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Looking Back at the “Top” Ten Blog Posts From 2018

Somewhere around the first of the year a lot of writers like to publish their “Top Ten” list of most viewed posts from the previous year. Wouldn’t it be smarter to post the least-viewed posts, the ones most people missed? Give people a second-chance to read your wisdom. As it is, just because a post is the most-viewed doesn’t make it the best.

This year I’m going to give you a variety pack of posts from 2018 and why you should read them (again).

The post you didn’t miss: Yes, I have Heard About Toys R Us. This was the post with the most views last year. I made a prediction in the PS of that post that has turned out to be right. Go read the post to see what I predicted.

The post you missed: Few Things Go as Planned. This was the post with the fewest views. I wrote this at the beginning of the year to remind you to plan, but to also understand that things don’t always work out the way you plan them and that you have to be able to adjust on the fly. Ask yourself, “Did 2018 happen the way you planned?” I’m betting right now your answer is No. Go read this post.

The milestone you didn’t know about: Christmas Quick Tip #3 – Sign ‘Em Up Before Checkout. This was post #1000. To some people, those numbers are kinda cool. I didn’t make a big deal about it then because it was the busy holiday season and those posts were designed to be short and sweet. by the way, this isn’t just a Christmas time tip. It is a smart business practice.

My favorite post of 2018: Five Proven Recipes. In this post I give you Paul Harvey’s recipe for a backyard mosquito spray, an all-natural weed-killer that works (if you spray regularly), and simple, tech-free recipes for raising the bar on your Hiring, Advertising, and Customer Service. Sometimes the simple ways are the best.

The post that got the most social media interest: So You Got a Bad Review? This post had the most comments on social media and was the first post of mine that was “shared” on LinkedIn (a new feature they’ve added). Best of all, it had no negative reviews, lol. If you’ve had a negative review, you might want to read this.

The best question you will ask your staff all year: How to Learn From the Best. This was actually the second least viewed post, yet the most telling about where you stand in your local retail marketplace and what you need to work on the most. Ask your staff this question and listen to their replies.

The post I wished you had commented on: This “Free” is Really Free. The site stats counter tells me I get hundreds of downloads of the different Free Resources each year. I’d love to know how you’re using them and what success you might be seeing because of them. Go ahead and leave some comments there (or here).

That’s your lucky seven posts you should have read (and hopefully did). I’m going to leave three more links in the PS below for the adventurous souls among you to round out the “Top Ten”.

Happy New Year!

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I triple dog dare you …

How to Use Humor in Your Advertising the Right Way

Quit Making it So Hard for People to Buy From You

“Customer Service” is Dead

Merry Christmas – The Santa in You

On this glorious Christmas Eve I share with you a poem I wrote four years ago this day for a group of fellow toy store owners (we call ourselves Toy Store Owners Officially Gone Wild – that will make sense near the end of the poem). Every night during the holidays I share fun stuff with them to keep everyone’s spirits bright.

Although this poem was written for toy sellers, it really applies to all retailers who have put their heart and soul into making this season special for their customers. Hopefully you’ll see yourself in these words …

The Santa in You
Phil Wrzesinski, 12/24/14

Twas the night before Christmas and all through Toyland
The customers were cheering and giving you a hand
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care
Filled with great toys that you helped put there

The children were nestled all snug in their beds
Visions of great toys all danced in their heads
Mamma said a prayer and papa tipped his cap
The gift-wrapping you did, gave them both a longer nap

Out on the lawn, there was no clatter this night
The gifts had been hidden in the basement out of sight
There would be no need for reindeer, no elf on a sleigh
No whistling or shouting, no Santa to say…

Now, Dasher! now, Dancer!, now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On Cupid! On, Donner and Blitzen
Not because Santa isn’t real, you know that’s not true
He’s as real as he ever was, all because of you

You’ve kept him alive through your loving and caring
You’ve kept him alive through your holiday sharing
For Santa is magical, that’s the whole truth
You don’t need to see him to have your own proof

You saw Santa when you saw people buy Toys for Tots
You saw Santa when you saw people give to those who have not
You saw Santa when you saw people being generous to others
You saw Santa in the smiles on the fathers and mothers

Those smiles, you might not know, are all meant for you
For the long hours, the late nights, and all that you do
For the phone calls and emails to vendors and reps
For the stocking and straightening and all the boxes you schlepped

Even the customers who forgot to give you their thanks
While you stood there drained, no fuel in your tanks
Even the unruly, the impossible and incredibly rude
Are better off today because of all that you do

Tomorrow morning all across this wonderful land
Kids will get toys that you picked by hand
And their smiles of delight, and their shrieks and their laughs
Are all because of you and your wonderful staffs

You are Santa, whether you ever wanted to be
You are the wonders underneath every Christmas tree
Though the credit usually goes to the jolly old elf
You are the one who put those toys on your shelf

So I tip my hat to each and every one of you
It has been my pleasure to give you all a good laugh or two
The Recap is over until Black Friday next year
But I leave you these words in hopes of good cheer

Whether your business rocked or you had a tough time
The difference you made goes far beyond the bottom line
To my fellow Toy Store Owners Officially Gone Wild
You’ve made the difference in the life of a child

Put that in your heart and hold it there tight
Happy Christmas to all and to all a Good Night!

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Feel free to share.

Christmas Quick Tip #19 – Pull it Forward

This is it. Your final quick tip of what I sincerely hope was/is a wonderful holiday selling season. I will not be posting again until after Christmas, so Merry, Merry to you. Thank you for reading these posts and sharing your success stories with me.

Here is tip #19 … (here is a link back to tip #1)

PULL IT FORWARD

Except for next day shipments, FedEx and UPS are done. You likely won’t be getting any major shipments of products in after today. Yet you still have three wonderfully busy days to sell, sell, sell.

But your shelves are looking a little bare and there is nothing left in back to bring out.

I call stocking the shelves this time of year “smoke and mirrors.”

Your job is to make your store look as full of merchandise as possible.

Here are some things you can do …

  • Pull everything forward to the front edge of the display/shelf
  • Remove shelves from the display. Three full shelves with gaps above and below looks better than four partially filled shelves.
  • Put excess merchandise in empty areas. We often would use large plush to fill major holes. Some of it sold from there, too!
  • Wrap large boxes to put on high shelves to advertise that you offer gift wrap services.
  • Remove free-standing displays and move items to shelves to keep fixed shelving full

If you make the store look “full”, your customers will have more confidence to buy.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Merry Christmas my friends! May Santa be as generous to you as you have been to your customers and staff.

Christmas Quick Tip #18 – Cut Them Some Slack

We’re almost to the end of your very busy season. These posts have been short and sweet to keep you moving. Hope you have found them helpful.

Here is tip #18 …

CUT THEM SOME SLACK

I’m talking about your customers. You’re going to get some really rude customers over the next few days.

Some of them are rude people in general. You can ignore them and just be grateful you aren’t living their life. It must be miserable as hell.

Some of them are generally nice people feeling the stress and pressure of the season. You never know what is going on inside someone’s head and heart. They may be worried about the budget and bills they need to pay. They may be mourning a loved one who isn’t with them through the holidays for the first time. They may have problems at work or problems at home. They may be running late or just received bad news. They may have had an Alexander-and-the-Terrible-Horrible-No-Good-Very-Bad-Day kind of day.  More often than not, you’re just the straw on that camel’s back. Heck, it might not even be about you at all.

Cut them some slack.

In fact, the best thing you can do is kill ’em with kindness. Go over-the-top out-of-your way to be friendly, nice, and helpful to them.

To the first group who is always miserable, that’s the best way to annoy them, anyway.

To the second group, you just might turn someone’s day around for the better.

That’s called The Christmas Spirit! Spread it far and wide!

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Have a pep rally with your staff and make the next three days all about killing them with kindness. Be the Joy you want people to have this holiday season.

PPS The rudeness tends to go away on the 24th. I’ve always said Christmas Eve was my favorite day to work retail. On the 23rd it was “my” fault for ruining their Christmas because I didn’t have the one toy little Johnny wanted that he put on his wish list in October. On the 24th they were just happy we were open, that we had lots of toys still in stock, and we gift-wrapped everything for free.

Christmas Quick Tip #17 – Give Your Staff a Break

In an effort to keep you moving this busy season, these blog posts will be quick and simple.

Here is tip #17 …

GIVE YOUR STAFF A BREAK

I know the tendency this time of year is to shorten lunch breaks and maximize your staff to handle the extra crush of customers these last few days as they do their last-minute shopping.

Guess who else has to do some last-minute shopping?

Your staff does. If you can give them an extra 15-20 minutes for their lunch breaks or send them home a few minutes early if it has slowed down, you’ll do wonders for their energy and their morale.

You can also plan to have some meals for them. Bring in sandwiches from a local deli. Get pizza from the pizzeria down the block. Those little things that they don’t have to do help them get their errands and last-minute shopping done.

Give them a break and they’ll thank you with more energy for your customers.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Add in a little praise and recognition and they’ll rock these last few days for you.

Christmas Quick Tip #16 – Plan for the Weather

In an effort to keep you moving this busy season, these blog posts will be quick and simple.

Here is tip #16 …

PLAN FOR THE WEATHER

You’re going to get some bad weather. I don’t know what day, but it always seems to happen at least once in the last week. Be proactive about it.

If you’re in the northern climates where it freezes, go buy a few extra bags of salt. Make sure your shovels and snowblowers are in working order. Hire a couple college kids home on break and make it their sole priority to keep your sidewalks and parking areas clean on a snowy day.

If you’re in the southern climates where rain is the big concern, get a few large golf umbrellas and hire a couple college kids home on break to escort your customers to their cars.

Word will spread quickly enough that you were not only prepared for the weather, but knew exactly how to keep the weather from ruining their shopping experience.

An ounce of planning can earn you a ton in sales.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS We had a torrential downpour one Christmas Eve. My son made ten dollars in tips escorting customers out to the parking lot with an umbrella. We had an ice storm one Christmas Eve and used our four-wheel drive vehicles to deliver several layaways that day. We had a hard snow on the Saturday before Christmas and I had two guys alternate shoveling and icing the front all day. We didn’t need one of those fans for drying out the front mats because no one was tracking in any snow. Get the picture?

Christmas Quick Tip #15 – Play With It

You’re in the home stretch. The jolly old elf hits the skies one week from tonight.

Here’s your quick tip #15 …

PLAY WITH IT

We’ve known this in the toy industry for decades. If you get a toy out to play, you’ll sell more of it. The clothing industry knows you’re more likely to buy it if you try it on. The perfume industry is just waiting to pounce on you with a puff. The makeup counter with the most sales is the one where they have the most samples.

This same principle applies in any industry.

No matter what you sell, the more you demo, the more you sell.

This is especially true this week – Man Week – the week where the procrastinators and the men start their shopping. Men are visual and tactile. We want to see it and touch it.

Let us play and we’ll open our wallets.

  • Got a slow seller? Play with it!
  • Got a unique product no one else carries? Play with it!
  • Got something brand new to market? Play with it!

Have fun this week! That’s what it is all about.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Yes, safety is an issue and should always be top-of-mind. Get a rolling cart for demo stations for items that need supervision (i.e. tools and knives) and wheel it out during peak hours. There is always someone on your staff who wants the spotlight job of demonstrating the product. (Yes, you can be as cheesy as the infomercials when you do it – the cheesier the better. Your customers will get a chuckle out of it before they buy.)

Christmas Quick Tip #14 – Get Away

In the interest of time during this busy holiday season, these blog posts will be short and sweet so that you can get back to business more quickly.

Here is tip #14 …

GET AWAY

No, I’m not suggesting you take a holiday this time of year (wouldn’t that be nice?). But I am reminding you that you need to leave the store for an hour or two each day. You need to go home and rest or go to a restaurant and have someone serve you.

This time of year we get in early, stay late, and always seem to be running errands whenever we leave the store. I know. I was part of that grind for twenty four years.

Unfortunately that is a recipe for disaster. If you work yourself too hard you will …

  • Learn to hate the holidays
  • Wear yourself out (often too soon)
  • Get so tired that you accidentally snap at a customer or staff
  • Ruin your health so that you miss out enjoying Christmas Day or New Year’s Day
  • Become so cranky your kids won’t like you

When I was young, my sister and I talked about how our “Christmas” dad was so far different than our friends’ “Christmas” dads. Don’t be that guy (or gal).

Every day take at least an hour break just for you.

No errands. No hiding in your office where they can find you. Get out of the store and try to relax.

Your store won’t implode if you’re gone for an hour (or if it will, then we need to talk about a little reorganization and maybe some staff training?). But you might implode if you don’t take those breaks.

The next ten days will be your busiest stretch of the year. Make sure you take care of yourself while you’re taking care of your customers. It makes the holidays so much more enjoyable.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Since I was working from 7am until 9pm I usually took a couple hours mid-afternoon. Often I would go home and nap. If that wasn’t possible, I would go to a restaurant and read the newspaper. That’s what got me through over two decades of holiday retail sales with my sanity (somewhat) intact.

PPS Put the calmest person on your team in charge. They keep everyone else calm, which keeps the fires to a minimum before you return.

Christmas Quick Tip #13 – Reload the Paper

In the interest of time, I’m keeping these posts short and sweet to quickly give you tips to make your season just a little bit better.

Here is tip #13 …

RELOAD THE PAPER

The next two Saturdays will likely be the two busiest days of your year. One thing we always did during this time of year was make sure we started out our busy days on the right foot.

We reloaded our cash registers and credit card machines with fresh rolls of paper.

Each night before a busy day we took off the half-used rolls and put on fresh ones. This way we were less likely to run out of paper during the day.

Sure, there were those awesomely busy days where we would go through more than one roll per register, but at least those outages came during peak staff times. Nothing looks more unprepared than to run out of paper on the fifth transaction of the day.

We would then use those half-used rolls of paper in January when business was a little slower.

It is a little thing, but it adds up. Reload the paper in your machines before your busy days. It helps.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Also check all your other supplies like staples in the stapler, ink pens that work, scratch pads and notebooks, a fresh “No List”, etc. Take five minutes on a Friday night and your Saturday will be that much better.

Christmas Quick Tip #12 – Prep for the Men

Keeping this blog short and sweet through the holiday season, here is another quick tip to make this season your best ever.

Here is tip #12 (You can find the first tip here.)

PREP FOR THE MEN

(Yes, this is a generalization. No, not all men shop this way, but enough do so you should be prepared for them.)

In the toy industry we call the 7-10 days before Christmas “Man Week.” This is the time dads, grandpas, and uncles come swooping in to do their Christmas shopping.

There are three things you need to know to sell to men.

  • Men are impulsive buyers – we love demos!
  • Men want to make the big splash – we love to be the hero!
  • Men are quicker to bust the budget – show us the good stuff!

You have two days until they descend upon your store to optimize it for Man Week by creating more hands-on displays, making more signs, and merchandising the Big Splash items better.

Every man has always wanted to play Santa. Help him do it with style.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS For a more detailed explanation of Man Week and how to sell to men, please read the article I wrote for edplay Magazine here.

PPS Besides feeling like a hero, men also want to feel smart. Praise their purchases. Build them up. Help them be the Hero. It not only pays now, it pays later because you will make a customer for life when you make a man feel smart.