5 Shop Safety Tips to Manage Holiday Crowds
The holiday shopping season officially kicks off with Black Friday, bringing an uptick in foot traffic to many sporting goods and hobby stores. Nearly 105 million Americans shopped in person over the 2021 Thanksgiving weekend, according to the National Retail Federation, up from 92.3 million in 2020.
With similar numbers expected for the 2022 holiday shopping season, it's important to have a plan for managing shop safety.The following tips can help ensure that your customers have the best—and safest—shopping experience possible over the holidays.
1. Mark Your Calendar for High-Traffic Days
The span from October to December may be busier than usual for your store, but some days tend to bring bigger crowds than others. For example, if you own a gaming store then you might see more in-store shoppers on days that new video games or consoles drop. If you run a sporting goods store, Black Friday and Small Business Saturday may be your biggest sales days.
Reviewing your sales for the fourth quarter of last year can help you determine when you're most likely to see traffic spikes to your store. It's also important to be aware of any product release dates that are specific to your shop's niche which may draw in larger crowds. Knowing when to expect more traffic can help you avoid being caught off-guard on busier days.
2. Review Your Store's Layout
A key element of crowd management training is being able to identify potential safety hazards in areas that attract large groups of people. You can apply that concept to your own shop safety plan by doing a thorough walk-through of your store to look for potential trouble spots.
Here are some key things to consider:
- Does the current layout allow for a smooth flow of customer traffic?
- Are sale items spread out to avoid overcrowding in one particular area or are they clustered together?
- Are displays set up to allow customers and staff to easily navigate around them?
- Is there adequate space to accommodate longer lines at the cash register?
- Are your store's exits clearly marked and easily accessible in case of an emergency?
Performing this kind of safety audit can help you pinpoint any trouble spots that could lead to traffic jams or accidental injuries. You can also discuss with your staff any issues or concerns they might have about the store's layout with regard to safety and keeping customer traffic flowing smoothly.
3. Conduct a Safety Training Review With Employees
Holiday shopping can be stressful for customers, which can sometimes result in uncomfortable, or even unsafe, situations for you and your staff. What if you're running a sale in your sporting goods or hobby store on a "hot" holiday item, for example. Could that pose a threat to people's physical safety if customers are rushing the shelves? In a worst-case scenario, competition among shoppers can escalate into violence.
In those situations, it's important for staff to know how to react for their own safety and the safety of your customers. Some of the topics you might cover in a crowd management training session include:
- What steps your staff should take to resolve customer complaints or conflicts to avoid escalation
- How to proceed if a situation begins to escalate
- Who to call if your staff needs security or law enforcement
- Contingency plans for specific emergencies, such as overcrowding, violent customers or fire
You may consider designating one or two employees to receive advanced training in conflict resolution. They can then handle customer complaints or deescalate tense situations. If you decide to do that, it can be helpful to provide other staff members with a standardized process signaling that they need assistance with an angry or dissatisfied customer.
It may also be a good idea to consider whether hiring seasonal employees to help handle the overflow from crowds makes sense. The added payroll expenditure could be well worth it if having more staff helps to keep unruly crowds under control.
4. Prep Early for Special Sales Events
Running exclusive sales can attract more people to your store. While that's great for the bottom line, the added crowds can call for special safety measures. If you're holding an event exclusively for store loyalty rewards members that requires a wristband or ticket to enter, setting up barriers can help manage traffic flow so the event goes off without a hitch.
You can also use signage to direct shoppers where to go so they're less likely to get bunched up. Placing clearly visible signs at the front of the store, and in specific sections with special sales, can help prevent customers from wandering the aisles.
If you have a smaller store and you're worried about being overwhelmed, you may consider running certain promotions as online-only events. Redirecting some of your shoppers to your store's e-commerce website can take the strain off of your staff and help with crowd control on higher volume sales days.
5. Consider Hiring Security Staff
Bringing in security personnel for the holiday shopping season is something you might also consider as an added layer of protection for your shop safety plan. Private security officers are trained to keep crowds under control and address any escalating situations that might arise. They can also free your regular employees up to continue assisting customers. If you don't think you'll need private security for the entire shopping season, you may still want to hire personnel temporarily for special sales days or events.
The holidays can bring more customers to your store. The resulting growth in sales is great, but the added stress isn't so much. As part of your safety plan, you may also want to review your insurance coverage and make sure it's sufficient for your business. A comprehensive business insurance policy can cover things like cybercrime, robbery and equipment breakdowns. Connect with your local independent Westfield agent today to learn more about the business insurance solutions we provide.