Planning for a Boxing Day bonanza

There is no denying that, as consumers, we all love to get our hands on a bargain. Nothing demonstrates this more than recent scenes on both sides of the Atlantic, with shoppers clamouring for a Black Friday deal.

It seems that no sooner has the dust settled and the promotional signs and stickers have been removed, than we are about to embark on one of the most anticipated retail periods of the year – the Boxing Day and New Year sales.

With Black Friday being a relatively new phenomenon in the UK and Europe, it seemed that many in the retail sector underestimated customer demand, resulting in chaotic scenes. The Retail Traffic Index from Ipsos Retail Performance posted a 23 per cent increase in UK footfall for Black Friday 2014, compared to the previous year.

Of course, with media reports surrounding the Black Friday stampede being largely negative and raising concerns over shopper safety, the past few weeks will have been a time of reflection and increased planning for many retailers.

So, as shoppers prepare to set their alarms for the early hours of Boxing Day to be first for the best bargains, we have decided to share our top tips to ensure a successful and safe post-Christmas sales period:

  • Pre-queuing has become as much of a tradition as the sales themselves. Early morning queues and the subsequent rush to get in to the store make news worthy stories for the media, but you need to consider how this portrays your brand and, more importantly, impacts on your customers. Use barriers to position your exterior queue to the side of your main door rather than directly in front of it. This will give you more control over the flow of customers entering the store and reduce the risk over everyone rushing in at once.
  • Use a customer footfall counter. Knowing how many people are in store at any given time will help you tailor your staff levels as well as protect your customers. During sales, retailers can expect higher footfall in stores, but they should never allow more customers into the store than they are legally allowed. Using a people counting solution will allow retailers to manage customer flow and avoid stores becoming overrun and leaving customers vulnerable to crushing.
  • Communication is key. Not only should you ensure that signage is clear, visible and effective to avoid baffled shoppers and create a cohesive customer journey throughout the store, but staff should be well briefed too. Plans should be in place to deal with long lines and increased customer questions. Everyone should also be aware of emergency procedures, and contingency plans should be in place to cover all eventualities.
  • Stagger offers and promotions at different times during the day as a way of managing customer flow so that not all your customers arrive at the same time. With the correct promotional messaging, customers will arrive at the store at the different times during the day depending on their shopping needs. Managing the customer flow in this way will ensure a smoother customer experience with reduced queuing times and a less frantic atmosphere.
  • You may need to make changes to your interior layout to cope with increased crowds. Traditionally at this time of year, shoppers are greeted with large displays of the best bargains at the front of the store. However, think about customer flow and safety. It may be better to keep entrance areas clutter free and encourage shoppers further in to the store to browse for bargains. Not only is this the safer option, but it may increase the average spend too by heightening dwell time.
  • Waiting in line is perhaps a given at this time of year, but do not let it impact negatively on your brand and the experience of your customers. Ensure staff levels are high enough to cope with demand and that you have in-queue entertainment to help distract customers. Research has shown that occupied time feels shorter than unoccupied time, and this can have a massive impact on your customers’ perception of your brand.

With a little careful planning and preparation, both retailers and consumers can benefit from the Boxing Day sales. Through customer and queue management, everyone in the retail sector can ensure that the start of the New Year is a profitable, safe and happy one for all.


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