By Annie Pettit

Holiday shopping in Canada is huge business. Statistics Canada reports that in one month, November 2014, Canadians spent more than $500 million on audio and video equipment. Add to that billions of dollars spent on toys, games, computers, kitchen items, cosmetics, sporting goods and more, in that same month. Whether those holidays include Christmas, Hanukkah, Eid, Kwanza, or another important family tradition, Canadians have long embraced gift giving.

value of items purchased

But, as popular as gift giving is, a majority of people (62%) say they are very or somewhat stressed during the holidays due to financial demands, family dynamics, and personal health. Retailers have a part to play in that ratcheting up that stress level but they can also work towards reducing those triggers.

  • It can’t only be about you: It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the holiday season but, for some people, consumerism is a reminder of the vast disparities in wealth and social equality around the world as well as its many negative environmental impacts. Be attentive to those emotional states by being visible and proud about the good your business does. If you don’t already, find a way to incorporate charitable activities into your processes whether that means financial donations, volunteering, or offering reduced pricing to charitable organizations. Be vocal about environmentally friendly processes, packaging (e.g., fabric, paper, or plastic bags), and wrapping services you offer including offering rewards to people who request energy/environmentally options. Highlight the products or services you offer that are environmentally friendly or that do good for other people. For instance, Toms gives away a pair of new shoes with every purchase and all of their customers know it.
  • Be wary of sensory overload: To increase the accessibility of their services, many movie theaters hold autism-friendly screenings that feature lower sound levels, brighter lights, and acceptance of guests walking and talking throughout the movie. This recognition of the widely different needs of guests can be applied to the retail environment as well. Consider designating days and times (e.g., every Sunday, or every Tuesday evening) where music and sound effects are turned way down, lights are turned on, employees are less boisterous, and any extraneous sounds, motions, and activities are limited. As is the case with many accommodations made for disabled people (e.g., larger washrooms intended to accommodate wheelchairs also accommodate parents with toddlers), store accommodations will likely also appeal to a broader set of people, perhaps elderly people or those who have social anxieties.
  • Cater to in-and-out shoppers: Many shoppers will walk past their favourite store in search of one that they can get in and out of quickly. Fortunately, there are many strategies you can take to ensure your outlet is easily accessible. Instruct employees to ‘show don’t tell’ when customers have questions. Make regular rounds throughout the day to ensure prices are easily viewable. Learn from coffee shops that have embraced the express line strategy for shoppers who are only paying for one item.
  • Overstaff: Customer experiences over the holiday season can easily affect profits over the rest of the year. Retailers that create an exceptional shopping experience will simultaneously create more loyal shoppers. With this longer-term plan in mind, smart retailers will hire and properly train temporary staff who can help them maintain the customer experience they are known for. With more extensive staffing, employees can ensure that change rooms remain uncluttered, cash register lines are directed away from blocking the aisles, people have help to carry purchases to their car, and people who don’t feel safe walking to their car in the dark have assistance. Overstaffing will improve the shopping experience for everyone and help to ensure customers remember their time as a positive experience.

Bah humbug no more!