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Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Lead
No sooner has the heady rush of Christmas washed over the retail world than a second wave comes in the form of the January sales. Business is kept brisk by an array of shoppers flocking to spend vouchers, Christmas money and to take advantage of this traditional discounting period.
Fast forward to the next month and it’s a stark contrast. February ushers in a more sober retail environment and sales slumps are common as shoppers tighten their budgets. So how do retailers combat this by making the most of this short but challenging month?
Instead of seeing it as a negative month, acknowledging the season and utilising its unique characteristics can produce results. Retailers are fully aware of how customers must feel, so why not capitalise on this knowledge? The New Year mindset in many is one of renewed focus on new ideas, new ways of living and, crucially, of being willing to buy items related to this thinking. Promoting and prioritising items for retail that support this is a good idea; people may well be searching out fitness clothing, but are perhaps less likely to be purchasing clothing for parties and functions for example. Conversely, those who may have participated in Dry January, or who have subsided their extraneous spending until the January pay day, may well be ready to hit the social scene once more! Knowing the target market and how they like to spend their money in minute detail provides key insights no matter what the time of year.
Starting some form of promotional campaign in February can help shoppers make decisions on items they perhaps were putting off until another month. Retargeting campaigns based around contacting who expressed interest in items in the run-up to Christmas, but didn’t actually purchase them, can be part of mail-outs and selective discounting aimed at encouraging customers to fulfil their purchases. There is also scope to base significant campaigns around key dates in February such as Valentine’s Day and the various school half-term holidays, both of which can be used to a retailers advantage. Product countdowns that allow customers to see exactly how much stock there is left of limited items will also draw them in and encourage them to act swiftly. Having a clear customer engagement strategy with specific content marketing will encourage purchasing decisions.
As sales slow in February, taking advantage of any extra time can be advantageous. Stepping aside from the day-to-day business of a busy retail environment, focus can instead be dedicated to future plans, reflecting on how successful the Christmas and New Year period was and considering what worked and what didn’t. Strategies can be considered for upcoming months and areas such as marketing and its efficiency can be looked at.
Considering how the budget might be redirected temporarily can also be helpful. As trading can be slower, taking the usual budget dedicated to the practicalities of retail operation at busy times and directing it towards research, development or updating systems can be productive. Reflecting on the use of which systems are already in place to manage sales data and store stock management and how well the current processes work can prove vital, along with the consideration of how swiftly IT teams are to respond to store-based issues. Use this time to research into managed services providers and how outsourcing to an external partner can reduce cost and minimise disruption to retail store environments, enhancing the customer experience.
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