Tag Archives: christmas

How turnstiles and other security barriers will save you during Christmas

Christmas is a few short weeks away and shoppers are preparing for it. As a business person, you need to be more prepared than anyone, as late shoppers’ desperation will take them anywhere and everywhere. The festive season is always filled with enormous numbers of shoppers, often more than any other time of year. People often take their leave days to spend with family, but it also might be the first time they’ve even had an opportunity to shop. Thus, you shouldn’t view all shoppers as merely being late, in terms of procrastinating. Instead, you should recognise that there might be these mitigating factors for their desperate attempts to bring joy to their loved ones through gifts. To help reduce problems, both for yourself and the horde of shoppers, you should consider interventions that can help manage crowds.

What is crowd control?

As Lavi Industries points out: “When crowds are ‘controlled’ everyone can enjoy themselves and a business or event can be more successful.” After all, in order to reach customers to help them, you need to know where they are, listen to them and so on. If all you encounter is noise, shouting and desperation, everything will be a mess. Order helps everyone, including customers though they may feel otherwise.

The difficulty is how to enforce order amidst this chaos. You have to rely on staff, who can become overwhelmed. It’s ideal, then, when hiring to look for those who are capable of handling themselves in tense situations, which is what every holiday season tends to be, especially in busy places like malls. Indeed, as the American National Retail Federation notes:

“For stores that do not have dedicated security or loss prevention staff, the on-site store team is
often tasked with coordinating, planning, staffing and executing the event. These staff
members provide retail companies with outside expertise and know-how that can be beneficial
in emergency situations. However, this arrangement can also pose some challenges. It’s
imperative for retailers to provide clear lines of communication, access to a top-ranking loss
prevention executive who has key decision-making capabilities and a store manager with
access to local law enforcement and the mall/property management company.”

But people can only get you so far. You must consider other interventions.

Turnstiles

One of the most popular forms of crowd control, often used in the largest stadiums in the world, are turnstiles. Turnstiles are so popular there’s even a Turnstile band. What matters to you however is what a turnstile does. This is a mechanical gate that turns horizontally, allowing for individual entrance and exits, making for free flow of people. A turnstile gate can become your most important asset in managing a large crowd, since it prevents them from flooding in en masse.

In this way, people basically control themselves, since they cannot simply force their way through. Instead, they must operate carefully and thoughtfully. This slows down flow, which makes movement easier.

Staff training

As noted, staff will often be essential. They will need to help customers faster and get them to tills and out the door. You should assist not merely by handling tills yourself, but by training your team in advance. Staff should know who to call, where products are, how to answer common questions and so on. Obviously, by virtue of being staff, they should already be trained in these. However, everything will be turned up to eleven so they must work faster and be able to react quickly.

One of the most common problems during the festive season is an increase in customer complaints. As Elaine Allison, a consumer expert, notes:

“From buying gifts, food, alcohol parties and everything in between, we all need the extra time and strategies – including the staff who are working during the rush. Most people are not on their regular clock and they are getting pushy and cranky out there. This includes service staff in any of those industries that won’t breathe until about January 5th.”

Thus, you should expect one cranky person to encounter another, as a desperate customer meets obstacles and staff who are overwhelmed by the numbers around them. You must establish protocols, such as having a senior member on staff available at all times. Don’t ever let it escalate to the point where a customer makes a public display and vows to never return. Instead, isolate the customer, speak softly and assure them any problem will be solved. Sometimes, all customers want is someone in some position of power to hear their complaints – they don’t particularly want a solution right now, as much as they want a sympathetic ear to hear their frustration. Be prepared to play therapist!

By taking these kinds of precautions, you can create a smooth transition from the normal year into the festive one.

The Christmas rush: do you need a man trap or staff?

Christmas is a difficult time of year for everyone, especially shop owners. Shoppers have left things to the last minute and are scrambling to find the right gifts. The festive season is also the only time many get time off to actually do shopping. Malls swarm with these late comers, as well as tourists who’ve come to the city to experience the delights on offer. The problem for managers and business owners is having to manage these massive numbers of people. You need to begin considering how to manage your store when it comes to Christmas shopping.

Dealing with numbers

As Fortune notes, in America, shoppers admit to their late spending months before. And American shoppers’ habits mimic those around the world.

“The majority of shoppers, though, say they won’t finish until December, and a surprising 30% admit they won’t be done until Christmas Eve — a figure that goes up to 37% for shoppers under the age of 30.”

Interestingly, as CBC points out, “the day after Christmas is expected to be the third-busiest in terms of traffic, as people start making returns and redeeming gift cards.” This means even when the first rush ends, the whole ordeal has not. You still need to have staff on standby, especially for the complications of refunding, returning gifts and redeeming vouchers.

Knowing that this happens every year, stores have had to make provisions for it. This includes having more staff, working longer hours and making provisions in terms of stock. But primarily, you need to start thinking about more tangible interventions to help manage the crowds at the door.

Man traps

One of the most promising forms of crowd control are man traps. Data Center Journal notes:

“A mantrap is essentially just that: a small room designed to “trap” those who would enter a secure area of a facility. This “trap” enables security—whether a system or an employee—to verify the credentials of the entrant and either allow access or trigger alerts indicating an unauthorized entry attempt. Mantraps, which are sometimes called security vestibules, are small rooms with two or more doors. Authentication procedures may be required either at just the door to the secure area or at all doors. The simplest implementation of a mantrap involves two doors: one connects the vestibule to the secure area, and one connects to the nonsecure area.”

These are more common in banks, allowing workers to quickly screen who is entering the secure area. People can be stopped in their tracks before having access to areas you want to protect. Of course, this might be detrimental to ordinary stores, since you want a free flow of shoppers to enter and exit. However, this is dependent on the store you’re managing. Sometimes security is more important than an endless stream of shoppers who may not even be there to buy anything.

Stores that sell particularly expensive items, such as jewellry, might want to consider a man trap door to help limit who enters. Considering only a few customers are needed for profits – each one spending a large amount every time they buy – your store is already beyond needing the free flow of customers entering and exiting.

Staff training

Another way to help manage crowds is to properly train your staff. While naturally staff should be highly trained if they’re working for you, there will be different priorities during a Christmas rush. Queues will form that might snake out the door, customers might have more immediate complaints and concerns. Also, at this time of year, people are more agitated, as they’re surrounding by loud people all trying to get out at the same time. This is a time for cool heads to prevail, as the storm subsides.

The best way to train your staff through this period is to indicate the worst case scenarios. Point out what they need to do in order to calm any problem situations. However, as Work Pro points out, the best way to help staff during the Christmas rush is to have more staff.

“Arguably the best ways to help your employees deal with the Christmas rush is to ensure that you have enough staff on hand. Historically, getting people into temporary jobs quickly has been challenging, but thanks to web-based staff induction services, the process is now simpler than ever. Hiring sufficient workers to accommodate the busy period will help you provide better customer service while also keeping your existing employees more satisfied and stress free.”

With more staff, you can manage most of the issues you might have when it comes to customers. This helps make transactions run smoothly and ensures that customers have an ear for their complaints. You want to make sales as often as possible, particularly during the Christmas season as people are in prime shopper mode.

No one wants to enter a store that appears poorly managed. Therefore, you benefit two-fold by having an efficiency system in place to deal with large crowds: more transactions due to smoother processes and a more inviting space for other customers. The time to begin planning for the Christmas rush is now.

 

How shops should handle crowds during the holidays

The Festive season can be problematic to many retailers and shops. It’s busy, it’s loud, it’s overflowing with eager, impatient customers, all wanting to purchase specific items as soon as possible – to make the Christmas deadline. As we’ve noted before, retailers ought to have their preparations in place for this time period – it’s the most rushed, but it’s also the most lucrative. It’s ideal then that retailers have their ducks in a row on more levels than just being able to make the sale.

One of the most important ways they can do this is through proper management of the crowd in their store. Queuing is an issue no customer wants to be part of: everyone hates waiting in line and would prefer it if they were served immediately and directly. But this cannot be the case when so many other customers also need attending to and are there before you.

The study of queues is actually a deep field receiving much attention. As Slate’s Seth Stevenson notes: “There are three givens of human nature that queuing psychologists must address: 1) We get bored when we wait in line. 2) We really hate it when we expect a short wait and then get a long one. 3) We really, really hate it when someone shows up after us but gets served before us.”

Stevenson notes that, for example, one enterprising business’ solution to reduce extensive waiting for a lift was to install mirrors; this seemed to reduce the employees’ anger and general irritation. Using this idea, make sure you have ways to customers to be distracted or interested in various items to mediate their boredom.

Seeing upset queues is also a deterrent to potential customers.

Another way stores themselves can help manage crowds is having dedicated employees who are there to engage directly with individual customers. The American National Retail Federation (NRF) advises: “Dedicate knowledgeable employees to communicate and manage crowds, from arrival to departure, and resolve any potential conflicts that may arise.”

Bigger stores are also advised to install structures like speedgates, bars and similar items, that can help manage crowd without human assistance or intervention.

There will be crowds and we need to manage them if we want those crowds to be tangible sales. This means being proactive and putting in place interventions that can help.

How shops should prepare for the Christmas rush

The Festive Season is a big deal to many of us – it’s finally the time to relax for a bit, celebrate with our families and give out gifts. However, since everyone else will be doing this, this means there’s a rush created as people only start acting closer to Christmas time. No one wants to be caught in the Christmas rush, but it will inevitably happen. The Festive Season is a big deal to retailers.

In the US alone, eMarketer predicts:

“US retail sales in the months of November and December 2015 will increase 5.7% year over year, reaching $885.70 billion. That’s an upward adjustment from the 3.2% growth rate predicted earlier this year—and the highest since the 6.3% rise in 2011.”

Yet, getting those sales isn’t merely going to happen by itself and stores need to prepare for the rush, to even get those sales in the first place. Stores, even in Australia, indicate this. As Lifehacker AU notes: “some retailers make up to 40 per cent of their yearly profits in the last quarter, making it a vital time of year to get things right.”

The issue a lot of smaller businesses face during the rush is the inability to deal with the frequency and volume of customer needs.

Shopify advises that you start preparing early and start setting policies in place that might not be in place at any other point; or rather, amend policies to apply certain leeway due to the holiday period, such as extended times for returns.

“Many online and offline stores will offer …more liberal and extended return and exchange policy for the holiday season. You’ll need to consider if this is the correct move for your store by carefully considering the impact it can have on not only sales, but also how it will effect your already established processes.”

It’s also important you’ve worked out various payment options: this could mean either examining options like PayPal or getting your point of sale software up-to-date.

It might also be important to ascertain what your suppliers are able to get you; naturally, yours will not be the only store and it is, therefore, important to know what precisely is happening in terms of your outside connections that you are dependent on to even have product to sell. After all, they, like you, are probably also dealing with the Festive Rush – this time from increased number of requests from all stores.

Taking these kinds of preparatory steps well in advance can see your store survive the rush.