how to prepare for january sales
December 19, 2016

How to prepare for the January sales

It’s the most wonderful time of the year again, especially for retailers! Christmas is right around the corner, and so is the season of January sales.

Boxing day and the period after Christmas has long been a time where prices drop, crowds gather and retailers are run ragged trying to cope with increased demand and longer opening hours to try and shift their seasonal stock. Whilst this is a great opportunity for stores to give customers what they want by offering lucrative discounts at a time when pursestrings are tight, the January sales can also be a tough and trying time for those managing stores and in the trenches of the shopfloor – if you’re not prepared, that is!

So to help you feel a bit more ready for what’s to come, here’s our top tips for retailers on how to prepare for the January sales

1) Consider the sales you’ve already had this year, and whether they will affect the impact of going big for the sales in January. The whole Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend has become massively popular in the UK over the past couple of years, catching up to the USA, and a lot of retailers are makig the most of this by offering huge discounts, whether on selected lines or across the store. That’s great, but it’s fairly close to Christmas, and if you’ve made a really big deal out of Black Friday, it might mean that your customers have already looked through everything you have and made their buying decisions back then, meaning they’re not looking to spend again in January.

2) If you’re in, decide early. You’ll never make the most of the potential of the January sales if you decide to have one last minute, whack a few stickers on things and hope for the best. Participating in the January sales needs to be a strategic decision that you make early in the year, giving you chance to decide on what stock will be discounted, your approach, what you want out of the sales, your returns policy, and also to make sure your staff are prepared too. It’s also important to decide exactly when your sales are going to start and end, both online and in store. Retailers often start the discounts online early, just before Christmas Day, but they don’t start in store until Boxing Day.

3) Are you just trying to shift stock, or to be more targeted? There’s no one right way to do a big January sale. Adapt it to what your business needs, and what stock you want to sell the most of. It might be that you have more stock left over from Christmas than expected, and you want to get rid of as much of it as possible before it goes out of season and so blanket discounts might be the way. If that’s not what you need, and you don’t want to reduce your profit margin too much, then selecting really targeted lines that you know will sell well with a discount might be the way. It’s a delicate balance between volume and margin, and you have the power to decide what results you get from your January sales.

4) Make sure your supply chain is ready. This time of year means more sales, more stock and more deliveries to keep with up with what customers want. This means that not only do your systems and processes in store need to be at the top of their game, but your entire supply chain does too.  How are you going to know what’s sold out, and ensure you get a fresh delivery the next day? Do you need multiple deliveries, and more staff to handle them? Is there any way to speed up the process from sale to purchasing to delivery? You don’t want an error with your supply chain to prevent you from making those sales!

5) Test your website. If you sell online as well as in store, then you can expect a big spike in website traffic too over the January sale period – and you need to make sure your website can handle it. Make sure you know the capacity of your website’s hosting and how much traffic it can take, and that all the purchasing systems online are functioning properly. If your website goes down or people are unable to pay for their items, you could lose a huge amount of sales and it could even cause a huge headache later if people’s payment has been taken but the sale hasn’t gone through. Test everything early, and have tech support on hand if the worst should happen.

6) Up your manpower. Most retailers know they’re going to need more people on the ground during the festive sales period – queues at the tills are longer, people need more service to find what they’re looking for, and you want to try and keep the store as tidy as possible during the sales carnage! A lot of stores hire temporary workers for over Christmas, which can be beneficial, but only if they’re trained effectively. And, they should never be solely relied upon to manage the volume of customers – make sure you always have permanent experienced staff of all levels, senior and junior, present to assist temp staff and to ensure the customer experience isn’t affected by the sales.

7) Communicate key messages clearly to customers. Your store is likely to be pretty hectic during the January sales; to alleviate pressure on your staff it’s important that you try to give customers as much of what they need to know as possible. For example, if you’re changing your opening times during the festive period, great idea! But your customers need to know that for it to actually be beneficial, so spread the word online and in store beforehand. Also, some retailers decide to not process refunds on Boxing Day itself to protect the momentum of sales going through – if that’s the case, customers need to know before the day, or they could end up getting pretty irate if they’ve made the journey to your store for no reason. Key messages like this, as well as the promotions and discounts that you want to share with customers, should be displayed in store and shared online to ensure they have maximum impact, and that your customers are kept happy during this busy time too.

8) Prepare your team. Often, the sales staff on the shopfloor are the ones who have the toughest time during the January sales. They have to work quicker whilst maintaining standards and customer service, and the intensity of working in retail during the Christmas sales can easily affect morale. Making sure they are as prepared as possible to face the onslaught that’s coming is crucial – they need to know what’s included in the sales, what discount is on different departments, any special promotions and any changes in policy before the sales start, so they’re in as good a position as possible to help customers. Trying to reward them over the festive period can also help to boost positivity, whether it’s small gifts or a Christmas Jumper in store.

9) Stock up on essentials. We know the volume of customers and sales is going to increase during the post-Christmas sales, and also many suppliers may be closed over this time too. So, you need to plan in advance and make sure that you have enough of the essentials to get you by in the busiest time of the sales. That could include till roll, hangers – and, you guessed it, printed carrier bags! There’s nothing worse than running out of printed bags during your busiest period, so make sure to stock up on bags of all sizes to keep things running smoothly in store.

So, do tell us, how are you planning to prepare for the January sales? Are you looking forward to them this year, or deciding to put less of a focus on them? Either way, we hope you have a fab festive period!

And, if you are looking to stock up on printed bags before the sales hit, get in touch! We’ll do our best to get them to you as soon as possible – just call 0191 268 7555 or email to speak to our sales team.