Is Christmas your busiest time of the year?
Christmas is definitely our busiest time of year, we do about three times the amount of sales in December - and on the 24th we sell more than we usually make in a week!
We are already well into the Christmas period - this starts in November.
How much do you increase your staff by at this time?
Our roster is a pretty complicated puzzle as we have 12 staff on the books who all work different hours in different sorts of roles throughout the year. We also need a high rotation of staff as we're open 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. A large number of part timers have their hours increased in the lead up to Christmas. We usually have three or 4 staff on the shop floor during the year and as December creeps on, the staff grow until we have everyone on deck in the days leading up until the 25th. We also have about three or four "gofers" wrapping books, breaking down boxes, refreshing water bottles and trying to keep everyone calm.
What kind of staff are you using?
Most of our staff work part time during the year while they study at university. We are all passionate readers, therefore we have recommendations aplenty when it comes to customer service. This year, for the first time, we are also having a few young, precocious recommenders (aged 8-13) who will be doing two hour stints in the children's room helping customers choose books in the week before Christmas. This serves our market as a destination store - our customers are as passionate as we are about fantastic literature as well as shopping locally and cultivating the community.
Some retailers are not increasing their staff this Christmas. How would your business cope if you didn't boost numbers?
We could not cope at all if we didn't have extra staff - it gives me nightmares just thinking about it. We are not the type of bookstore where a customer first meets a staff member at the till. We're happy to leave you browse on your own, but we can also choose a book for every one of your family members. We also provide gift wrapping, so we have a flurry of staff wrapping books/searching books and recommending books. We also need extra staff to enter the extremely large amounts of stock that are coming into the store at this time also.
Any tips to other businesses about when and how to increase staff for the Christmas rush?
Our philosophy at Time Out is not to scrimp on staff, as we want to provide the best, personalised customer service possible as well as giving staff a chance to have a breather in the craziness, be able to have a cup of tea or go for a walk and generally keep sane.
Wendy Tighe-Umbers,Time Out's owner, is extremely passionate about hiring and
trusting in "young brains" to keep Time Out running - for us, university students make ideal staff as they intelligent, like to read, and are often really only available over Christmas and summer to work longer hours.
Next week: A number of enterprising companies are creating apps for their own purposes and for others. There are also a number of apps being developed for small businesses to help them manage their businesses better. I'd like to hear from all of you who are particularly proud of your app especially if it can be used by others too.