Gearing Up for the Holiday Rush (1,954 words)
It's not beginning to look a lot like Christmas just yet, but retailers know the importance of preparing early. With 1999 holiday shoppers spending an average of $1,080 on gift purchases, the sheer numbers can be daunting. Now is the time to gear up.
"Gearing up" can mean lots of different things, from accepting orders on the Web; to dealing with customers over the phone; to delivering packages on time. There are several details to tend to long before you hear the first Christmas carol.
Have a look inside some successful operations to learn how to begin.
Christmas is Its Business
Collin Street Bakery, a Corsicana, TX-based company in operation since 1896, knows the importance of direct marketing with a personal touch.
Selling nothing but (gulp) fruitcakes year-round, Christmas is the cornerstone of Collin Street's business. The direct merchants ship 100,000 packages a day in the weeks preceding Christmas Day. Two distinct business models emerge, with different modes of operation during in-season versus off-season. And since it's been using direct mail successfully for 104 years, customer service is integral to what it does. But finding increased staff for only part of the year is a major concern, says Collin Street officer Bob McNutt. Unlike other marketers like Lands' End, which has forged ongoing partnerships with other seasonal employers in the area, Collin Street relies on less formal methods to prepare for the busy season, McNutt says.
"We employ 85 people year-round," says McNutt, "and when we gear up beginning in October we go to around 700." People are needed to man the phones in the call center, for front-end production (as bakers and decorators) and back-end production (packaging) work, front office staff who open and sort the mail, as well as people to oversee Web operations. McNutt says Collin Street relies on its strong community ties to find reliable employees. "It's a small town, and we get quality people," he says.