A Wholesaler’s Guide to Preparing for Black Friday

Michael Elmgreen, Chief Revenue Officer, Handshake

Black Friday is the unofficial start to the most important time of the year for retailers – the holiday shopping season. For wholesalers, it is not only an opportunity to finish the year strong financially, but also to differentiate by empowering their retailers for success. To maximize sales, manufacturers and distributors need a strategy that creates a great start to the season on Black Friday, carries that momentum through Christmas, and ensures inventory is sold through by New Year’s. By implementing some basic tactics wholesalers can create a winning game plan for the holidays.

Get products on the shelves early.Keeping retailers’ shelves filled with products from Black Friday through the end of the season is critical for wholesalers to succeed. It is crucial to work with the production and operations teams to ensure orders with November shipping dates are delivered on time and without error. Manufacturers and distributors can have their customer service teams reach out to their accounts with December shipping windows to see if they are willing to take product earlier. This will help guarantee that inventory is available and extended terms can be offered to encourage retailers back up in-store products in time for the high selling season.

Continuously monitoring the production schedule for delays and resolving issues early is a great step toward shipping as much as possible at the beginning of the month. It also allows ample time for the warehouse and customer service to make their needed adjustments. The warehouse can protect your top accounts by ensuring their orders will ship completed. In addition, the customer service team can work with any others that might be expected to ship incomplete. The goal should be to maintain close to a 100 percent fill rate during this time of year.

Make an impact at the store. Educating sales associates about key products can be a huge factor in achieving success on retail shelves. Get sales reps (and tech reps) into accounts for daytime selling and after-hours clinics with shop employees.

Provide them with a budget for refreshments to get retail staff trained, knowledgeable, and excited about the brand. The goal is to make sure retail staff at key accounts are technically versed on products – how a snowboard rides, a guitar sounds, or a pair of jeans fit. Send your reps with product knowledge packets or simple fact sheets focused on the products and brand so shop employees can reference them later on.

Incorporate the marketing team by providing them with a list of your top 10 accounts along with a set of goals you’d like to achieve. Maybe it’s developing a window display, creating an in-store build-out, or placing a demo or sample program. If the marketing department is out of budget, other departments can be asked to contribute to the cause. For many companies, budgets that go unused are lost for good, so be sure to take advantage of all available resources.

Motivate internal staff and retailers. Incentivize sales 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, offer reimbursements for gas and other travel expenses during this time or put together a quick contest based on number of orders placed. Removing obstacles for sales reps and keeping them focused on winning the holiday season is an imperative for delivering a strong holiday performance

In addition, motivating internal customer service teams to dial for dollars with smaller accounts they’ve previously worked with can extend the reach of your holiday distribution. 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.

Keeping retailers engaged before and after Black Friday is important to gaining placement and sell through. Arming sales teams with industry and consumer trends, sales performance data, and detailed marketing and promotion plans for preseason sales meetings help create opportunities to grow the business year-over-year. In addition, granting additional discounts, extended dating, or even offers to take back unsold product are all options to keep on the table during this time to motivate retail buyers.

Prepare for unexpected demand. The dream of every wholesaler is to have one of the hot products of the holiday season. After Black Friday, sales and customer service teams should regularly check-in with their accounts to see how products are selling and production have a plan for unexpected sales spikes. While you do not want to overproduce, empty store shelves are a missed opportunity.

In addition, wholesalers should provide retailers with multiple convenient and easy options to place reorders. Methods that are integrated with back office systems offer faster order processing and fulfillment. Expedited shipping should be considered to rapidly get shelves fully restocked.

Have a backup plan. Reach out to off-price distribution channels as well as international representatives and distributors to start putting together year-end deals to help ensure any excess inventory will be off the books before the start of the year.

If these outlets and contacts are new to the business, start to develop them. Try to avoid regions with top tier distribution or expect an unpleasant phone call from a 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 as inventory shifts on a regular basis. Ideally, work a “take all” at a specific discount that’ll ship Dec 31 or shortly after the New Year.

Getting deals like this in place will add as much revenue on the books as possible before beginning the next year with a clean slate.

Black Friday doesn’t have to be stressful. Taking a strategic approach to preparing for the holidays by adopting these simple steps will put you further in the black by year’s end. With the season in full swing soon, you’ll be glad you did.

Michael Elmgreen is Chief Revenue Officer at Handshake, a provider of a B2B commerce platform for manufacturers and distributors.