OPINION: Claire Franks on preparing for Christmas

Lingerie and swimwear business guru Claire Franks, founder of Intimate Apparel Consultancy, offers her regular insight into lingerie retail, fitting and design.

Many retailers are reporting a much more buoyant, positive trading year and all indicators are certainly proving that business is on the up.

With the construction industry getting busier and housing prices on the increase, we should be feeling much more positive about this year’s Christmas trading period, but much rests on its success.

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The Christmas period accounts for up to half of a retailer’s annual profit, making this the most important trading quarter and event of the entire year’s calendar. So, ask yourself this: how can you ensure that Christmas is a success?

Fantastic Windows: The focal point of a shop, no matter how large or small, is its windows. This is where you reveal your identity – the very essence that makes your shop unique. It is the first thing that shoppers notice and, just like a book cover, your shop will be judged upon it, so getting it right is key.

Ensure they are clean, well painted on the outside and stunning on the inside. Don’t forget to light them at night and make them extra special, exciting and eye catching, and full of gift-solution ideas.

Promotions: This is where all your hard work in building a database comes into play. Ask yourself about what promotions and events you are planning and invite your customers.

Plan a special Christmas gift evening or event. Promote all those special Christmas pieces you bought back in February and think about self-treats, solution products and gifts. If you don’t shout about what you are doing then no one else will.

Great product: Ask yourself how exciting and different your shop will look throughout the festive period and ensure the new merchandise arriving into your business throughout the Christmas period is out fast and displayed beautifully.

If you have not planned this, ensure the shop is re-merchandised regularly to give the impression of newness. This can be achieved easily; change to merchandising by colour, by brand and by solutions type.

Mix gifts in with lingerie, create a lifestyle of mix and match gift ideas. Display the product with a target customer in mind, such as a teenager, mother, wife or lover! Keep the stock moving, create different looks and make it interesting and exciting.

Continue the Christmas theme from the window, promotion or website through to the shop floor. The “theme” is important no matter what time of year, but particularly at Christmas time.

Shoppers like to enjoy shopping so make is easy and fun for them, and coordinate products and gifts together, ensuring that add-on sale. If you have any promotions or offers on then ensure they are displayed prominently and, above all, in a tasteful way.

With 60% of purchasing decisions being made after the customer has entered your shop, it is important to get your internal displays looking good. If the customer is attracted by something in the window then she should be able to find it with ease when she comes into the shop.

Staff: Not only do you need the right staff; they need to be in the place at the right time and they need to be well trained on your products and on your systems. Make sure you have “ninja” staff on the till and the best fitters and sales people on the floor. Keep your staff happy and motivated. Atmosphere is everything in a shop – the mood, the vibes, the smell, the lighting and, of course, the festive music! It has to feel right and the staff and shoppers must be happy.
Gift wrap & Vouchers: Promote both of these services.

This is an absolute must in today’s market. Make sure whoever is wrapping is fast and efficient and does not interfere with the speed of the till and selling. Gift wrapping does not need to be expensive and can be free over a certain value.

Vouchers create an ideal opportunity to get the customers back into your business in the New Year when the shop floor is usually quiet. Promote them and use them as a selling tool when people are concerned about size and what colour to buy.

A frequent concern is that a voucher is not considered a thoughtful enough gift, so make it a thoughtful gift. Offer a beautiful voucher, beautifully gift wrapped.

Web Site: Once you have taken care of all of the above on the shop floor, ensure all is correct on your website too. After all, this is your global shop window.

Opportunities: Take the opportunity to make the most of the additional footfall of new and existing customers. And ask yourself how you can entice them back again in the New Year.

Run a promotion or an event, give out invitations and add them to your database. Look at attaching the purchase receipt to a small leaflet that contains your web address, returns policy and a discount on their next purchase if they should return within 30 days.




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