5 Important Ways to Prepare Your Retail Team for Black Friday

Are you and your retail team ready for the 100+ million people who will be shopping in-stores on Black Friday this year?

From extending store hours — sometimes as much as 24/7 all of Thanksgiving weekend — to hiring on extra seasonal staff, Black Friday has quite an impact on retail stores. But it ends up being worth it, as for some retailers, Black Friday is the peak of the season. In fact, in between Black Friday and Christmas, brands make as much as 40 percent of their annual revenue!

Whether you manage a team at a top retailer like Walmart or Target, or you’re preparing your small business to reach out for a piece of the pie for the first time, here are five important ways to get your in-store team ready for the big day:

1. Prepare to Pitch in

Don’t forget — managers are employees, too. As the leader of your team, it’s important for them to see you rolling up your sleeves and setting the example for the kind of performance you expect from them on Black Friday. In fact, having a manager’s support on the ground and throughout the day can provide a critical boost in employee morale:

“I have walked into stores on Black Friday where the management team is nowhere to be found,” says Jeff Fretz, Director of Products To Profits. “And then I have been in stores where the management team is on the floor with their employees, and you can tell the difference. When your team sees you helping customers, doing what is needed to get through the day and support their breaks, manage difficult customers, or help them find inventory, it can be very motivating.”

[Related: Retailer’s Guide to Holiday Hiring]

2. Hire Early

If you need to do any hiring, make sure you’re doing it now. If you try to staff your retail team a week or two before Black Friday, you won’t have enough time to train your staff and figure out who is and isn’t up for the job — you also may not have very competitive candidates to choose from:

“There’s a very competitive labor market out there, and major brands such as Kohl’s began the holiday hiring process back in August,” says Ray Riley, Chief Executive Officer of Progress Retail. “You should be securing your casual talent for the holiday season quickly, and aim to have all available positions filled by November 1st at the absolute latest. After all, sometimes casual team members don’t work out because of a competing schedule with another job, family needs, or simply the wrong fit. Regardless of the cause, this leaves you with a void at the worst possible time, and often times you can’t recover quickly because it’s too difficult to shift back into recruiting mode when you’re gearing up for Black Friday.”

3. Play to Employees’ Strengths

As you start to plan your retail team’s approach to Black Friday, keep in mind that employees will perform better when they’re more comfortable. Sometimes that means delegating different tasks or departments to different employees to make sure everyone plays to their strengths:

“Employees need clear expectations of what they’re expected to do, plus adequate training to be able to perform their job well,” says Ashira Prossack, Millennial & Gen Z Engagement Expert. “You can prepare your team for what to expect and give them a sense of what Black Friday will be like by scheduling new employees for weekend or peak time shifts leading up to Black Friday. Then, about 2-3 weeks ahead of time, assign employees to zones in the store based on their strengths so that everyone feels very confident about their role on the big day.”

4. Treat Your Team

Black Friday is hard work, but you’ll see a big return on investment if you can find the time or budget to invest in some fun or team-building leading up to the event:

“As a retail store manager, your Black Friday team is your biggest asset, so go the extra mile in hospitality for them,” says Christel Chaunsumlit, Head of Training and Client Experience for STICK-AMIS. “For example, I would always have breakfast and lunch catered for the store, as food was almost impossible to get at the mall during the holidays without spending half your break in line. Plus, employees love free food! We even had an informal pre-party before Black Friday to kick off the selling season. Something as simple as having a dinner the week of Black Friday or going bowling as a team the Tuesday before can provide a powerful way for the team to bond before the massive crowds arrive on Friday, raising morale and performance for the big day.”

[Related: How to Reward Employees When You Can’t Give Raises]

5. Coach Your Team to Be Expert Gift-Givers

Want to help your team feel even more proficient at their jobs, and also provide a better shopping experience to your retail customers? Consider doing extra training to help your team become gift-giving consultants for customers who are stressed about finding the perfect holiday gifts:

“In our 2017 holiday survey, we found that the primary reason customers shop in-store is to get inspiration for gift ideas,” says Stefan Midford, president and CEO of Natural Insight. “In fact, almost 60% of millennials like browsing new gift ideas, as 50% of 18 to 29-year-olds report finding good presents for loved ones a top stressor during holiday shopping. Black Friday retailers can help customers alleviate that stress by arming sales associates with a list of gifts most popular for loved ones, friends, and colleagues and taking some of the pressure off your customers to come up with great gift ideas.”

Learn More & Download: 

Employee Engagement Playbook