Black Friday and the challenges facing retailers during the festive season

by | 23.11.2016
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Winter is coming and with it a horde eager to consume all that lies in their path…

 

Thankfully, it’s not the undead White Walkers from HBO’s hit Game of Thrones but an army of a different kind; consumers eager to grab the best bargains in the run up to Christmas. Black Friday takes place this Friday (November 25th) and if history is anything to go by will be even busier than the record-breaking 2015.

 

Across the Black Friday weekend last year the UK saw shoppers spend in excess of £3.3 billion, with £1.1billion being spent on Black Friday itself, up nearly £300 million from 2014. It was also the biggest day for online retail the UK has ever seen with Amazon selling 7.2 million items. In Sweden, trade (compared to an average Friday) on Black Friday increased by 100% in 2013, 173% in 2014 and 257% in 2015. Another huge increase is predicted this year, especially when it comes to electrical goods.

 

However, despite soaring sales, the period from Black Friday through to Christmas can bring with it huge challenges for retailers, challenges which can make or break them. Black Friday is a prime example. Because customers now expect deep discounts, high sales don’t always translate to bottom line impact.

 

Alongside this, other challenges include:

 

Staffing levels. Whether it’s more staff on the shop floor or in the warehouse helping to fulfil online orders, retailers have to make sure they get their staffing levels right. They need to strike the right balance between servicing customers quickly and running to budget.

 

Costs. This brings us to staff costs. The UK has seen the introduction of the National Living Wage this year which means finding the most effective way of controlling costs should be a top priority for every retailer.

 

Standing out from the competition. With so much choice for consumers, those businesses who stand out, can stay ahead of the competition. One of the ways supermarket store Aldi does this is by paying their staff more than the National Living Wage. They believe this brings in better employees and attracts more customers who admire their ethical practices.

 

Doing more with less. The transition to omnichannel, online shopping away from traditional bricks and mortar stores means retailers are having to work people harder, with less managers, less colleagues and a higher manager to colleague ratio. This can put extra strain on a workforce that is naturally more stressed at a busy point in the year.

 

Shoppers increasingly look for this omnichannel experience, so it’s vital retailers who want to enjoy the most success through the holiday season put the right systems in place to help them do this.

 

This is where workforce management software can help. Simon Hedeaux, CEO of ReThink Productivity, says: “As a retailer, once you reach a critical mass, there’s no reason at all not to invest in a workforce management solution and, with everything going mobile, it opens up a whole world of benefits from shift clocking to holiday booking.

 

“And this includes having the solution in your warehouse, for your picking and supplying, as well as in your stores which many retailers fail to do.”

 

From automated and intelligent scheduling through to enhanced communication and absolute control over labour costs, workforce management software will help many retailers overcome the challenges of Black Friday and the festive season.

 

And if there isn’t a system already in place, maybe now is the right time to add it to your Christmas wishlist?

Tommy Tonkins

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