The Wholesaler's Guide to Preparing for Black Friday

Mike Carr
October 24, 2014

Black Friday. Falling on November 28th of this year, the infamous midnight lines are just around the corner. It’s one of the biggest days of the year for retail, and for those in the wholesale industry, it’s time to empower your retailers for success. Be equipped with the game plan and tools you’ll need to maximize sales. From incentives for retail employees to steps you can take after the smoke clears, below are five basic Black Friday wholesale strategies you can still employ to ensure everything runs smoothly.

How to Prepare Your Retailers for Black Friday: A Black Friday Wholesale Guide

1. Pick, Pack & Ship

To make sure retailers’ shelves are filled with your product through Black Friday and the rest of the season, push as much inventory out of the warehouse as you can early on. Reviewing production schedules to see if there are any delays or holdups is a great first step towards shipping what you can at the beginning of the month. Equipped with this information, work with your operations, warehouse and customer service teams to allocate, pick, pack and ship any orders with November shipping dates. Make adjustments to ship as complete as possible for your best accounts, and have customer service work with any others who might be expected to receive incomplete shipments. Ideally, however, you'll want your fill rate to be as high as possible. Take it a step further: Have customer service teams reach out to their accounts with December shipping windows to see if any of them are willing to take product earlier. You can even offer extended terms to encourage retailers to back up in-store products in time for the high selling season.

2. Knowledge Is Half the Battle

Educating retail sales associates about your key products can be a huge factor in your success on their shelves. It’s time to reach out to your external teams and get them on the road. Get your reps (and tech reps) into accounts for daytime selling and after-hours clinics with shop employees. Give them access to a budget for refreshments (pizza and soda usually do the trick) to get retail staff knowledgeable and pumped on your brand. The goal here is to make sure all employees are technically versed on your products--how a snowboard rides, a guitar sounds, or a pair of jeans fits. Send your reps with product knowledge packets or simple fact sheets focused on your products and brand so shop employees can reference them later on. Take it a step further: Leverage your marketing team. Give them a list of your top 10 accounts along with a set of goals you’d like to achieve. Maybe it’s a window display, in-store build-out, or simply hooking up shop employees with your gear. If your marketing department is out of cash, hit up your product department to contribute to the cause. For many companies, budgets that go unused are lost for good, so be sure to take advantage of the resources you have.

3. Generate More Sales

Incentivize your reps by increasing commission on at-once orders booked during the months of November and December. This will encourage them to keep the shelves stocked before, during, and after Black Friday. Alternatively, you can offer reimbursements for gas and other travel expenses during this time or put together a quick contest based on number of orders placed. Granting additional discounts, extended dating, or even offers to take back unsold product are all options to keep on the table during this time. Take it a step further: Motivate your internal customer service teams to dial for dollars with other accounts they’ve previously been in contact with. Work with the customer service manager to create a group revenue goal that will promote a team atmosphere. Event-based rewards like a team or company-wide dinner can have a significant impact.

4. Incentivize Shop Employees

There are many ways to do this that will fit virtually any budget. For a basic employee spiff program, cash is king. Base monetary rewards on number of units (or pairs) sold. For this type of spiff program, you’ll rely on the retail manager to track (and in some cases provide receipts/proof of purchase) and execute. The downside to a program like this is that it’s one more thing the manager has to keep track of during an already hectic day. Take it a step further: Think global and act local. Create an event-based contest among your local retailers. Offer to take the retailer with the best sell through percentage bowling, paintballing, or go-carting to create a unique experience that will go a long way. Be sure to invite your internal teams to develop cross-functional relationships and opportunities for feedback from the front lines.

5. Have a Backup Plan

Reach out to your off-price distribution channel as well as your international reps and distributors to start putting together year-end deals to help ensure your excess inventory will be off your books for 2015. If you don’t already have these contacts, you need to develop them. Do your best to avoid international areas where you have top tier distribution or expect an unpleasant phone call from your partner there. Be sure to leave a window open to include whatever doesn’t sell during the holidays along with any take backs from accounts. In other words, keep the deal at a high level as inventory shifts on a regular basis. Ideally, you’ll work a “take all” at a specific discount that’ll ship Dec 31st or shortly after the New Year. Getting a deal like this in place will ensure you get as much revenue on the books as possible before beginning the next year with a clean slate. It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it.   There are your five tips to becoming a well-oiled machine for the craziest shopping day of the year. Preparing for Black Friday doesn’t have to be stressful, as long as you take these elemental steps. With the holiday season in full swing soon, you’ll be glad you did.