Beat the Slow Summer Season and Boost Retail Productivity

Beat the Slow Summer Season and Boost Retail Productivity

As summer approaches, retailers face the challenge of maintaining productivity during the holiday season. Employees take time off and customers’ shopping patterns change as they spend more time outdoors, enjoying the weather. These changes can make it tempting to slow down and take it easy until autumn.

For many businesses, however, slowing down is not an option. Fierce competition combined with economic challenges means retailers need to stay focused on keeping retail productivity levels high and hitting sales targets.

The summer months are also traditionally the slowest period for e-commerce sales as well; however, PwC’s 2023 Global Consumer Insights Pulse Survey revealed that 43% of consumers intended to increase their online shopping before the end of the summer – things may be different to usual this year, so retailers with online stores can capitalize on that.

This article will review some tips that retailers can use to beat the summer struggles and maintain their productivity.

7 Ways to Boost Retail Productivity During the Holiday Season

1. Review Last Summer’s Sales Data

The first step in planning for the upcoming season is to review the sales data from the previous year to determine which products sold well during the summer season; from there, you can plan to stock those products accordingly.

2. Offer Summer Promotions

Depending on your inventory, you may have the opportunity to attract customers through seasonal campaigns i.e., promotions on summer-related products such as swimwear, sunglasses, items for the beach, sunscreen and related cosmetics, camping and outdoor gear, outdoor sports equipment, garden furniture and equipment, seasonal home décor, and so on. Food retailers can do the same with promotions on popular summer items such as BBQ-related inventory, ice-cream, cold drinks, etc.

For any retail business that does not stock such items, it’s worth considering which segments may be more active during the summer and planning promotions that will attract them. For example, consider a region that gets an influx of tourists at this time of year; if there is an overlap between what those tourists are likely to be doing in the area and what your inventory has to offer, there may be an angle to use for promotion in that regard. It’s just a matter of discovering which segments may already have an interest in your products during the summer season and capitalizing on that.

Even if your brand does not currently stock items that are popular during summer, is there a way that such items could relate to what you already sell? Could you expand your inventory to include them?

Finally, if you sell items that are in-demand throughout the year but you experience reduced foot traffic in the summer, setting up promotions for online orders is another option.

Advertising all promotions through email marketing and social channels will be important because, if customers are not visiting stores in person so much, they won’t come across these promotions any other way.

3. Drive E-Commerce Sales

Above, we mentioned encouraging customers to order online if they are less likely to visit stores in person. Once they are online, here are some suggestions to keep them returning as well as bring in new customers:

  • Improve the online shopping experience: Make sure that your e-commerce platform is user-friendly, easy to navigate, and mobile-responsive. If you haven’t already, you can implement features such as live chat, product reviews, and personalized recommendations to enhance the experience and encourage customers to make purchases.
  • Focus on customer service: Ensure that your customer service teams are readily available to answer questions, resolve issues, and provide support to online shoppers. Again, implementing chatbots helps reduce response times and as well as your staff’s workload.
  • Offer free shipping and returns: Offering free shipping and returns during the summer months can help reduce the barrier to entry for online shoppers who are hesitant to pay for shipping or return fees.
  • International promotions: International retailers aren’t limited by the seasons. While it’s summer in Europe, setting up promotions on winter products for customers living in areas where it’s winter will help compensate for slower in-store traffic.

4. Analyze Weather Data

Depending on your location, there may be times during the summer when temperatures are more mild, or there may be unexpected rain or storms. These weather changes may drive customers back to their usual patterns, so it’s important to be prepared for possible surges and schedule adequate staff for those days – you will then be able to capitalize on the busier days within the season.

In addition, weather data can inform marketers of potential heatwaves, enabling the promotion of related products just in time. This type of agility is easier with online sales as promotions can be prepared in advance; when the forecast proves to be correct, customers will be informed at the click of a button.

5. Cross-Train Employees

To ensure employee productivity in retail, cross-train staff – this helps to make the most of the workforce when employees are off on holiday. Instead of being short-staffed, the respective departments will be able to transfer employees between them in order to cover all bases.

6. Focus on Other Business Activities

The holiday season is a good time to focus on other aspects of the business, such as stock takes and inventory management, staff training, and refurbishments. Aligning such activities with times of slower sales prevents the need to conduct them during the busy autumn and winter seasons when your staff need to be available to conduct their usual responsibilities.

The slow season is also a good time to implement projects such as improving stockroom organization or upgrading technology, whether that’s implementing a new POS system or workforce management solution.

It’s also a good idea to get ahead with planning for autumn during this time, reviewing sales data from the previous year, assessing inventory levels, projecting staff requirements, and planning promotions and events for the upcoming season.

7. Boost Retail Staff Productivity and Morale

When foot traffic slows, boredom will set in, especially for shop floor staff. Here are a few ways to keep them engaged and motivated:

  • Keep the workplace at the right temperature: Don’t overlook the obvious such as the air temperature in workspaces. In fact, some studies suggest that 22-24 °C is the optimum range for productivity. On the other hand, it depends on the type of tasks being done; some studies show that people perform complex tasks better in cooler temperatures while repetitive tasks are best reserved for warmer workspaces.
  • Incentives: Offer incentives such as bonuses or prizes for meeting sales goals or other performance metrics. Rewards can boost retail staff productivity and keep employees focused and motivated during the slowest of times.
  • Host team-building activities: Summer is a great time to plan team-building activities, such as company picnics, BBQs or other outings, helping to build camaraderie.
  • Provide opportunities for learning and development: Development opportunities is a vital component of ensuring engagement and employee productivity in retail, and summer is the perfect time to do it. Consider it an investment that will pay off once the busy season gets going.
  • Offer flexible scheduling: During the summer months, many employees may have extra family commitments. Offering flexible scheduling options, such as shortened work weeks or flexible hours can help employees balance their work and personal lives, and reduce stress and burnout.

How to Reduce Costs in the Slow Season

If things don’t go to plan and sales are slow, here are some ways to reduce your expenses:

  • Staffing: Review your sales reports and consider rostering less staff on quiet days. Also consider restricting your opening hours if it’s clear from your sales data that certain times of day are not profitable.
  • Supplier management: Review and negotiate with suppliers to establish better terms.
  • Reduce inventory: Reduce your inventory levels in order to lower holding costs. This can be achieved by slowing down or delaying the procurement of new stock, as well as avoiding stocking items that are not selling well given the season.
  • Focus on profitable products: As alluded to above, focus on selling products that have a higher margin during the summer.
  • Use technology: Technology can streamline your operations and reduce costs. For example, inventory management software can help to reduce holding costs while workforce management software can reduce labor costs by up to 10%.

In Summary

Amidst a drop in foot traffic and employees taking time off, the challenge of maintaining retail productivity emerges. However, there are plenty of strategies to implement that can help to boost those summer sales figures.

Reviewing the previous summer’s sales data is a good place to start in order to determine which products are likely to sell best. Sufficient stock can then be held and items that did not sell well can be ordered in smaller quantities.

Other suggestions included offering seasonal promotions, driving online sales, and keeping a close eye on weather data to ride the wave of related sales trends, and to optimize staff levels in case of unexpected rainy days where customers are more likely to shop in-store. Cross-training employees helps maintain retail staff productivity so that when employees are on holiday, there is always someone available to fill their shoes.

Finally, organizations can use the summer months to focus on other important projects, such as refurbishments and staff training. And remember to boost morale for your shop floor staff who may get bored due to a lack of customers.

MANUS is Europe’s most experienced enterprise workforce management software provider. To discover how we can revolutionize your WFM processes and cut labor costs by 7 – 10%, contact us today to book a demo.

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