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Consumers set for last-minute Christmas spending surge

Monday, 19 December 2011 | By Michelle Hammond

Retail veteran Russell Zimmerman has revealed his top tips for sparking last-minute Christmas sales, with a recent survey showing 50% of consumers will leave their shopping to the 11th hour.

 

According to an annual survey of 100 consumers, by the Australian Retailers Association, 50% intend to finalise their Christmas shopping between December 19-24.

 

Zimmerman, executive director of the ARA, says this is the first time in six years Christmas Day will fall on a Sunday, giving consumers a full week to make last-minute purchases.

 

“It’s typical of Australian consumers to leave at least some of their Christmas shopping to the 11th hour, with around 50% planning to finish their shopping during this next week,” he says.

 

“With 56% of surveyed Australians heading to a suburban shopping centre, consumers can try to avoid crowds if they’re willing to go to their local shopping strips or head to the CBD.”

 

“Only 7% said they would shop on a local shopping strip and 14% said they would head to the CBD to do their shopping.”

 

“This is a crucial week for retailers, who will have all hands on deck to offer crowds of customers product advice, suggestions and, of course, run the final sale through the till.”

 

Zimmerman says while the Christmas spirit has received a much-needed boost due to the recent interest rate cut, retailers must ensure their sales strategies cater for last-minute shoppers.

 

In addition to putting on additional staff to cope with the influx of consumers, Zimmerman encourages retailers to promote easy gift ideas such as gift packs.

 

“Quite often, for men in particular, consumers need guidance in picking those goods, so have some ideas at the ready to help people with what they should be purchasing,” Zimmerman says.

 

“For a shoe retailer, it can be as simple as packaging some polish, brushes and cloths together.”

 

Zimmerman says trading hours are also an essential part of any successful sales strategy, reminding retailers some businesses will be open “right up until the death knock”.

 

“It’s not just about extending trading hours at the end of the day but offering to open early, especially if you’re a food retailer,” Zimmerman says.

 

“Also, if a customer has bought an extensive number of goods, offer to store it while they continue their shopping.”

 

With regard to gift cards, Zimmerman says retailers need to ensure the expiry date is reasonable, suggesting a two-year timeframe.

 

“It’s essential to clearly state the terms and conditions in terms of what you will expect of the customer with regard to the expiry date, and the amount on the gift card,” he says.

 

Finally, with regard to returned items, Zimmerman urges retailers to make the process as pleasant as possible.

 

“Make it a great customer experience. If you have a customer and you make it an unpleasant experience, people will always remember that and they will refer it to their friends,” he says.

 

“Make the experience pleasant. If you do, customers will remember it and they’re likely to tell other people that yours is a great store to deal with.”