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Take 5: Holiday Weekend Reflection

Retailers confess what they would have done differently for the post-Thanksgiving sales rush.

Stores were certainly bustling this Thanksgiving weekend, according to reports from The NPD Group. However, traffic was sporadic with more people having done a little holiday shopping before Thanksgiving than in prior years. With the rush of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday finally over, we polled retailers about what they would have done differently in hindsight to attract more sales.

  1. Promote more. The biggest draws of retail holidays are the sales and promotions offered to consumers. But to compete with web deals, it takes more than having a good sale. Crystal Chase, owner of Lovebug Baby in Las Vegas, NV, wants to up her promotion game for next year. “I heard from other stores that they had a good turnout when they offer a free gift with purchase,” Chase says. Manufactures will often partner with their retailers to take the stress of special promotions and free gifts off on a store’s margins.
  2. Take advantage of Cyber Monday. With the continuing dominance of online retail, some brick-and-mortar stores report a desire to elevate online traffic in the future. Lovebug Baby has e-commerce site, according to Chase, but she didn’t do much to promote it this year. Diane Etherington, owner of The Children’s Hour in Salt Lake City, UT, doesn’t have an e-store, but she does post on Instagram every day and sells over the phone. “This is my first year dealing with online sales, and we had a very busy weekend this year,” Etherington says. “Next year we may post more.”
  3. Enhance the experience. Competing with online sales becomes easier when stores create an experience for their consumers. Usually Sandy Sidoti, owner of Bringing Up Baby in Boston, MA, holds a free Thanksgiving craft to bring in a surge of customers a little before the madness of Black Friday. “This year I had a week of jury duty, so I just didn’t have time for a Thanksgiving craft which might have been helpful driving numbers,” Sidoti says. To make up for it, she’s bringing in a shadow puppet show this weekend and will be serving pizza and drinks to the families who attend.
  4. Utilize American Express SBS materials. To help the businesses participating in Small Business Saturday, American Express provided doormats, signs, bags and other promotional materials to draw customers into shops. Last year, Etherington used everything American Express provided. But this year, she missed the opportunity to use those products. “I don’t know if I missed the memo, but we ended up not having those things this year,” Etherington says. “I need to be more inquisitive about that next year. It makes a difference.”
  5. Sell with a smile. Retail holidays are just as stressful for shop owners as those waiting in lines. Sidoti thinks getting too caught up in posting the lowest sale or opening earlier than competitors detracts from the spirit of the holiday retail season. “People are supposed to enjoy Thanksgiving with their family, and we’re losing that as a culture because of oversaturated retail,” she says. “And from the retail numbers, the store sales weren’t that exceptional on Black Friday anyway.” Instead of focusing on huge discounts and fancy ad campaigns, Sidoti says it should come down to delivering great product, great service and an overall spirited feeling of community.   

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