I have called it a conspiracy in the past. Here’s how I presented it. First, you eat the Thanksgiving turkey. The very next day (Friday) you have the sudden urge to shop. You continue to shop until you eat the Christmas turkey or ham. The urge to shop is then terminated. Where does the conspiracy come into play?
There’s a secret chemical in the Thanksgiving turkey that creates an urge to shop. There’s another offsetting chemical in the Christmas turkey or ham that cancels the urge. My retrodicted (see definition below) logic says it is not a coincidence that “Butter Ball” and “Shopping Mall” just happen to rhyme.
Ok, now to get serious. Seventy percent of all family discretionary dollars are spent during the five weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Every big box and major retailer knows that. They plan all year for that critical time. Whether the grand total of yearly sales are up or down depends on only five of the 52 weeks. The stock market holds its breath waiting for the final annual sales numbers before predicting what the future will bring.
Here’s the sad part. Few small, independent retailers leverage those five weeks. If they did the entire U.S. retail sales numbers would increase dramatically.
In years past those retail businesses not directly involved in selling traditional Christmas gift items appear to have believed they were not involved in this intense and compressed shopping fever. Instead they proceeded by considering it to be “business as usual.”
In years past, specialty retailers, those who dealt in enthusiast products or hobby items, did not cater to other members of their customer’s families. Today family shopping is the norm. What that means is many of the sales people will be dealing with customers who know little or nothing about the products the store sells.
It will mean the sales person is going to need know the level of knowledge these uninformed customers and carefully guide them without appearing to be talking down to them. How is that accomplished? By asking questions early on and holding off making suggestions until the sales person has a clear picture of what the customer knows and doesn’t know.
The reality of today’s retailing is that all segments of the retail market are seasonal. Snow-blowers are not sold in May. Lawn mowers are not sold in November. Coats sell as cold weather approaches and bathing suits as the days get longer.
Here’s what should, in my experience and opinion, be considered. First, there should be a meeting of all the store’s personnel a week or so before Thanksgiving. That meeting must contain the following thoughts:
1. Everyone who enters the store will be greeted immediately.
2. Christmas decorations will festoon the interior of the store.
3. Christmas music will be played … ad nauseam.
4. Everyone will be instructed that the customer is the ONLY focus.
5. Creative thinking will be for the benefit of the customer’s choices.
6. The coffee pot will be filled regularly.
7. Candy will be next to every cash register.
8. Gift-wrapping will be encouraged.
9. Gift certificate purchases will be encouraged.
10. Three weeks before Christmas staff will wear Christmas hats.
11. There will be no days off.
12. The hours will be longer.
13. Smiles are mandated.
14. Customers will be short-tempered and stressed.
15. Those on the sales floor will act like Santa’s elves.
16. Staff will celebrate Christmas after the first of the year.
These are the harsh realities of retail sales during this five-week period of time. No other country has this tradition, or at least not observed as intensely.
* Footnote by the author:
Definitions: “Predict” assumes the outcome of known elements when acted upon by other known elements. “Retrodict” works back from the conclusions when unknown elements act on each other. It attempts to understand why what happened, happened. That’s my somewhat confused and condensed understanding after reading “The Dancing Wu Li Masters,” by Gary Zukav — a book about quantum physics with a most unusual title.
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John Wyckoff is a true guru of the motorcycle industry. A sought-after speaker at motorcycle events and frequent contributor to the motorcycle press, he is the founder of Intersport Fashions West. He is an expert on the motorcycle business and dealerships and is known for having his finger on the pulse of the motorcycling public. He is the author of Mind Your Own Business, 2nd Edition: The Complete Guide to Profitable Powersports Dealerships.