“To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace.” – Doug Conant, CEO of Campbell’s Soup

Suddenly, we are in September and the Christmas trading period is fast approaching!

There is always so much counting on a strong Christmas period, as for many retailers it can represent as much as 30% of a year’s sales.

Months of planning goes into building sales strategies, merchandising and systems planning, staff management and simply giving your store that extra bit of Christmas magic in order to achieve maximum profitability and operational excellence during this peak period.

However added to this, is the complication that consumer behaviour is extremely unpredictable. Last Christmas most retail businesses enjoyed a steady month of sales in December, but customer spending came extremely late.

So, how can you manage your teams and stores to cater to this uncertainty?

No doubt a great deal will be invested in marketing to drive traffic into stores and to online platforms. So what is happening when all this hard work delivers the all-important prospective customer and yet we don’t have strong sales staff to convert these customers into sales opportunities?

Finding good quality casual sales staff is vital to maximise returns from the retail Christmas period, however many retailers we have come across struggle to find the ‘right’ staff for the Christmas trade.

Ideally the search for staff commences in September and in my experience the better applicants generally come from;

1. Friends of existing staff.  Do you have a “buddy” system in your business where a successful hire results in a reward for the nominating staff member?

2. Existing customers. Do you have a recruitment counter card strategically placed near the register? (On the window is often missed and can detract from the display itself.)

3. Using a recruiter that understands your business and has worked with you for a reasonable period of time.

4. Creating information evenings/fashion evenings and advertise the evening at local universities/colleges- targeting the applicant profile

5. Work with the universities /colleges in your area by proactively setting out a plan with the relevant college staff

6. Advertise in the local press and theme the interview day around a specific in store event, activity or trend.

7. If you’re recruiting millennials, consider your online presence. Consider their journey to your brand, which social platforms they may use for pre-research. Could your truly engaged social following be future brand ambassadors in store?

8. When you do find the right person it is important that you keep them, by offering one to two shifts, each week, throughout the year.

The recruitment calendar needs to sit with your promotional calendar as two very important pieces of forward planning in your business.

Retail Doctor Group run a series of ‘Steps to Business Fitness’ presentations to help retailers prepare their stores, stock and staff for the peak Christmas trading period. To find out more click here.

First published in Smart Company, 25th September 2015