Top Five Tips for Retailers to Bloom This Spring

By Shelley E. Kohan, VP, retail consulting, RetailNext; instructor, Fashion Institute of Technology

Consumer confidence is 10 points higher than this time last year. Spring weather forecasts show April will be warmer than average for many areas. So, how can retailers optimize sales during this season? Learning from last year’s data and trends is a great place to start.

Retailers have huge opportunities to learn from last spring. We can plan for right-timed promotions around gender-specific gifts and merchandise, staff for peak traffic to boost service and conversion, and balance activities to drive traffic on softer shopping days.

Before we look at the lessons from last season, we should look at a few external factors likely to affect shopping behavior during the coming months. The indicators look promising!

What’s different this spring?

• The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index was at 78.1 in February 2014, heading into spring.
• The same Index in February 2013 stood at 68, a full 10 points lower.
• The Index had improved by June 2013, rising 13.4 points to 81.4.
• The long hard winter endured by those along the Atlantic and Midwest could have shoppers feeling peaks of spring fever.

Some regions should see warmer-than-normal temps this April according to the Farmers Almanac long-term forecast.

So, it’s up to brick-and-mortar retailers to capitalize on the fresh air and eager wallets. Using insights from RetailNext data analysts, based on observations of more than 100 retailers and brands, here are my top five tips to make traffic, conversion and sales bloom in stores:

1. Good Friday will be just that; Staff for it: Easter Sunday fell early in 2013: on March 30. The week preceding Easter saw a ramping uptick in traffic beyond a typical week’s pattern, peaking on Friday, when shopper traffic hit a 47% increase from a typical Friday. Staff up on Friday, slimming the rest of the weekend.

2. All about moms on May 8 – 10: Last year, sales lifted sharply Thursday through Saturday prior to Mother’s Day, compared to a typical week (up about 14%). In 2014, shoppers are likely to again focus on last-minute Mother’s Day purchases, so plan promotions and targeted marketing messages around gift merchandise to drive traffic on these key days. Thursday prior to Mother’s Day is the key day, with sales up 19%, so staff up (even shifting hours from the previous Sunday, which has been historically lower sales and falls in the same week for most retailers).

3. Beyond BBQs on Memorial Day: Memorial Day 2013 saw a 73% increase in traffic and a 59% increase in sales from a typical Monday (and our data did not include the grocery segment).  However, traffic the following Saturday dropped 16%, compared to an average Saturday. Retailers should remove non-sell distractors from the holiday weekend (especially Monday) and focus on conversion tactics. In addition, shift staffing into Monday from the following Saturday, which lands in the same fiscal week for most retailers.

4. Dad’s gifts bought on Friday: Last June, the week leading up to Father’s Day saw lift in traffic, conversion, and sales, peaking on Friday with a 32% sales increase over a typical Friday. This sustained sales surge indicates a clear mission among shoppers seeking Father’s Day gifts. Retailers should focus on clear messaging and gifting opportunities for these focused shoppers. Signage, product key points and transparent pricing can help convert the shopper from browser to customer. Take advantage of increased shopping trips the week leading up to Dad’s Day, which averaged between 17%-23% higher-than-normal traffic spikes.

5. Drive “loyalty” program enrollments: These spring events are great opportunities to drive loyalty program enrollments. Retailers using opt-in guest WiFi have another opportunity to increase loyalty enrollment. In addition, the feature allows for personalized messaging to specific customers, helping to drive sales and initiate additional purchases.

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