How to Prepare Your Business this Holiday Season

Holiday shoppingHoliday shopping

The holidays often mean increased sales, new inventory and more customers for retail businesses, with November and December accounting for as much as 30 percent of a retailer’s annual sales.1 This time of year can also bring greater risks for retailers, from losses due to employee theft, to accidents caused by overstocked shelves.

“With increased inventory and the hiring of seasonal employees, the holidays can be a more vulnerable time for a retail business,” says Scott Humphrey, a Travelers Risk Control professional who says injuries and employee theft are two issues that can become more prevalent during the holiday season.

Inexperienced employees can be more prone to injuries and accidents, with one in four employees suffering injuries within the first year of employment, according to a 2014 Travelers study. And more than a third of the $44 billion retailers lost to “inventory shrink” in 2014 was due to employee/internal theft, according to the National Retail Federation.2 Shoplifting, administrative and paperwork errors, vendor fraud or error and unknown causes accounted for the remainder of losses.

Taking steps to prepare well before the holiday season begins can help retailers avoid these common problems.

Hiring Seasonal Workers Early and Training Properly

Start the hiring process early to allow enough time to fully vet employees. This includes conducting background checks and planning sufficient time for onboarding seasonal hires. After a new hire has been onboarded, evaluate his or her level of experience before assigning specific tasks. If possible, pair new workers with more experienced employees until the newer workers can perform the job on their own.

Help Prevent Employee Theft

An increase in workers can mean an increased potential for theft, according to Humphrey. With more merchandise and more employees present during the holidays, it’s important to have steps in place to protect your inventory. Evaluate daily transactions, review security camera videos and validate voided or deleted sales to help mitigate theft.

It can help to have cameras and supervisors visible on the sales floor. Clearly communicate company policies and protocols on theft, and consistently enforce them when appropriate.

Maintain a Safe Workplace Environment

Create an environment for workers that values and promotes safe practices, such as safe use of ladders and good housekeeping to reduce the risk of a slip, trip or fall. This can help protect both employees and customers, and is particularly important during the holidays, when stores see increased foot traffic and inventory occupying more space. Toward this end, consider:

  • Choosing decorations wisely. Some decorations may be combustible. Paper, decorated trees and wreaths will increase the fire load in an area. Keep these and other similar decorations away from heat or other ignition sources.
  • Carefully selecting locations for any additional holiday displays and products. Be sure not to cover emergency exit signs, overcrowd aisles or clutter any place that would make it difficult to get out in an emergency.
  • Maintaining appropriate inventory levels. Avoid overcrowding backrooms and other storage areas. Remember that overstocking shelves could lead to merchandise falling onto staff or customers.

Having the right insurance coverage in place can also make a difference to the bottom line if something goes wrong. A consultation with an insurance agent can help make sure a retailer’s coverage is up-to-date. It also can account for changes in inventory and new workers.

The holiday season can be a make-or-break time for retail businesses. With preparation, retailers can start the season with well-trained employees, better inventory controls and safely stocked shelves that will make for an enjoyable shopping experience, encouraging customers to return year-round.