Holiday Crowd Management: NRF’s Top Tips

November 27, 2013Perry Kuklin

The National Retail Federation (NRF) recently released its tips for effective holiday crowd management because, as we all know, crowd control becomes a whole new animal around the holidays. Approximately 140 million Americans will hit the stores over this long holiday weekend, according to the NRF, and 97 million will be out on Black Friday alone. Advanced planning, extra security, and specialized employee training are critical for retailers at this time of year. While it’s impossible to predict everything that might occur during operating hours, being extra prepared means you’re ready for the expected situations and that much better prepared for the unexpected. Here's what the NRF suggests to triumph over the season of hustle and bustle:  

1. Review emergency protocol.

Emergencies are inevitable. Give your employees confidence to react accordingly by providing reminders and even retraining sessions about your store’s emergency plan. Should any potential risks for workers and customers arise – and it’s a good idea to create a list of possible situations to review – having the protocol fresh in their minds will help every worker respond quickly and appropriately.

2. Address conflict resolution.

Employees can easily become overwhelmed in the face of excited and overeager holiday shoppers. Help them stay on an even keel so they can aid customers in doing the same. Establish clear protocols for conflict resolution so your employees are confident about their level of authority (which automatically begins to help diffuse a situation when a customer is irate or dissatisfied). Give your staff the tools, jargon, and resources to calm frustrated shoppers and diffuse explosive situations, e.g., have extra stanchions available for workers to expand or alter a line as needed.

3. Establish a hierarchy.

As just mentioned, employees who are “clueless” about how to handle a particularly sticky situation only lends itself to creating a more out-of-control crowd. Establish a hierarchy of knowledgeable employees and make every staffer aware of who should be contacted and in what situations so that potential problems can be stopped before they get out of hand. Designated employees should also be stationed in dedicated areas or positions to communicate with and manage crowds from the time they arrive until their departure.

4. Know your resources.

The plan can change in an instant on Black Friday weekend so it’s important to be able to reallocate resources instantly. Real-time queue management tools help keep managers aware of everything that’s going on in their establishment and alert them when something falls out of order. Know who is going to be stationed where and when so employees can be moved to another area if needed. Advanced planning is paramount at this time of year. Even if you’re doing a last-minute dance to get extra security measures, queue management, and crowd control measures in place, this is better than no planning or acknowledgement of the situation at all. The holiday season is guaranteed to be a bit frenzied for all involved, but it can also remain safe with the right tools, knowledge, defenses, and plans.  

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