Friday, December 10, 2010

Holiday Shopping Patterns

Each store has its own shopping patterns, determined by its community and location. A mall store might look forward to a massive increase in foot traffic in December, while a store that's defined by its college town may not even see strong holiday sales. If you love to spend the holidays traveling, visiting friends and relatives, consider opening a store like that. As a destination store in a strip mall, we have our own shopping patterns that are different from the previous two. They aren't better or worse, just different.

Ramp up. Our sales patterns are normal up until Thanksgiving. We cater to hobby gamers with about two thirds of sales to regulars. The general public, folks who come to shop for what I call classic games, makes up about 10% of our sales. In the middle, making up the rest of the pie are hobbyists who are infrequent customers who are hard to quantify. From Thanksgiving to the second Friday in December, we see holiday ramp-up. During this time, our regulars disengage from the store. Our events are sparsely attended and our sales of new releases fall off. Game companies take great risks during this period by releasing products not related to the holidays. Promoting them during the chaos can be difficult and they often get overlooked later. Most hobby game releases by big companies in December are pretty low key. While our regulars disengage, the gift buying general public tend to fill in the gaps, shopping primarily for board games, but also the list little Johnny submitted to Santa (lots of 40K). The Ramp Up period is usually a kind of wash for us, with our holiday shoppers making up for the disengaged regulars. Customers tend to be happy, receptive and polite.

Mid-Month Frenzy. We don't quite get the frenzied sales of a mall store, but from the second Friday (today) to Christmas Eve, we have about double our regular sales, requiring some good planning so we're not overwhelmed. For example, this year I'm orchestrating a second POS system to handle receiving of new product to free up the register for customers and avoid chaos in the cash wrap area. Our displays have been tweaked for weeks now, especially in our board game department. The sound has been turned down on our Yu-Gi-Oh terminals, the board games have been arranged based on sales patterns, and Christmas music is playing on the stereo. We'll have extra staff on hand during peak hours. Again, it's board games and miniature games that see a big boost, with board games selling double their normal numbers and everything else up a respectable amount. This is the period when customers can be the most trying, as these folks are harried and occasionally even resentful they have to come to us at all!

Post Christmas Aftermath. It's not over yet. We've got one more week of strong, holiday sales followed by two weeks of above average sales as our regular customers return, filling in the gaps of what they really wanted for the holidays. As a kid, I tended not to get any of the games I wanted for Christmas, so this was the period when I spent my "grandma money" and returned a lot of the stuff I was given for the stuff I really wanted. In the past, this period into mid-January was followed by two weeks of slow sales when I would usually take vacation. That period is actually pretty good for us now and with a kid in school for the first time, my vacation plans will have to wait. It's a breath of fresh air to see our happy, regular customers once again. Although the holiday money lets us do great things in the store, I wouldn't do this for long if it was like this all the time.

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