By John Stanley Christmas is one of the most important trading periods of the retail year in the Western world. The impact it has on sales will vary with each retail sector but, whichever sector you belong to, it is critical that you maximise the sales potential of this peak festive season. One of the keys to success is staff trained and ready to handle the extra demands of this exciting time for retailersï¿½ 1 – Motivate the team Christmas should be an exciting time for your team even though it is one of their busiest work periods. To maximise your success over Christmas, you should involve the team in the planning stages. Have a Christmas planning meeting well before the holiday sales period to discuss your plans, your staff involvement, and to canvass their ideas. Be objective in terms of precise goalsï¿½targeted total sales, average sale per customer, number of items per transaction, and conversion rate. Compare the anticipated targets with last yearï¿½s results and discuss how this yearï¿½s targets will be achieved, recorded, and measured. 2 – Implement a holiday countdown campaign Have a Christmas countdown campaign where each day everyone can compare results against targets. Daily progress could be entered on a whiteboard summary chart in the staffroom as part of the motivational strategy. 3 – Reduce stress in the team Many people find the lead-up to Christmas a stressful period. Your objective is to reduce this stress. Consider these strategies offered by Jurek Leon of Terrific Trading in his Christmas ideas newsletter: Employ someone to keep the lunch room looking fresh and tidy during the Christmas rush. Place a DVD/VCR in the staff room and rent some humorous videos for viewing in free time. Hire a masseur to give mini complimentary massages to staff (and even as a Christmas service to customers). Conduct a joke-a-day competition with staff. Schedule time off for staff to do their own Christmas shopping. Make an effort during this busy period to ï¿½catch team members doing something rightï¿½ and to reward them publicly. 4 – Focus on staff employment needs Your team will get exhausted during this period and you may need to change rosters and hire temporary staff. Sign up temporary team members well before December. Contact local colleges and retail training providers who may have trainees requiring retail experience over the Christmas period. Hire special staff to answer your phones and free up your sales team to sell. Deal with poor performance as it occurs. If you leave it until after Christmas, your high performers may well become disillusioned with those staff members who aren’t pulling their weight during this rush period. 5 – Train the team Every staff member needs to be on the ball for Christmas and a short training program will prove beneficial. Provide adequate training based on the ten most commonly asked questions over the Christmas period: -Does it come equipped with batteries?, -Can I return it if it is not suitable?, -Will it work overseas?, -Have you a follow- up service?, -What happens if it’s the wrong size?, -Is it guaranteed? -What instructions are provided?, -Can the recipient change it for, another colour after Christmas if they don’t like the colour?, -Do you have other sizes, if it must be changed later?, -Do you gift wrap? Train the team on how to remain cool and calm in times of stress. At this time of year, they must act like Santa’s helpersï¿½even when there is a line of frustrated shoppers demanding VIP treatment. Even simple advice, like doing deep breathing exercises on the job, will help them at this time. Conduct an induction program for new casuals so that they quickly become a part of the team. Clever sales assistants should be able to be quick off the mark with gift suggestions for the hard-to please relative or the friend who has everything. Have you provided your team with lists of such suggestions? 6 – Keep your staff on their toes Christmas is a time when the team should be order makers, not order takers, i.e. they approach the customer and don’t wait for the customer to approach them. This means your staff must be well drilled in the basics of Christmas selling: Welcome the customer with a Christmas greeting. Use open questions. Sell during busy periods. Add-on sell. Ask for the sale. Management Memo If you have a large Jewish clientele, you should consider Chanukah decorations, a candelabra, signs saying Happy Chanukahï¿½ For a Muslim customer base, Idhul Fitri is the major annual celebration.