Sorry to bring up the obvious, but COVID has had an impact on every retailer across the world. For many small businesses, the pandemic has made it clear just how fragile any organization is. With financial assistance from the government and a whole lot of grit, most businesses have so far weathered the storm. And hopefully, the worst is behind us.

But for most businesses, the most important time of the year is approaching, and it’s critical to minimize the impact of COVID. The holiday season typically accounts for a disproportionate amount of total sales for the year. Both online and brick and mortar retailers depend on this time to improve their bottom lines and make the year profitable. Since it’s already October (?!?!) it’s important to start preparing. Take a look below to learn how to handle the retail holidays with COVID, how to follow the rules, and how to make your customers feel safe and happy.

  1. Start Early
  2. Stay Positive
  3. Improve Your eCommerce Store
  4. Keep Brick and Mortar Stores in Mind
  5. Clean, Clean, Clean
  6. Pay Attention to Inventory
  7. Add Outdoor Shopping Space
  8. Follow Capacities

1. Start Early with 2020 Holiday Retail Planning

As with any retail preparations, it’s important to plan ahead and start early. Some of you may have even started planning months ago. If so, good for you! If not, it’s not too late.

And with COVID thrown into the mix this year, early preparation is even more important. Supply chains are more up in the air than ever and managing your inventory is a monumental task. Running out of items during the holidays can be extremely costly for retailers, both in terms of lost sales and lost shoppers.

2. Stay Positive

Yes, 2020 has been a relative nightmare; there’s getting around that. But there is still a whole lot to look forward to and be excited about. For business owners, the 2020 holiday season could be one of your best yet. In fact, one prominent recent study determined that consumers aren’t planning on reducing their spending at all during this year’s holiday season.

While brick and mortar shopping might be down, eCommerce spending will certainly be far greater than it was last year. Many consumers spent the first half of the year pinching pennies due to the lack of certainty, but with consumer confidence on the rise and the likelihood of a vaccine in the coming months, shoppers have already shown a greater willingness to spend.

All in all, don’t be pessimistic about this year’s holiday season but be prepared to offer an omnichannel shopping experience.

3. Strengthen Your eCommerce Game

With about two-thirds of shoppers saying they’ll increase their eCommerce spending this holiday season, it’s important that retailers be ready.

Taking these simple steps for your online store will help your business succeed this holiday season. Remember that convenience is of the utmost importance for shoppers, especially during the hectic holidays. Listen to feedback and make adjustments when you see fit.

4. But Don’t Ignore Your Brick and Mortar Shop

Even though improving your eCommerce presence will be a priority this year (and for years going forward), don’t let that mean you take anything away from your physical store. Brick and mortar retailing is far from dead, and most consumers still plan to do some of their shopping in-person this year, too.

As you’re doing now, follow all local, state, and federal guidelines surrounding COVID. Adhere by capacities, masks, food and beverage rules, and general cleanliness guidelines.

5. Keep It Clean

Speaking of brick and mortar stores, the most important aspect of the shopping experience for your customers will be overall store cleanliness. It’s good to hold yourself to a high standard of cleanliness during normal times, but it’s especially important during a holiday season with COVID. In fact, the overwhelming majority of shoppers said that they’d be far likelier to make a purchase from a business that is closely following COVID guidelines.

  • Add a small hand sanitizing station near all entrances and exits
  • Keep high traffic areas especially clean, like your checkout areas and bathrooms
  • Implement a daily cleaning checklist 
  • Train all staff with common procedures and processes
  • Consult experts if you need additional advice

6. Take Care of Your Retail Inventory

COVID aside (and holidays aside, for that matter), maintaining a robust inventory management system is absolutely essential to running a great operation.

  • Take a look back at past holiday seasons to better anticipate forecasting
  • Determine any new inventory you want to add to your store
  • Talk to your suppliers to get a heads up if there are any delays in the supply chain
  • Implement a perpetual inventory counting system
  • Use your retail sales metrics to better understand pricing and plan promotions

For more information on how to better manage your inventory check out the rest of our blog like these helpful guides:

7. Add Outdoor Shopping Space

For brick and mortar stores, adding some outdoor space is a great way to attract more foot traffic and also bring in shoppers who might be more concerned with the indoor confines of a traditional store.

Some stores are adding retail space on their sidewalk and curbside areas. You can add some shelves or racks to the space outside your store and advertise with some storefront signage. Just be sure to check with city regulations to be sure you’re following all local rules.

Pop-up shops or local outdoor festivals are also great ways to sell during COVID. If weather permits in your area, participate in community events to sell more and build your brand.

8. Stay in Capacity Guidelines

While you want to maximize your store’s visitors during holiday shopping, you’ll also need to closely follow all capacity guidelines. There are ways to do so without inconveniencing your shoppers or losing any business.

  • Give shoppers a heads up. Let them know that there will be capacity limits and that they may need to wait a short period of time prior to entering.
  • Add extended hours. With fewer people able to be in your store at any given time, extending your store’s hours allows for more shoppers to come through during the day.
  • Keep lines well marked and adequately spaced to promote social distancing and make your shoppers feel safer.
  • Add lines outside the store to allow people to line up easily if there is a wait to enter.

To learn more about managing your store during COVID or during the holiday season, check out the rest of the blog. This is a tough time no matter how much preparation is done, but small changes and extra steps can make it a bit easier. Make this holiday season a bit easier on yourself by starting early and embracing the changes that we all have to live with. And to learn more about how a better point of sale can help you this season, click below. And for more COVID-related blogs, here are some additional resources:

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