Black Friday is coming, and retailers are bracing for the long store hours and the hordes of demanding customers. The National Retail Federation’s Holiday Consumer Spending Survey estimates that people will spend $804.42 during the holiday shopping season. That’s up nearly 5 percent over last year’s total of $767.27. And many of these customers will be swiping their cards on Black Friday in hopes of getting a good deal.
Black Friday can be overwhelming to employees and managers. However, this retail mad rush doesn’t have to end in a riot. A retailer that’s well prepared with the right personnel, the right plan, and the right technology can survive and thrive on Black Friday.
Here are some tips.
Pre-planning is essential
In an article for the Times-Picayune, Corey Gaines, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) consultation manager of the Louisiana Workforce Commission, said that each retailer that plans to open during Black Friday, or the night before, should have clear plan of action ahead of time of how they’ll direct crowds, what parts of the store will be open, how many customers they’ll let in at a time. You need to consider worst-case scenarios and plan accordingly. It’s okay to map it out.
Communication and coordination for both employee and customer
Two-way radios can help employees stay in constant contact with each other. If a problem arises, they should be able to notify a manager without leaving their station. Customers should also be made aware of expectations for Black Friday. Gaines says stores should let customers know before they step into the store that they’ll be directed wherever they need to go.
Today, your seasonal help learns to swim in the deep end
Retailers should already have acquired and trained their seasonal hires for the year. On Black Friday, it needs to be all hands on deck. Garner said all of the store’s workers should work in shifts throughout the day with scheduled breaks. The store should consider providing lunch for its workers.
Consider safety reinforcement
For larger retailers, the lone security guard who’s always in the store probably won’t cut it. Gaines suggests bringing in extra officers to ensure customers and workers feel safe. They’ll also be on the scene in case any emergencies happen.
Technology to improve the shopping experience and manage flow
LRS has developed solutions to meet the needs of the retail industry on Black Friday.
Use of a paging system can help usher guests through with text messaging or messaging devices. If there is a long wait, the system can prevent dangerous crowd bottlenecks by improving flow and efficiency. Such systems can also be used to help employees stay better connected to know when their break is over and if they need to report to potential surge at the register.
A wait list system such as On Cue can also organize and manage crowds. “Door buster” deals do not need to literally bust down a door. Instead, the mob can be divided into smaller groups, so everyone can get what they came for. On Cue provides greater visibility into operations, so that customers understand wait time and adjust their expectations appropriately.
Once Black Friday is over, it’s important to assess and plan for next year. Timely customer feedback through Check Point is one way to learn from your experiences to better prepare for next time. Check Point uses tablet-based electronics surveys that you can customize.
The success of the holiday shopping season can make or break a store. And for many, it all begins on Black Friday. Despite the foreboding connotation of a “Black Friday,” with the right planning, it doesn’t need to be so gloomy.
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Skip Cass is the chief executive officer at LRS and an expert in operational efficiency and creating a memorable guest experience.