Countdown to — The Retail Super Bowl!

November 26, 2018

By Jennifer Barnella

I can still hear my parents arguing.

She said it, I swear.

Well, I wasn’t in the room so, it doesn’t count!

My sister and I would then snicker and go back to playing our Atari 2600, coloring with a well-loved pack of Crayola 64’s, or pulling each other’s hair — depending on the day. This rather adamant-stance/consistent-difference of opinion/almost-always chuckle-worthy banter continued into my teenage and college years  — and was occasional Thanksgiving Day fodder as we watched the Lions play some other team in our turkey-induced comas. Inevitably, it came up every year during the Super Bowl as well. Turns out, “football” was the first word I ever uttered, according to my sports-loving dad (with no one to back up his story but the dog and a toddler.)

I often think of this tale (and everyone but my dad’s skepticism of it) every year in early November when I stand up to give my monthly report at our Museum’s all-staff meeting and proudly proclaim, “Well, it’s that time of the year. We’re starting to prepare for The Retail Super Bowl….holiday shopping season!” Which is then followed by oohs and aahs (or maybe groans depending on how I choose to hear.) Then I continue on about the glories of Museum Store Sunday, now in its sophomore year, our ever-popular Members’ Monday event in December, and continue to slightly gloat about how busy we get the week before Christmas when all those last minute shoppers pour in to our store for that wonderfully unique gift for that hard-to-buy-for someone. It’s the grand-daddy of events for us cultural retailers, just as the Super Bowl is the ultimate occasion for sports fans. It’s the time we fight, train, and work hard for all year — practicing day after day when the game is slower, gearing up for the time when our hearts race before we take the field and then watch pridefully as lines quickly form at the stadium, I mean, registers. The time of year when we line up next to our quarterback and slide into that perfect selling offense to clinch each sale:

If this is a gift, we can wrap it up extra special for you!  How about earrings to go with that necklace? That would certainly send this gift over the top. What about a gift certificate to our Museum Store instead so they can choose what they want?

And, much like a sports team, we too can practice for the big day. We can line up our advertising, train our team, and stock the shelves full of gear — all in pursuit of the Lombardi Trophy or, in our case, that oh-so glorious sales report that’s usually the best of the year. But, what else can we do to prepare for our own special Super Bowl before game day? There’s plenty!

  • Team prep. Keep a binder for staff to glance through every morning. Include any special happenings, events, or promotions at your institution, list any new merchandise that has come in, artist information, or even a notes page where your staff can let you know about any special customer requests. Include info about any hot items that will be back in stock soon.
  • Pre-cut ribbon and wrapping paper. Pre-cut your wrapping paper, pre-stuff gift bags with tissue or prep gift boxes ahead of time. Sticker or stamp those gift boxes with your logo and pre-cut the ribbon to the exact size needed for a quick, perfect bow that gives maximum impact and provides important branding.
  • Bring your staff in early to dust, merchandise, stock bags and other supplies. An extra 30 minutes every morning is all it takes to make the rest of the day run more smoothly. Make a dusting map (yes, we actually did this) so that the next day, you can pick up where you left off. We dust a great deal in Phoenix…
  • Make those displays sparkle. Need to make something really move? Give those displays some extra attention to make them more appealing, whether it be with some seasonal faux flowers or pretty holiday ribbon. Or, wrap a cardboard box with wrapping paper and an over-the-top bow as a prop to make a certain display soar. It’s amazing how re-merchandising something can suddenly send sales soaring!
  • Install a Wireless Doorbell. Mad props to Teresa Tate at the Musical Instrument Museum for this idea. Simply install the button on the sales floor and the speaker in the office or stockroom. Staff can then secretly “ring” for help on a sales floor packed with holiday shoppers!
  • Create your staff schedule early. Sales associates love to know their schedule well in advance this time of the year so they can make plans with friends and family. Creating your sales floor schedule well ahead of time helps everyone plan, improves morale, and cuts down on last minute call-outs too!

These and many other shortcuts and tricks can be accomplished ahead of time to help ease the stress of the season. Before you know it, the sale signs come down, boxes and tissue paper supplies have been depleted, the crowds fade away, and the game ends.  We can then sit down (for a change), smile and think about all that has been accomplished during yet another successful Retail Super Bowl. Due to all the hard work, training, planning, and prep, we can feel great as we stare grinning at that prized paper trophy on December 31.

We lost my dad a few years back to cancer, though the slightly more merciful kind where he was diagnosed one minute and gone the next. I still think of him when I watch football on Sundays or when I’m pre-cutting even more ribbon for our customers two days before Christmas. I still think of him arguing (ummm) politely disagreeing with my mom and talking shop with me when the holidays rolled around every year. He got it. As the owner of a small retail shop himself, he was the one person in my family to whom I never had to explain why my dance card was always so crazy full around the holidays.  He always had to work those wacky December hours too. He understood why it truly is The Retail Super Bowl. My alleged first word has been scrutinized in family lore for ages but, when I suit up to take the field every year, when I’m most comfortable and in the zone, I know the truth. I believe you, Dad. My first word could not have been anything else.



Jennifer Barnella is the Retail Sales Manager at Phoenix Art Museum in Phoenix, Arizona. Throughout her 25 year cultural retail career (20 years at Phoenix Art Museum and 5 years at Phoenix Zoo), she has been active in the Museum Store Association, currently serving as vice president of the Western Chapter.

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