5 Ways Retailers Can Avoid Summertime Sadness
Apparel stores rely on summer sales to liquidate spring merchandise and make room for fall collections. From Mid-May until early July, the discounted stock helps increase foot traffic during a period retailers can sometimes find difficult.
The polar vortex that plagued North America this spring means that the sales period for spring clothing will be less predictable than in the past, says McGill University’s Mary Ann Cipriano. The lecturer and retail consultant shares five things retailers should take into account to kick off the summer on an upswing.
1. Show off late bloomers
Main Street stores need to capitalize on their window displays, says Cipriano. During summer sales, merchants can make use of their storefronts to promote under-performing brands or items (assuming there’s nothing defective about these products). According to Cipriano, some products are late bloomers, and might have been overlooked during the unusually cold spring this year. Re-merchandising under-performers might prompt new appreciation for them and higher sales. The same goes for how merchandise looks inside the store. “There’s nothing worse during a slow period than past-season merchandise looking old or shopworn. Keep things looking fresh by displaying them in new ways,” she explains.
2. Get a move on
For retailers with multiple locations, it’s essential to closely monitor and compare items at each store. Keeping and eagle eye on stock levels should be an everyday activity, but during sales season, multi-store retailers should be moving products around as much as possible. “Some retailers panic when something isn’t doing well at one of their stores but is flying off the shelves at another. By all means they should be transferring slow-moving goods to their busiest stores,” says Cipriano.
3. Be “shoppertaining”
Here’s where retailers need to get creative. Offering customers value, not just merchandise, will get them to come in. So what constitutes a valuable experience? First, note the target audience. If the store is family-friendly, or if shoppers often come in with children, make sure those kids are having a good time. “Kids can be your ally or your worst enemy. If a child isn’t happy, how long do you think their parent is going to stick around?” Cipriano asks. Balloons, candy, or pink lemonade are great ways to keep them entertained while their parents browse.
Merchants might also consider organizing an in-store event that will appeal to customers. Luxury boutiques typically have good relationships with their clients, and will know what kind of activities they enjoy. Ultimately, you want to encourage people to come in and stay a while. In addition to all these summer perks, make sure people know about them! Signage is important when promoting offers, so advertise your comfortable air conditioning, free consultations, complimentary tea and exciting promotions in a window or sidewalk display. Don’t forget social media.
4. Reach out about gift cards
Use your CRM software to find out if there are any outstanding credit notes or gift cards in the system. Before people leave for vacation, call or email them about their store credit as a way to entice them. It’s also a great excuse to let people know your store is on sale, and what a great time it is to come and shop.
5. Look to the past
Many factors impact consumer behavior, including the weather. With LightSpeed’s new reporting tools, retailers can actually see the effect temperature fluctuations, rainstorms and heat waves have on their sales
Historical sales data also reveals a lot about the effectiveness of markdowns and their timing. Going over sell through reports to determine peak weekends as well as low points is one of many ways to help build a markdown strategy. Advanced point of sale systems include the metrics needed to help determine when is the best time to go on sale.
Cipriano notes that markdowns are a completely normal part of business. “If a retailer doesn’t have to go on sale, it means they probably didn’t buy enough.” Similarly, excessive markdowns suggest inefficient buying.
When it comes to discounts, retailers need go deep early on with a much harder sell that usual. Going on sale is a normal part of business, but the longer items sit around on sale, the narrower margins will be. Bite the bullet early on with 30-50% discounts in order move old stock as quickly as possible. Having old merchandise at 70% off at the end of the season isn’t ideal, so get your red stickers and lemonade ready and gear up for summer sales action.