Feature image by John Hafner
How do you cope with stress and stay organized during the preseason rush? Four veteran retailers offer their sage advice.
Phenix City, Alabama
A lot of prayer, first. Second, we make sure we have plenty of merchandise on our shelves. We also sight-in several bows and back their draw weights down so that our customers can easily test-shoot several of them before buying. We want everyone to be happy with the bow they purchase.
There’s no substitute for preparation. We go into the busy season with an organized workspace. We can’t afford to be searching for tools instead of helping customers or working on equipment. And when the rush hits, we use many tools every day, so we take several minutes when we close to clean up and put everything away.
Of course, there are times when we have more customers in the store than employees. That can be stressful. But our store is designed to keep customers comfortable and entertained until we can assist them. We always have three big-screen TVs playing hunting DVDs. We have two indoor ranges with radios playing, and we offer for our customers to go and shoot their bow (if they have it) while they’re waiting.
Our store is family-friendly. Even a nursing mother can find private areas. We also have a kids’ facility, so we inform anyone with children about our toy/game room. We have tables, recliners and a snack area.
Unfortunately, we cannot help every single customer simultaneously. But we don’t want anyone to think they’re just a number, so we acknowledge and greet them, and our 30,000-square-foot facility keeps them entertained.
This may surprise you, but we don’t sell hunting licenses here. I don’t want a customer who’s buying a complete bow package to be waiting for me to print a license. Licenses are available online anyway, and we encourage everyone to purchase them there.
St. Albans, Vermont
Experience. We’ve been in business a long time and know what it takes to stay on top when it gets busy. We always encourage our customers to bring in their equipment for repairs/service well before the busy season hits. Further, we purchased ATA’s ePRO point-of-sale software system. It helps us track all repairs, service work and other activities, keeping us organized as equipment arrives for repairs/service.
As for merchandise, the ATA ePRO system helps us tremendously, but we’re also members of ARRO Buying Group, so we program orders at ARRO’s Hot Show to arrive periodically throughout the year so that our shelves are stocked well for the busy season.
Our bowhunting season here in Vermont opens early in October, so August and September are very busy, and we increase our staffing during those months to keep up with demand. Additionally, we extend our store hours from Aug. 1 through Oct. 14. Longer hours and the additional help really alleviate stress and help us harness the workload.
Our biggest challenge during the busy season is getting through the waves of customers. As soon as a customer enters our store, we address and greet them. From there, we multi-task the best we can so that we’re aware of everyone’s needs and can handle small things right away.
Other than a monitor that plays Tactacam videos, we don’t have a waiting area for our customers. We want them to keep moving around the shop so that they hopefully see something new.
Stress and burnout are part of being busy. Fortunately, it only lasts several months. That’s OK; we can sleep in the winter!
We plan for our busy season in April, May and June. Our sales, phone calls and customer traffic increase by 80 percent during the busy season, which usually begins around Aug. 1 each year. We stay really busy through the end of October.
We maintain our inventory all year with dated billing to ensure we don’t run out of merchandise during critical times of the year.
When the busy season arrives, we stay as late as we must to catch up on repairs and service work. We work overtime to complete repair services quickly. We don’t want our customers waiting for weeks on end to pick up their equipment.
We have three people on staff during the busy season. We always greet everyone, or at least acknowledge them with a friendly nod. We also let them know when they can expect to be helped.
Stevens Point, Wisconsin
Having enough staff to keep all our customers serviced is number one. Our customers come first. It’s all about them. We make sure to keep them happy by handling their needs promptly.
We also make sure to keep our merchandise stocked. No customer wants to find empty pegs or shelves on the retail floor. If they can’t find what they need at your store, they’ll go elsewhere more often than they’ll wait for you to order it.
We work late and complete all repairs – except when a part must be ordered – within 24 hours.