparation begins.

Holiday Preparation Goals, by Function
Develop and finalize a holiday promotional schedule that will inform others of the timing and various types of upcoming promotions. Share the schedule with leaders from other departments to get feedback and buy-in. Eventually, this schedule will be used to inform decisions on staffing and training. Additionally, be thinking through the smaller details that accompany larger promotions e.g., signage, seasonal bags, holiday wrapping materials, etc.

As the holiday approaches, the first question on everyone’s mind will be, “What new products will be available and at what locations?” Satisfy their curiosity by communicating your plans cross functionally, and incorporating feedback accordingly. Later in the season, this information will help DMs and store managers determine what types of training they should focus on during the season (e.g., product training or “back-to-basics”).

Regardless of previous modeling, now is the time to broadcast and reiterate the company’s annual financial goals to employees at all levels. The more awareness that’s created around annual goal status, the better. If possible, dig deep and release specific, individualized performance goals for a variety of targets: e.g., by region, market, store peer groups, zip code.

Forecast and commit to critical shipping dates throughout the holiday season, as this will help put all in-the-field employees at ease. Be sure to create plans that all store managers can eventually reference that covers key shipping dates, times, etc., as well as instructions that cover procedures for handling additional and larger shipments and for reacting when inventory is low.

Because store managers do not have time to troubleshoot technology glitches during the holiday season, confirm that all system modifications and other updates are on track to be completed well before the season approaches. Devise and adjust strategies for all projects that might not be completed before the cut off point – that is, the point at which all non-critical tech work ceases for the holiday season.

Loss Prevention:
Draft materials for dissemination on managing and tracking inventory in the store and share across functions. Be sure to include general guidelines that detail best practices for loss prevention.

Prepare for corporate goals to be communicated down to the store level. To do this, align your holiday prep efforts with the goals of members from the functional areas listed above. Now is the time to begin the process of setting meetings, anticipating deliverables, and creating completion timelines with your business partners, so that a comprehensive communication and action plan can be distributed in time for the store teams to execute.

Like this post? Stay tuned for step II and a brand new Holiday Prep. Infographic that outlines high-level best practices for retailers throughout the entire six-month holiday period.

Read more posts by Brian Field

Brian Field is the Senior Director of Retail Consulting Practice for ShopperTrak, where he oversees the application of ShopperTrak's proprietary solutions to retailer-specific issues across different functional areas in order to drive top and bottom line store performance. Prior to joining ShopperTrak, Brian served in roles of increasing responsibility at Chico’s FAS Inc., including as the director of corporate store operations and finance. Brian has spent nearly four decades in the industry, and his experience includes: store sales and management, training, merchandising, strategic planning and analysis for brands as diverse as David’s Bridal, Circuit City and Macy's.