Surviving the post-summer dip


Not only has Christmas come and gone, but another New Zealand summer will be winding down before we know it. Retailers know that the Christmas period - coupled with high tourist season and good weather - is the time of year where peak sales targets for the year are achieved.

Some retailers depend heavily on the summer period to make up the majority of their sales for the entire year. Now that summer is almost at a close, I know retailers are thinking about how to succeed for the rest of the 2019. Here are some helpful hints for retailers on how to survive the post-summer slump.

Don't depend solely on sale stock to fill your floor for the tail end of summer

Most retailers will have taken part in big Boxing Day sales, with some stores beginning a few days in advance. Boxing Day generated huge sales for retailers and their success may have meant that the rest of summer sales have been slower. While moving older stock is vital, it is also important to replenish stock or top selling products as your loyal customers will not come back into store if there is nothing new for them.

Not only do you need to ensure new and fresh product is available for your repeat customers, it is also needed to attract tourists and other consumers into your store as a heavy sale feel in store more than a few weeks after Christmas is not appealing.

Take the time to develop staff and brush up customer service skills

Take advantage of the quiet period to invest in your staff, foster their development and conduct reviews as necessary. It is helpful to have conversations with your staff to know what their goals are for the future in order to aid their development. You may have hired staff on a casual basis or for a short fixed term to get through the holiday period and now want to keep some of them on a permanent basis. Make sure to invest in those staff and bring everyone up to the same standard of service.

Another way to develop more senior level staff is to offer them responsibility for training or developing junior staff. This will help those senior staff who are keen to develop into retail management, and will free up some additional time for you to work with other staff or focus on other priorities. Remember that employees appreciate feeling valued and showing that you are interested in their development will make them feel that they add value to the business.

Review your digital footprint as a retailer

Has your social media gone silent? Nothing new to share on Facebook? Does your website look like it needs a little TLC?

Reviewing the digital footprint of your brand and business is important, especially with how frequently consumers are turning to the web for information. If you do not operate an online store or do not have a website, at least make sure that information about your business shows up on search engines. This should include at the bare minimum: the location, opening hours and a phone number. If your business is incredibly active on social media, take a look at who your followers are and look for potential opportunities with influencers in 2019.

Depending on the type of retail business and size there will be different priorities when it comes to digital innovations and digital trails. Other aspects of a retailer's digital footprint include POS systems, payment systems, inventory systems, customer databases and other operational technologies.

Review operational budgets to make your business as cost effective as possible

Take the time to review your financial performance to date before the end of the financial year and get ready to set your budget for the next financial year. The minimum wage is increasing significantly from 1 April 2019, so now is a good time to assess the impact of this and review all expenses and estimate sales projections. Cashflow and good expense controls are vital to business success so allocate some time to make sure these are all in order.

Surviving the post-summer dip is certainly possible. If retailers use this time effectively, make the necessary or appropriate adjustments by developing staff, stocking the right products to meet customers needs and maintain a digital presence, it is likely that success will be on the books for 2019.

by Scott Fisher, Retail NZ CEO

Originally published in the February/March 2019 edition of the NZ Retail magazine.