A “16 Weeks to Christmas!” Checklist

September 4, 2015

Don’t Panic. Here’s your Christmas Checklist.  Panicked without a Christmas checklist

In spite of there being only 16 weeks to the biggest shopping holiday of the year, you can relax. I’ve put together a shop owner’s Christmas checklist that will keep you on track for this important season.

Week 16   Friday, September 4

Clear out all summer, back-to-school or any other merchandise that’s now seasonally outdated. Once Labor Day is over, so is the season. If you haven’t done it already, now is the time to sit down with staff and calendar in hand to map out your strategy.

Week 15   Friday, September 11

Finish Fall decorating. Make sure your windows and shop interior are decorated with fall colors and seasonal merchandise.  Planning should be under way if you’re hosting a Halloween event. Read “5 Halloween Ideas to Draw Shoppers in.” Consider a “Trick or Treats for Grownups” evening; Halloween coloring page contest for the kids or a Facebook photo contest featuring costumes or home decor created with items from your shop. What type of food or prizes will you be offering? Partner with another local shop if possible.

Week 14   Friday, September 18

 Autumn officially begins this week. Now is the time to review your internal processes as you plan for holiday shopping. Slow lines at checkout are a killer for maintaining repeat customers. How can you improve? What about your intake process? Make sure you are able to handle the influx of shoppers as well as the need for seasonal merchandise. When was the last time you took a serious look at your shop? Clean dressing rooms, bathrooms, floors and windows can make a big impression. Determining any Black Friday or Shop Small Saturday specials should also be a focus.

Week 13   Friday, September 25

Promotion for your Halloween merchandise or event begins now. Print bag stuffers, signage for the shop, create an email campaign and begin talking about it on all of your social media. Build excitement with teasers if you can and create incentives to bring shoppers back with coupons, additional rewards points or future events. Your shop should now be filled with Halloween-themed decorations.

Week 12   Friday, October 2

The first full week in October always brings an air of excitement. Let your employees decide what fun costumes they will wear in the shop during the week of Halloween shopping and let them know you’ll be having a fun in-store competition where customers secretly vote for the best-dressed employee then offer a gift card to the winner. Now’s also the time to interview for seasonal help. Bob Negan of WhizBang! offers these tips: “Focus on hiring people who are quick learners…who enjoy a fast-paced environment, who are willing to do any kind of work…and who are extremely friendly…” Signing up to participate in your area’s Shop Small event on Saturday, November 28 should also be done.

Week 11   Friday, October 9

Believe it or not, it’s time to put Halloween aside and focus on November. The Thanksgiving season is a perfect time for community involvement and generating  goodwill for your shop. Consider having a canned food drive for your local food bank; a winter coat, hat and mittens drive for a homeless shelter or toy donations for your local pregnancy center’s baby store. Arrange to have the organization pick up donations from your store afterwards. Once again, look to see if there are other shops in your area who would partner with you and find out who else is participating in Shop Small Saturday.

Week 10   Friday, October 16

Evaluate what needs to be changed from Halloween to Thanksgiving decor. How will you change your in-store signage and your front window? Can you capitalize on any local events such as your town’s football team, homecoming dances, Veteran’s Day parades or fall festivals? Begin planning your shop’s special Christmas event by outlining a calendar for additional employees, food and beverages, special merchandise and prizes. Your special Halloween event should take place next week.

Week 9   Friday, October 23

This is the week of Halloween. Your employees should have fun wearing a variety of costumes, handing out candy and prepping for your Halloween event. Make sure they’re ready to take lots of pictures to post on all of your social media. Be prepared to name the winner of your in-store costume contest. Christmas is now 8 weeks away and you should have in mind what your window decor will look like and determined your holiday promotions whether it’s a one-time event or something as simple as offering Christmas cookies and hot cider throughout the month. Contact a local high school or senior citizen group to see if they will offer free holiday gift wrapping in return for a charitable donation. Be sure to purchase small, holiday impulse-buy items for your register too.

Week 8   Friday, October 30

Halloween is over and you’re headed full steam ahead to the biggest shopping season of the year. Set up definitive times for sales training for your employees and review policies for such things as shoplifting. Read “Be Prepared for Shoplifters.” Make sure they’re familiar with the current brands of merchandise you offer and how to cross sell products. If you’re going to add extended hours for the holidays now is the time to begin promoting those. Purchase any gift cards or gift certificates shoppers can use as Christmas gifts. If you’re participating in a local donation drive, begin promoting it now through social media, bag stuffers and signage. Your Shop Small and holiday hours signage should be in your window.

Week 7   Friday, November 6

Your donation drive is in full swing. Be sure your staff is thankful and recognizes everyone who takes the opportunity to donate. Take photos with shoppers and staff to use on your social media. If you have chosen not to do a donation drive, have your staff tie in with the season of thanks in a special way. They can hand out “Thank You” cards with return incentives for shoppers. Schedule team sales goals, holiday parties, sales rewards and avenues for recognizing exceptional customer service for your employees during the Christmas holiday. In-store holiday signage that gives clear instructions should be ready to be put up in a week or two. Determine your top 25 – 50 customers and send them a special invitation for holiday shopping.

Week 6   Friday, November 13

Many stores take this time to transition to Christmas decor with Thanksgiving one week away. Holiday signage indoors and out should be in place. Your Shop Small and/or Black Friday event marketing should begin. Your shop should be filled with the sights, sounds and smells of the Christmas season. Your front window is your biggest billboard. Everyone loves decorated Christmas windows so make them magical, drawing customers in from outdoors and reinforcing the quality of merchandise they will find inside. Your staff, including those part-timers you’ve added on should know their holiday schedules, especially what’s required of them for Black Friday and Shop Small Saturday.

Week 5   Friday, November 20

Thanksgiving week is a huge transition. This is when you, your staff and your shop completely transform from fall to Christmas. Your donation drive has ended and you have set the stage for the holidays. Double check that the flow for shopping and final check-out is clearly marked. Now’s the time to begin thinking like your shoppers. Their mindset has changed. They are no longer looking as much for themselves as they are for others. Conversations must change to “who are you buying for this year?” Thursday, November 26 is Thanksgiving. Friday, November 27 is Black Friday and Saturday, November 28 is Shop Small Saturday. A very full week!

Week 4   Friday, November 27

This next month will be a whirlwind. Encourage your staff each morning and review store policies for such things as layaways, rewards points and wish lists. Inform them of any new merchandise that has come in the store. Your holiday hours and special shopping incentives should be promoted regularly though social media and emails. Planning for inventory reduction and winter decor after the first of the year should start now.

Week 3   Friday, December 4

Continue to energize your staff. Encourage them to wear Santa hats or ugly Christmas sweaters and hand out candy canes to everyone who comes in the door. Give them a reason to interact with each shopper. Read “Should You Say ‘Merry Christmas?'” Shift your merchandise to make your store look fresh and new so customers will want to return. If you’re in an area where weather is an issue, make sure your outside is as clean as the inside of the store.

Week 2   Friday, December 12

As Bob Negen says, “There’s a time to work ‘on‘ your business and a time to work ‘in’ your business.” Your job now should be to lead the charge. Be on the sales floor interacting with staff and shoppers. Who doesn’t like to be personally assisted by the owner of the company?

Week 1   Friday, December 18

By now, shoppers and staff are frazzled. This is a key week to create brand ambassadors for your store. If you and your staff can show patience, kindness and an extra willingness to be helpful, you will have customers for life. Doing extra things for your staff this week can go a long way too. Bring cookies, fruit or pastries in the morning; give special hand-written thank you notes and sincere compliments to boost morale and attitudes.

Happy because he has a Christmas ChecklistFriday, December 25  Merry Christmas!

Whew! You survived. Congratulations! I hope the Christmas checklist made your life just a little easier.

Deb McGonagle

I have been a writer for various forms of marketing for over 40 years. I've written my share of radio and TV scripts, magazine and newspaper ads as well as direct mail brochures and newsletters. Currently, as the Marketing Director for Traxia, home of SimpleConsign software, I've moved into blog posts, eBooks and website text. It's been an ever changing and ever challenging journey but I've loved it all along the way.