How to Train Retail Staff for the Holiday Season

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How Train Retail Staff Holiday Season

The difference between a ho-ho and a ho-hum holiday season for small retailers can often depend on staff performance.

Employees play a critical role in boosting sales during the holiday season, which can make up 30 percent of total annual sales for many small retailers.  Numerous studies have cited customer service as one of the primary reasons people patronize small businesses. 

The smart small business owner knows a successful season starts with employees. So it’s vital to focus on maximizing staff performance to get a bigger share of the estimated $655.8 billion in total U.S. sales that the National Retail Federation (NRF) is expecting for the 2016 holiday season.  

Perhaps the most important advice for small retailers is to have a training plan before the season starts. It doesn’t have to be a formal training program; just make sure it’s written down so you can refer to it. The best way to organize the training is to have the most basic aspects in the beginning and then more complex topics at the end.

The following are some of the topics that should be included in any training plan for a small retailer.

Know Your Role

Before the holiday season, an owner or manager should meet their team members to review responsibilities and priorities for every role. Don’t wait to do this, as job responsibilities can become unclear during the busy times. Let staff know up front if you expect them to pitch in when necessary and quickly learn new tasks if the situation requires it.  While not every circumstance can be fully anticipated, the more your team knows about what you expect, the more they can focus on performing their job rather than spending time trying to guess what you want them to do.

Know Your Product

Your employees should be put through rigorous training before the holiday season starts to ensure that they thoroughly know the products your business is selling and are able to demonstrate them to customers. Demonstrations increase sale when appropriately done, and again this is a differentiator from big box stores, which often don’t have the time and resources that allow for this type of activity.

Your staff should know which products can be sold together (add-on selling). You also want to train them to know when it’s appropriate to suggest more expensive models and also the right time to back off so they don’t seem too pushy and drive people away.  It’s also critical to continue training throughout the holiday season as buying trends may change.

Know Your Customers

It’s important to review all aspects of the customer experience with your staff. You want to ensure that employees know how you want them to treat customers from the moment they enter the store to when they leave, hopefully with a purchase. While it may be obvious to you, explain to staff about the type of greeting each customer should get and that they need to stop whatever they are doing in order to speak with a potential buyer.

Your staff needs to hear from you how to listen to the customer and find out the reason they came into your store. That way, your team can make appropriate suggestions for purchases. If possible, you can have staff practice with each other before the holiday season begins so that they will be fully prepared when the rush starts.


Carmen Fleetwood Paul

Carmen is a veteran journalist and editor whose experience includes Dow Jones Newswires and the Associated Press. She has written on a variety of topics ranging from sports to complex financial issues. 

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