Perspectives

From The Co-Founders

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Strategic insights and commentary from The ROI Co-Founders, Pat Johnson and Dick Outcalt
Outcalt & Johnson: Retail Strategists LLC; Retail Turnaround Experts


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Big Waves Incoming! Ready to Take Advantage?

This Holiday season is bringing three big waves for retailers, in rapid succession. And each one requires a strikingly different management response. 

Wave #1 - the High Margin Wave - has begun in earnest, and will continue through Christmas Eve.

Faced with the shipping delays (and surcharges), customers have turned to brick-and-mortar stores. The savvy retailers are ready for them.

  • Customers will want plenty of reassurance of your health safety procedures. There's a virus out there, remember?
  • Some stores may offer shopping-by-appointment, much like scheduling a dinner reservation (remember those?) This allows essentially private shopping for some customers.
  • Curbside or in-store pickup will appeal to many, and is important to offer. But it does reduce the opportunity for add-on purchases. Where you place your in-store pickup can make a big difference.

That's why this is the time where merchants will have tucked away all the off-price merchandiseshowcasing only the full margin goods. Unleash your merchant instincts! That sweater you've been offering at $60? Mark it to $65! Customers know that for Christmas to happen, they must and will buy now.


Wave #2 - the "I got it on sale!" Wave - starts Saturday, December 26.

All that merchandise you tucked away during the first wave? Now it is back, with extra sharp markdowns. 

  • Those customers who love the after-Christmas sales, plus gift card recipients in search of bargains, will be very active on that weekend.
  • Be ready for them. What they really are after is bragging rights of what a great deal they got! 
  • And remember, the first markdown is the cheapest. Your goal is to raise as much cash as you can.


Wave #3 - the "Many happy returns?!" Wave - is the undertow that could become a tsunami. 

Brace yourself. The rate of returns of merchandise purchased online is about 4 times higher than a retailer's typical return rate.

Come January, customers seeking to return or exchange merchandise they received (or self-gifted) at Christmas could feel like a stampede. And difficult for your staff to keep smiles on their faces. (Another good reason to wear a mask!)

  • Now is the time to think through your policies for returns and exchanges, and make them very clear from the outset. Avoid surprises. 
  • The Coronavirus compounds this issue, given the matter of safely handling merchandise that comes back. 
  • But it will be a great opportunity to interact with your current customers and potentially many new ones. Seize the chance to impress them.

Watch for the three separate waves. And don't get seasick!



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