Your staff are your most important asset, especially in this busy season. How can you make sure that they stay motivated and spirits are high (which in turn can lead to increased sales and a positive environment)?

I remember my first Holiday Season in Retail Management.  I loved the fun of finding just the right pick for those looking for gifts, the craziness of filling in stock as items sold out, the hustle and bustle of the check out area –  it was both exhilarating and exhausting all at the same time.

Christmas Eve arrived.   We closed at 4 p.m. and I went home in eager anticipation of the Christmas Eve activities with my family.  To refresh myself, I stretched out on the couch and closed my eyes.  Apparently, the weeks of holiday retail craziness got the better of me and when I awoke, it was afternoon on Christmas Day.  In my family, we do most of our celebrating on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning.  Basically, I’d missed it all. My mom just didn’t have the heart to wake me up, knowing that I must really need that sleep.  While this did not deter me from continuing in the retail business and loving my career choice, It did make me realize that there needed to be a different approach to the Holiday selling season.

Fast forward 12 years and I found myself in the position of overseeing the retail operations of a family owned chain of stores totaling 8 at the time.  It was in the 80’s when big box stores were few and far between and business was booming.  Our holiday business was growing each year and the memories of that first Christmas I experienced on the front lines of retail management came back to me.  I thought long and hard about how I could help keep the fun and spirit of the season alive so that when all of us went home to our families, we could actually enjoy the very “reason for the season” that was our livelihood.   The answer I came up with is definitely too lengthy to detail here, but below are the basics of what it entailed and can be incorporated into your business – be it retail, manufacturing or rep, as you approach the countdown to Christmas.

1.  Make the season fun!  Find something different each day to do with your staff.  Nothing big – a little sharing of a fun event, a day to share treats, a scavenger hunt for a special small gift for all – be creative!  Ask your staff to help with ideas.

2. Give more breaks. Rather than setting a strict break schedule, add a few “take fives” to just allow for “regrouping” and clearing the head of the frenetic atmosphere on the sales floor.

3. Alternate positions within the store frequently. Don’t have one person keep on only one task. Mix things up for variety and to ward off the “deer in the headlights” syndrome.  One person’s frustration can become another person’s exciting challenge

4. Take candid snap shots and post them in your back room for some good laughs during the season and after.

5. Start a list for staff to write down a great thing that happened to them at work each day. Post it in where all staff can see it.

6. Set up a buddy system. If not within your own store, within our ASTRA community.  Find a buddy and make it a point to call that person (or see in person if they are within your store, town, community), just to give positive feedback, share some stories and enjoy the season.

7. Get into the spirit! Have an “ugly sweater day”, a “jingle bell day”, a Santa Hat Day, etc. Not only will your staff have fun, your customers will enjoy the different looks each day (they might even return just to see what the next day will be!)

8. At the end of the season, do something just a little “extra” to make sure you show your true appreciation of the efforts put forth by all.

BELIEVE!  It does make a difference – and not just for your staff and store, but also for yourself. Not only will keeping spirits high through the season make it fun for everyone, but it will keep the “bah humbugs” away and boost the overall energy to get you through to the new year.

Share in the comments – how do you keep your staff (and your own) spirits high during the busy holiday season?


Sue Warfield is the Director of Member Relations at ASTRA. With more than 30 years of experience in the retail and toy business, Sue offers insight into industry trends and tips and works to connect the retailers, sales representatives, manufacturers and affiliates in the specialty toy retailing arena.
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