Once upon a time, Thanksgiving Day stood as the only holiday during the last week of November. Now, there’s also Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday and of course, Black Friday. As the holiday shopping season creeps closer to Halloween, these big sale events are integral to hitting those lofty fourth-quarter profit goals.
According to Forbes, the days following Thanksgiving are expected to yield about $617 billion in sales, with in-store purchases making up roughly $500 billion of that. The source reported that more people are expected to be traveling greater distances due to the sudden drop in gas prices, as an increasing number of consumers decides the discounts are worth the drive. The National Retail Federation determined that 97 million shoppers will hit the malls on Black Friday, and 140 million people will spend money across the whole weekend.
With this vast number of post-Thanksgiving holiday shoppers being predicted, it’s vital that every store be prepared to handle large groups of customers. Before Black Friday and the subsequent sales events approach, review these crowd control tactics.
There are several areas of the store that need special attention in preparation for and during these high-traffic days.
To start, create a map of space so you can determine how the line will work, where signage is necessary and the best arrangement for smooth traffic flow. The drawing should include the points at which the staff in charge of crowd control or security will be situated.
If you’re expecting lines to form at the entrance or cash registers, it’s important to know where the shoppers can stand safely and comfortably. It’s best to start the line away from the entrance and exit points so there’s enough space in the event of an emergency. Regardless of how you arrange your crowd control equipment to make the line wind around, the doors should never be blocked.
Next, consider how you want shoppers to maneuver throughout the store. You can set store fixtures to form aisles and section off areas for types of merchandise. One way to avoid bottlenecks in the store plan is by spacing out the hot selling items. Rather than everyone charging toward the 50 percent off shelves in the back, they can find display tables of different half-off items across the store. When it comes to traffic flow, appropriate signage is also key. Crowds can be loud and difficult to communicate with vocally, but helpful and effective signs around the store can make the weekend go smoother.
Finally, designate a point of entry and exit specifically for employees and emergency personnel, if your physical space allows for it. This gives an extra barrier of safety in case the main entrance becomes overcrowded with shoppers.
Making sure everyone is properly informed throughout Black Friday sales can make or break the event. There should be a clear chain of command for employees to follow when it comes to store emergencies. If there’s a situation where staff need to react quickly, they should already know who the go-to manager is. It can be helpful to use employee headsets if you have a lot of seasonal hires and the store is large.
You also need to communicate with the correct safety personnel. That might mean coordinating with mall security or alerting the local police officers that traffic and crowds will be abundant near your store for the holiday weekend. It’s also important to find out your store’s maximum occupancy and find a way to keep track when the line begins growing, for everyone’s safety.
Finally, communication with shoppers is integral. While signage can take care of some points for you, staff should be keeping waiting customers abreast of the approximate remaining time until they’re served, as well as information about restrooms.