Holding a sale is often a retailer’s biggest headache, but can also be the relief needed for a slump in sales. The logistics of a sale—hiring extra manpower, getting the word out about the sale and figuring out when to hold it and for how long—may seem overwhelming. But the rewards are worth it. A sale can be a boost for business by:
1. Enticing new customers and introducing them to your brand and products.
2. Driving sales in a slumping period.
3. Moving last season’s inventory out in order to make the way for new and exciting inventory for your loyal customer base.
4. Rewarding your customers for their loyalty.
5. Winning sales from your competitors during peak shopping seasons.
By planning your sale strategy in advance, you'll streamline the customer's experience and have your employees equipped for any contingency. Make sure your merchandise is well-stocked--you'll need a good supply of the sales necessities such as shopping bags, receipt tape, gift cards, wrapping paper and tape, and extra signage to encourage customers into the store. Hire and train extra stockers, merchandisers and support staff well in advance of the sale.
When to hold a sale
The right time to hold a sale is relative to your business. New businesses can struggle with planning for sales because they don't have a history to look back at customer trends. Most retailers expect to hold sales from October through December when the most customers are shopping. But if you are struggling to get people in the door, a sale-no matter what time of year-can boost your profits. You don't have to plan your next sale around an event, because any sale, especially those customer appreciation days, will get loyal customers in the door for bargains.
Whether the purpose of your sale is to get rid of old merchandise or to make a marked increase in sales, the bottom line is what matters. Good pricing strategies are the cornerstone of a profitable sale. Your task is to figure out if a straight percentage off will make your bottom line bigger or would a buy two, get one free sort of offer work better for you? Whichever you choose, it not only has to make a profit, but also has to make the customer feel that they've gotten a bargain.
Find an ally at your local newspaper who will turn their readers on to your sale. Often readers will skip over advertisements and read editorial sections of the newspaper that feature shopping columns. Fashion pages usually have a columnist who covers "can't miss" sales while sports columnists often tell their readers about closeouts on expensive golf equipment. There are also numerous Web sites across the country, which highlight bargain shopping, so research your specific market and send press releases to the media outlets.
Use your customer base
If you haven't started a list or database of regular customers' names, addresses and email, start today. This is an invaluable way to get customers to shop your sale. A week or two before the event, send an email or postcard to regular customers to notify them of the sale. Reward them by offering an additional percentage off coupon or a special invitation to get a sneak-peak at the sale, perhaps the day before the doors open to the general public. And to get the word out further, request that the customer bring a friend or pass along the email to others.
Let's assume you've done everything you can to get customers in the door-advertising, publicity, and alerting loyal customers. Your best bet to increase foot traffic depends on on-site advertisement of your sale. The right signage, whether it says, "everything must go" or "20 percent off everything in the store," needs to be clear, concise, and most importantly make the store stand out that something special is happening. If customers don't know by the time they enter the front door that you are having a sale, you haven't done your job well enough.
- During slow sales periods or at least a month before major sales, hire and train temporary support staff that can work on call for holidays and special sales. You will likely need extra help during busy sales and won't have time to hire and train when you are ramping up for the sale.
- During the sale, clearly display and notify customers of the return procedures and if items are a final sale. This is especially important when you are trying to clear out seasonal merchandise to make room for new items.
- While the goal may be to clear out merchandise, have a clear strategy to replenish merchandise and refurbish displays as the sale goes on, in order to make the merchandising eye catching to the customer.
- Use your industry to plan sales and promotions. For example, if your business is an electronics store that sells televisions, computers and radios, hold a television sale before the Super Bowl or a computer sale during back-to-school days.